Celebrating Chinese New Year

By / Photography By Joe Laedtke | December 01, 2016
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Rice Cake
Rice Cake. This cake takes many forms, but the key ingredient is glutinous (sweet) rice, pounded and made into a cake. Ours were sliced and topped with toasted sesame seeds.

2017 ushers in the year of the Fire Rooster, and January 28 will mark the changing of the guard—out with 2016’s Fire Monkey, and in with the crow of everyone’s favorite feathered alarm clock.

Last year, we were invited to a Chinese New Year dinner at Meiji Cuisine in Waukesha and treated to an astounding spread of delectable Chinese delicacies, hospitality in abundance and a lesson in Chinese culture, to boot. Despite the fact that Meiji is a Japanese-style steakhouse, owners Cai and Amy are Fujian, hailing from China’s Southeast coast, about 500 miles south of Shanghai.

Lettuce Cups
Mushroom with Pork
Seafood in Pineapple
Photo 1: Dumpling. Dumplings are a group effort, and naturally a welcome part of the Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner. Everyone in the family pitches in to roll, fill, fold and steam these pouches of savory satisfaction.
Photo 2: Lettuce Cup. Crisp iceberg lettuce filled with fiery and smoky stir fried spring onion, bean curd and minced meat. The contrast of flavors, textures and temperatures harkens forth good fortune in the coming year.
Photo 3: Mushroom With Pork. Pork dumplings with baby bok choy and mushrooms represent an abundant harvest.
Photo 4: Seafood in Pineapple. Cai’s special dish of seafood and vegetables in a hollowed out pineapple shows the multiple levels of significance dishes often express. Here, it’s a ship (smooth sailing), the bounty of wealth and also, good fortune.

Chinese traditionally return home for the New Year festivities—these are typically the busiest travel days of the year. Nomads from around the globe come in throngs to the dense ordered chaos of Beijing and Guangzhou, and to countless villages and communities in this country of 1.4 billion. The holiday revolves around reunion, the themes of wealth, good fortune, health and ancestry. Elaborate decorations festoon even the most modest of homes, and gifts of money are exchanged in red envelopes.

Food takes center stage in welcoming in a fresh start. Join us and visually sample a few symbolic dishes.

Where Are the Moon Cakes?!

Fried Fish with Sweet-Sour Sauce
Moon Cakes

Linda Wolk, event planner for the Group for Chinese Business and Culture, helped explain moon cakes—and why they don’t play a role in Chinese New Year. “The moon cake is an important part of the Mid-Autumn Festival in China. This is a harvest festival that coincides with the full moon, usually falling between late September and early October. Moon cakes are typically filled with a sweet bean paste and might have a salted duck egg yolk hidden inside to represent the full moon.”

We talked to Xin Feng Chen from Lucky Bakery and BBQ in West Allis, one of the few Chinese Bakeries in Wisconsin, about her moon cakes. She told us to mark our calendars now, as they often sell out for the day shortly after opening, and that moon cake mavens from Chicago will drive up just for the intricate treat.

Article from Edible Milwaukee at http://ediblemilwaukee.ediblecommunities.com/eat/celebrating-chinese-new-year
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