Happy Lunar New Year! That would be the good one. Today kicks off the Year of the Monkey (猴), or more specifically, the Year of the Fire Monkey. Depending on the circles that one runs in, it’s either supposed to be a rollercoaster because the Monkey is lively, but I’ll look to 孫 悟 空 (Sun Wu-kong; the Monkey King), who is clever and resourceful, and think of the Year of the Monkey to be a promising one for the clever and resourceful. I’m hoping to be counted amongst the clever and resourceful.
It’s not that the Year of the Sheep was bad – I did have a little prosperity with a (very) small windfall at the end of the year (anything that’s not zero is excellent).
But what would be cool for the Year of the Monkey? More prosperity than the Year of the Sheep.
That’s actually not hard, and yes, I know – it’s coming. Could be 1 more month, 3 months 6 months etc etc. I’m still a (very) patient kind of guy.
Anyhoo, what about the requisite things that are of upmost importance on the Eve to help ring in the Year of the Monkey? Cleaning? Yes. Making sure all the garbage is out before midnight so that whatever residual bad luck gets kicked to the curb? Yes. The Meal? Unlike the Sheep, the Eve of the Monkey fell on a weekend so we could actually contribute. And unlike the Horse, there was a way better selection of dishes.
And while the siblings and I did contribute this go-around, my Mom’s a machine when it comes to putting our a New Year’s Eve meal. She says that there wasn’t a whole lot of preparation but she cranked out the majority of the dinner. These are the fourteen items that made it onto the table to accompany steamed rice, plus an actual dessert.
And in addition to that, my brother added two to let everyone have something to snack on while the final cooking was being done.
The guacamole, or at least what was left to take a photo of. He didn’t think we would finish it. The bag of blue tortillas is history.
Guotie (鍋貼). He has a slightly different technique to cook these, and actually manipulates them one by one.
Those didn’t last too long either.
And the main meal…
The Fish. Requisite dish number 1, which we don’t eat on the Eve so that we can show that prosperity continues from one year to the next. Four red snapper (note to self: buy just one next year).
Spicy chicken (requisite dish number 2).
Taiwanese pork sausages (the de facto requisite dish number 3).
Barbecue roast pork, aka char siu; from Dobey and Andy. My father braved the last-minute shopping masses in Chinatown to get this (brr…).
Roast duck, also from Dobey and Andy (brr…).
Mixed noodles, to show longetivity. Also completely gone.
Chili and salt mixed seafood. New for the New Year’s meal. Plate demolished.
Korean beef. My brother’s main dish contribution. Marinated bavette grilled to medium and then sliced on a bias. See the slice underneath the green onions? That was what was left.
Red-braised pork and soy eggs. Yet another requisite dish.
Rapini (vegetarian option number 1). Almost Italian, but we peel the stalks and trim. This was two whole bunches my sister brought, so we’re talking an arm and part of a leg.
White-cut chicken (my contribution) and haricots vert (the other vegetarian dish). The haricots were the second if my sister’s offerings. She’s not actually vegetarian, but figured that the two brothers calling out dishes during planning needed to have a little balance.
The chicken wasn’t actually planned but I needed a chicken to make soup so one has to do something with the meat. The whole maryland (leg and thigh) was deboned, and then rolled back with some transglutaminase to reform a solid piece of chicken. Who says one can’t do molecular techniques for Chinese cuisine? And you know what else? The deboned legs steam up beautifully. I’ll have to do this again the next time I make Hainan chicken rice.
Ma-Po tofu. My contribution; hand-cut filet from a Landrace, and a whole lot of little minced vegetables. I thought it was just okay.
Soup. My contribution. I was particularly happy with how this turned out. Broth 1 made with spare ribs from a Landrace pig and some aromatics. Broth 2 made with chicken, niboshi, kombu and aromatics. Broth 3 (chicken only) used to cook kohlrabi. All three assembled, then with three types of Taiwanese fishballs lobbed in (the ones with the red flecks are lobster-flavored). Clear and full of umami.
Apple roses. This is a great example of how when you don’t enjoy making a dessert, the simplest thing to do is to outsource it to someone who does. Superiority comes with using real butter.
And finally, like a good son I actually did present a red envelope to my parents as a thank you and to wish them good fortune for the coming year. Spreading some lucky money around ultimately means that it eventually comes around too. That’s the saying. One keeps with tradition.