Today millions of people around the world will usher in the Year of the Yáng. What's a Yang? Well, it's had to say exactly but this word has been fueling a bit of a global debate for the last few days. Not since 2003, the last year of the Yáng has there been so much discussion about the pedantic differences of an animal.
The general consensus? Agree to disagree. Depending on your community, regional identity or just general preference, it could be the year of the Goat, Sheep or Ram. But the sentiment, not unlike most other holiday and feast days the world over, remains the same no matter the woolly creature - let the feasting, visiting and merriment begin.
I was first introduced to Chinese New Year, somewhat by accident, while living in San Francisco. One atmospheric evening, with the famous fog slung low across the city, I encountered a huge crowd of people moving from the North Beach neighborhood toward the historic Portsmouth Square. Truth be told, I was slightly alarmed - due to the energy and sheer volume of it all really, and the intermittent pop of firecrackers. I quickly resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to get across Grant Street without a struggle and decided instead to be swept away in the moment. As I tumbled into the crowd, still having no idea what was truly going on, a huge great creature appeared as if born from the aforementioned fog. A great snaking dragon brought to life by the scores of dancing bodies beneath its colorful fabric folds. I stared in awe and soaked up this intersection of place and culture.
My fortuitous encounter with this San Francisco celebration has sparked what I can only describe as an ongoing love affair with the humble, democratic but inspired flavors of Chinese cooking. So, when photographer Jo Yee invited me to style a shoot she had conceived around the traditional foods of Chinese New Year I was excited to join. Typically on the table at this time of year would be dumplings for luck, a rich roast Peking Duck, the clean flavor of steamed whole Sea Bass with bright lemongrass notes, something sweet of course and the beautiful orange glow and sharp bite of mounds of clementines.
There is something magical about the fact that so many people will be swept away today with the spirit of Chinese New Year. Perhaps a full Chinese New Year's feast, complete with Peking duck, might not be possible on a Thursday night but I invite you to try a few of the simple recipes Jo has prepared below in your own home. It could be a simple gathering for one or invite a few others to celebrate the Year of the Goat/Sheep/Ram.
Chinese broccoli with garlic, chili and ginger sauce
Recipe adapted from How to be a Gourmand
1 bunch Chinese broccoli (gai lan)
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
1 red chili, deseeded and sliced
1 tbsp nut oil
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
juice of ½ lime
1. Steam Chinese broccoli over med-high heat in a steamer basket for 5 minutes.
2. In a bowl, mix in ginger, garlic, chili, nut and sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine and lime juice.
3. Drizzle sauce over the cooked broccoli once it is dished, then serve.
Makes 15 dumplings
125 g glutinous rice flour
food colouring (optional)
5 slices of ginger root
3-4 pieces of rock sugar
460 g of water
1. Add the glutinous rice flour into a large bowl. Mix in water and knead until a smooth dough forms. If the dough is too sticky add in a small spoonful of flour or if it's too chalky add a light touch of water. Add a few drops of food colouring , if desired, and mix in the dough.
2. In a small pot, bring water to a boil. Add the ginger root slices and rock sugar to the pot. Let cook for a few minutes over medium heat until boiling then add the dumplings until it floats to the top.
3. Serve the dumplings in a bowl with ginger syrup.
All Images and Recipes credited to Joanna Yee You can follow Joanna and myself on Instagram too as @candidsbyjo and @cottagefarm