Happy Chinese New Year! Today marks the start of The Chinese New Year and will be celebrated across the globe by more than a billion people, making it one of the world’s biggest holidays. The Chinese New Year is based on the traditional lunar calendar, rather than the modern calendar which is now used on most countries (including China) and represents a “way of ancestors keeping track of the flow of time”. The date of the Chinese New Year changes every year as it starts after the second full moon to occur after the winter solstice. It is also the start of a bigger celebration called the Lantern Festival, which ends on the 15th February.
As many of you will know, each new year is associated with one of the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac. This year it is the year of the Monkey, and according to the Telegraph, those who make their debut this year are sociable, smart, innovative and self-assured but can also be selfish, arrogant and jealous. Of course, it’s not advisable to take this too seriously as the characteristics of the Chinese zodiac animals are based on tradition, and not science. Those born in the Year of the Monkey will also share their sign with the likes of Julius Caesar, Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Dickens, Tom Hanks, Mick Jagger, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Miley Cyrus.
Interestingly, there are some things that should be avoided on the first day of the Chinese New Year. According to tradition, if you take medicine on the first day of the lunar year it means that you will get ill for a whole year. You should also avoid sweeping, as you won’t just be sweeping the dust away but your wealth as well, and you should also avoid using sharp objects such as knives and scissors as any accident is thought to lead to a depletion of wealth. It is also tradition to stay up until midnight to let off firecrackers and fireworks to scare off inauspicious spirits and Nian, the New Year monster. To celebrate Chinese New Year, why not try a traditional Chinese dish for dinner? This Luo Han Zai (Buddha’s Delight) was traditionally eaten by vegetarian Buddhist monks, and is now eaten by Chinese families on the first day of new year.
Luo Han Zai
- 3 tablespoons tamari
- 1 tablespoon toasted dark sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 (14-ounce) package soft tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 4 cups small broccoli florets
- 1 cup diagonally sliced carrots, about 1/4 inch thick
- 1 (8-ounce) can sliced water chestnuts
- 1 cup fresh or frozen and thawed cut green beans
- 1 cup sliced green onions
- 2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger root
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Combine tamari, sesame oil, mirin, rice vinegar, tofu and red pepper flakes, tossing gently to coat. Cover and marinate for 1 to 2 hours. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving the marinade.
Heat the canola oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu and stir-fry for 5 minutes, until lightly browned on all sides. Remove tofu and set aside. Add broccoli, carrots and water chestnuts and stir-fry for 5 minutes or until just crisp-tender. Add green beans and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add green onions, ginger, and garlic and stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes more, until aromatic. Return tofu to wok.
Combine vegetable broth with arrowroot powder and reserved marinade, stirring well to completely dissolve the arrowroot. Add this to the wok and stir until sauce thickens. Season to taste with black pepper and garnish with cilantro.