Year of the Rooster to be welcomed with recipes for good fortune
Feb. 9 marks the beginning of the Year of the Rooster on the Chinese calendar. Celebrants will offer each other wishes for prosperity and good luck, and will get together with friends and family to enjoy good times and good food.
An entire feast is prepared, with each item designed to bring good luck. Children and other family members are given red envelopes that contain money, and adults and children alike will play with firecrackers.
Nikki O'Keefe, of Hunker, a member of the Greensburg YWCA International Women's Group, is a native of Taiwan. She said that in Taiwan, New Year's is the biggest celebration of the year. On New Year's Eve all family members gather together for a special dinner.
"Where I am from, in the south of Taiwan, we usually have several different dishes at this meal," she said. "Each dish has a meaning for the New Year. We have a whole steamed salted chicken, pork and fish (for the continuation of a plentiful harvest annually), dumplings (for gold), radish and pork rib soup (for good fortune), mustard greens (for longevity) and rice cakes (for prosperity)."
In O'Keefe's family, parents give each of their children and grandchildren a red envelope with money inside. The color red represents luck and the money must be new crisp paper bills from the bank. Adult children give red envelopes of money to parents, grandparents, and younger siblings. Men give red envelopes to their wives, "and it should be big bucks," she joked.
Children go to sleep early to get ready for New Year's Day, O'Keefe said. On New Year's Day the children wear all new clothing and new shoes. They put the red envelopes with the money they received in the pockets of their new clothes. Adults give red envelopes to the children of friends and extended family that they may see throughout the day.
O'Keefe plans to make a few dishes for New Year's Eve dinner at her home, including: Radish and Pork Rib Soup made from large white radishes and pork rib tips and seasoned with salt, white pepper and cilantro; Chicken Fried Noodles, which contains onions, carrots, cabbage, soy sauce and other seasonings; and Rice Cakes. Her recipe for Chicken Fried Noodles is listed below.
O'Keefe said that the Taiwanese New Year is generally celebrated for four days with people returning to work on the fifth day.
The celebration sometimes lasts even longer in China: Ken Moy, of Monroeville, said that in his native village in southern China, they would celebrate New Year's for sometimes half a month.
"In China, the children are off from school and it's too cold to farm so people will celebrate longer," he said, noting that since coming to the United States, he usually only celebrates about three days. He added that people will cook, eat and play all day in China and no one works. "Chinese New Year's is bigger than our Christmas," he said.
Ken and Bo Moy are former owners of Chin's Polynesian Garden, on Northern Pike Road in Monroeville, which is now owned by their sons and called Moy's Cove. The restaurant will serve a special menu to help celebrate the Chinese New Year on Feb. 9, including Longevity Soup, Crab Rangoon, Dragon Rolls and Sesame Chicken. The recipe for Longevity Soup is listed below.
Ken Moy said the saiffon noodles, which are very long, are symbols for a long life, as is the Napa cabbage. Chicken, pork and fish are often eaten on New Year's as well to symbolize good luck. But he said that in China, only the rich can afford to eat seafood, particularly crab meat, for New Year's.
Chuck Wong, of Greensburg, owner of Peking Garden, said that he and his wife, Kammy, will celebrate Taiwanese New Year with the Chens, owners of Szechuan Garden, also in Greensburg.
"It is a time where we will come together to have dinner and party," he said, noting they will have one big party for both restaurants. "We'll most likely have seafood and some more traditional Chinese foods that you won't find on American menus."
Nikki's Chicken Fried Noodles
- 2 chicken breasts sliced
- 1 teaspoon cooking wine
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg white
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cup sliced yellow onion
- 1 green onion, sliced
- 1 carrot, sliced
- 2 cups Napa cabbage, sliced
- 3 cups cooked noodles
- 2 tablespoons dry onion
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
Mix chicken, wine, salt, egg white and cornstarch in a bowl. Soak for 15 minutes. Heat oil in pan. Add all contents from bowl into pan. When chicken is lightly brown, remove from pan.
In same pan, add onions and fry until tender.
Then add carrot and cabbage and fry until tender.
Stir noodles and cooked chicken into mixture in pan.
Add dry onion, white pepper, sesame oil, soy sauce and salt to taste.
Chinese Longevity Soup
- 2 to 2 1/2 quarts chicken broth
- 1 (8-ounce) can straw mushrooms
- 6 ounces bamboo shoots, sliced
- 4 ounces Napa cabbage, sliced
- 6 ounces chicken (uncooked white meat), sliced
- 4 ounces saiffon noodles (clear Chinese noodles)
- 1/2 tablespoon salt
- 4 to 6 ounces crab meat, thawed
- 1 ounce soy sauce
Soak noodles for about 30 minutes, or until soft. Combine broth, bamboo shoots, Napa, and meat until boil. Boil for about 6 minutes. Add noodles and salt and boil about 4 minutes more. Turn off heat and add defrosted crab meat and soy sauce. Mix and serve.