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! So...am 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.