A Chinese feast

Table full of Chinese foodThe weekend of Chinese New Year, I wanted to do traditional Chinese New Year food. However, I didn’t want to work too hard at it. I thought about making dumplings (AKA potstickers or gyoza), but I’ve done that before, and while they came out delicious, it was a LOT of work. Even in my pre-gluten-free days, when I could just buy wonton wraps at the store, dumplings were labour intensive. When you factor in having to make all the wraps as well as the fillings, then form and fry/steam the dumplings, it becomes a huge undertaking. So that was out.

Next, I thought about making gluten-free barbecue pork buns, which I have also done before using more or less the recipe linked to in this sentence (I followed the directions for the bun part but made up my own low-FODMAP filling), but that too was pretty fiddly. I also rejected the idea of making turnip cake because I’d have to go to the Asian grocery store to look for rice flour and daikon, and besides, my husband is allergic to shrimp and lap cheong, with its inimitable taste, is typically not gluten-free.

The more I researched, though, the more it became clear the Chinese New Year foods that most readily popped to mind for me were far from the only ones. In fact, it seemed like almost any Chinese dish could be considered a New Year dish. So I decided to do what was tasty, easy and would create enough leftovers that I wouldn’t have to cook for a few days. On the weekend menu: kung pao chicken, gingery tofu vegetable stir-fry, mu shu duck, steamed aromatic fish, almond cookies, and “ants climbing a tree” (Sunday lunch). Yeah!

Since I was making more dishes that usual for our Saturday supper, I wanted to minimize prep, so I chose dishes that had some overlap in ingredients. Here’s how I did some shared prep to make life easier:

  • Ginger: I took a big hunk and cut some of it into rounds for steaming the fish. Then I julienned another part of it to top the steamed fish. Then I grated the rest for tofu vegetable stir fry, roasted duck, kung pao chicken and ants climbing a tree. Because I wasn’t going to do ants climbing a tree until the next day, I reserved a bit and put it in the fridge.
  • Celery: I chopped it in 1-2 cm chunks for kung pao chicken and sliced it thinly for vegetable stir fry
  • Chives: I chopped longish lengths for mu shu duck, 1-2 cm lengths for steamed fish and kung pao chicken, and minced finely for ants climbing a tree (again, I put this last bit in the fridge for the next day).
  • Green onion (green part only): 1-2 cm pieces for both steamed fish and kung pao chicken
  • Coriander leaves: Coarsely chopped for both steamed fish and ants climbing a tree

Then I prepped ingredients used for individual dishes only:

  • Pak choi (AKA bok choy): roughly chopped
  • Carrot: shaped into flowers by cutting five long notches, then slicing thinly
  • Tofu: cubed
  • Peppers: cubed
  • Chicken: cubed, trimmed
  • Cucumber: long, thin slices

Now, onto the individual recipes:

Also, a Chinese New Year craft I did with my daughter: A paper dragon

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