Sunday, January 22, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year (I hope!)

It doesn't look it, perhaps, but I've just discovered I may have started the Chinese New Year off all wrong. 

My private New Year feast looks pretty good, and it tasted good too.  It's mapo doufu, with braised kabocha squash, noodles tossed with a little thinned out Chinese sesame paste and miso, and a mixture of Chinese cabbage and bok choy quick-fried with garlic and fermented tofu.

I don't know much at all about Chinese festivals or customs generally, but any excuse for a little celebration is nice, I think...unless it perhaps results in a curse.

Well, let's see how it goes.  The University of Victoria, my alma mater by the way, has a nice little page on the New Year.  On it is the remark that "The first day of the Lunar New Year is 'the welcoming of the gods of the heavens and earth.'  Many people abstain from meat on the first day of the new year because it is believed that this will ensure long and happy lives for them."  Excellent!  So far so good.  Let's make the mapo doufu.  Another dish you don't really need a recipe for...

Start by sauteeing a little garlic and ginger in a bit of sesame oil.  After a few seconds, add just a tablespoon or two of crumbled seitan, a little bit of chopped scallion, and a minced mushroom or two.  My seitan looks very colourful as it was part of a (failed) experiment some of you may remember in beet- and carrot-themed seitan.  Anyway, crumbled up, it's fine, if a little dry.  Stir fry until everything looks nice and toasty:

Add about half of a finely chopped eggplant and continue to stir fry for a few more minutes.  I like my eggplant quite tender, so I covered it and let it cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes:

Add some chili paste and chopped...tofu...oh, no!  According to the UVic website, "Fresh bean curd or tofu is not included [among festival foods] as it is white and unlucky for New Year as the color signifies death and misfortune."  I did not know! I finished, or what?  A long and happy life for the veganism v. death and misfortune for the tofu.  Sigh.  That probably leaves me about neutral, more or less where I was before.  I'll be smarter next year. 

Anyway, at least I got a decent meal out of it. To finish it off, you need a little sauce made with about 1 tsp each of miso, soy sauce, sherry, and cornstarch, mixed with about 1/4 cup water.  Pour it in:

...and continue to stir fry until everything is steamy and the sauce is thickened:

Serve immediately.  Every mapo doufu dish I've seen pictures of or made myself has looked different from every other, but they've all been very tasty indeed!

A very happy New Year to all of you.  A chance to start over once again if you've been slipping up on your resolutions already, but make sure to check out the taboos.  I'm completely doomed, I washed my hair and everything today, and my online Chinese horoscope for the coming year (I'm a Green Rat, born in the year of the Green Dragon, you'd think all that green would be auspicious, but no) indicates that I'm going to be sued, lose my job, make bad investment choices, and my house will be burgled.  Why, why did it have to be tofu today?

Going to scuttle into bed now.  But I'll check the locks first.


  1. I think you'll be OK in spite of the tofu. It doesn't really look white in the finished dish as it has plenty of red sauce on it. I, myself, neglected to eat black-eyed peas on New Year's Day so I'm trying to keep a positive spin on little errors like this.

  2. I was going to say the same thing as Andrea--the finished product isn't white so there! It does look delicious!
    BTW, I'm a rat, too. Don't know what color, though.
    Heard it's been extra, hella cold in your neck of the woods, so stay warm!

  3. Hehe, at least you had a tasty last meal?

  4. Ensuring good fortune for the Chinese new year sounds very complicated. A higher-up in my company treats all of us to catered Chinese food from a local take-out joint every Chinese New Year. It's very generous of him, but I must say your meal looks a lot more awesome than my lunch did. Also, the vegetarian selections we got included a spicy bean curd dish, so I guess I'm doomed this year as well. Maybe the restaurant shouldn't be offering bean curd at all today! Or maybe they are laughing at the stupid Americans ingesting all that terrible luck! Oh well, I ate my tofu even after reading this post because I love tofu and if everything you do on Chinese New Year portends what you'll be doing all year, it means I'll be eating a lot of spicy tofu this year. Yay!

  5. Andrea, heh, I think the red sauce must have been mostly beet juice escaped from the seitan + chili, so maybe you're right and my new year looks a little more hopeful!

    Stacy, as it turns out, I am a dragon, not a rat. But...wait...after reading the personality traits, I think I may be some kind of closet rat, or rat ascendant, or something, because dragon, kewl as it sounds, just doesn't describe me. According to, "Being born a Rat is nothing to be ashamed of. In China, the Rat is respected and considered a courageous, enterprising person. It is deemed an honor to be born in the Year of the Rat and it is considered a privilege to be associated with a Rat. Rats know exactly where to find solutions and can take care of themselves and others without problems. They use their instinctive sense of observation to help others in times of need and are among the most fit of all the Animal signs to survive most any situation."

    Maud, yes, it was indeed super-tasty!

    Renae, I am shocked! Although maybe my UVic guy didn't have it right after all. Who on *earth* could forbid tofu under any circumstances? But spicy bean curd, oh yes, any day of the year! Plus, for North Americans, white just doesn't have those connotations, so maybe there's a special dispensation for us...

  6. My daughter is visiting from China (she gets a month off for the new year) and we made this for dinner. We LOVED it. Tastes like what we ate in China! And we ate it with white rice - double opps! - so we hope all will be well. Our stomachs aren't complaining! Thanks for the recipe

  7. Hi, wingraclaire, I'm so happy you liked it! And I didn't even think of white rice! Okay, I definitely feel better now ;-)

  8. Well, at least most burglars have the decency to leave the veggies and tofu in the fridge. Happy New Year!!

  9. I just checked and as a rooster, I am drawn to dragons! Give me tofu like this anytime!! :)

  10. Oh no, the tofu is ushering you into doom!! I always mean to celebrate Chinese new year, but then I forget about it. The good thing about having a private feast celebration is that you get all the delicious leftovers. :)

  11. This post made me laugh. And drool! Oh my, it sounds and looks yummy.