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hong bao

Happy New Year!

It’s the year of the dragon, and to start this especially auspicious year on the right foot, I prepared a 10-course dinner for a few friends. I made an extra effort to include symbolic and traditionally served dishes to double down on my luck.

chicken corn soup

Last year, my Aunt K taught me how to make daikon cakes (luobo gao), a common Cantonese dim sum dish, but I also have memories of my Taiwanese grandmother regularly making the cakes from scratch. Not surprisingly, my aunt did not have exact measurements for me to follow (i.e., 1 medium-large daikon radish, 2 to 3 cups of water….). After making the cakes with my aunt’s supervision last year, I thought New Year would be a good time for my first solo-effort because the dish symbolizes prosperity.

daikon radish cake | luobo gao

I also made pork-shrimp potstickers (goyza), which symbolize wealth!

pork-shrimp potstickers | goyza

sticky sweet rice | nuomi fan

Chinese mustard greens are often served during New Year because in Chinese, it roughly translates to “long year vegetable” and symbolizes longevity.

chinese mustard greens with ginger | changnian chai

Scallops, due to their likeness to coins, also symbolize wealth.

scallops, shrimp, and mixed veggies

spicy garlic eggplant with pork

Roast duck is one dish no one in my family has ever mastered (or attempted, as far as I know). For every family gathering, the roast duck is always purchased, so I continued the tradition and ordered a whole roast duck (only half pictured) from Full Kee in Chinatown.

roasted duck (from Full Kee)

And there can’t be a Chinese New Year dinner without a whole steamed fish, which, in Chinese, shares a homonym with “surplus” or “abundance,” thus imparting a year of abundance. My dad reminded me that we shouldn’t finish the fish in order to ensure a year of luck!

steamed red snapper

For dessert, I decided to serve the traditional Taiwanese pineapple cakes. Although I initially purchased some pineapple cakes from the Chinese grocery store, I later decided to take a crack at making my own from scratch. I quickly learned why everyone BUYS these cakes instead of making them at home. Due to a variety of issues (namely, having a filling that was too thin), in the end, I yielded really buttery shortbread. I actually managed to salvage much of the filling, corrected my mistake, and have a container of the filling in my fridge, ready for my second crack at the pineapple cake (stay tuned for a future post!). I offered my friends both the store-bought and homemade versions:

pineapple cake (left, botched homemade; right, store-bought) | fong li su

Wishing you a year of abundant good fortunes, health, and luck! 🙂