Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Good Luck Mini-Feast for the Lunar New Year and What To Do with Stale Bread

 Chinese almond cookies, with a Valentine's Day twist

Delicately scented tea eggs, for prosperity

Rice noodles and shrimp, for long life and happiness

My childhood,  from a culinary standpoint, was a vast wasteland of pot roasts, pork chops, pizza, and casseroles, with the occasional Pillsbury cinnamon roll or piece of peanut butter toast thrown in for variety. Vegetables were boiled or steamed, bread was white, and cakes came from a box mix. Let's face it: Like many American kids, I grew up with exactly zero food-related traditions.  A deep and enduring love for Utz potato chips is as close as I come to a cultural identity.

So if I want any food-related culture at all,  I need to look elsewhere, which I frequently do.  Enter the Year of the Tiger and my very scaled-down version of a Chinese New Year's feast. One thing that I love about this holiday is the symbolism of the food - dishes represent things like prosperity, luck, long life, happiness or good fortune. By the same token, the wrong dish may bring you bad luck or worse, so I  fervently hope that my research didn't lead me astray!

As soon as I saw Jaden Hair's recipe for Chinese tea eggs at Steamy Kitchen, I knew I had to make them.  I was immediately taken by the beautiful spiderweb pattern that the egg developed after steeping overnight in a broth of black tea, soy sauce, star anise, cinnamon, orange peel, and Szechuan pepper.

First you boil the egg and then crack the shell carefully with the back of a teaspoon:

Then you simmer the eggs in the broth:

After steeping overnight they're ready to peel:

Little yummy egg soldiers, ready to bring me prosperity!

Of course it wouldn't be a New Year's meal without a long noodles dish and its hopeful promise of long life. I was inspired by a crab cellophane noodle dish at Rasa Malaysia, but I ended up making some changes, as crab is very expensive, and I wanted rice noodles. I also included shrimp, which I read sounds like the word for "happy" in Chinese, and is therefore on the "allowed" list of New Year's ingredients. (You may rest assured that I researched my ingredients, especially after reading the dire warning against ever serving squid on New Year's at Steamy Kitchen!)

Shrimp & Rice Noodle Stir Fry
adapted from Rasa Malaysia
8 oz rice noodles
2 eggs beaten
6 oz baby shrimp
1 small onion, thinly sliced
3 stalks scallions, cut into 1-2 inch lengths
5 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp peanut oil
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
few pinches of white pepper
salt to taste

Make the noodles according to the package directions, and set aside. Lightly saute the shrimp in sesame oil until opaque, set aside. Meanwhile, in a wok or deep skillet over medium high heat saute the onions and garlic in oil until fragrant.  Add the noodles, oyster sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, sugar and white pepper. Saute for a few minutes. Push the noodles aside to make a well. Add 1 tbsp oil and the beaten eggs. Let cook for 10 seconds and cover with the noodles. Wait another 10 seconds and then stir to break up the egg and distribute it. Add the shrimp and stir. Remove to a bowl and garnish with the scallions. Add white pepper and salt to taste. 

Now for the Chinese almond cookie. After reading a lot of recipes, I settled on the one I found at Diana's Desserts, with the addition of a 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. Instead of AP flour, I used whole wheat pastry flour, and I think it made a huge (positive) difference. Make sure to cut the butter into the flour by hand as directed for a crumbly cookie on the inside, with a nice crunchy bite on the outside.  And the egg wash is not optional - do it. Since New Year's and Valentine's Day both fell on February 14th, I decided to make little hearts with almond slivers for fun:

The recipe yielded a lot of cookies, but luckily I have some nice neighbors who deserve treats (Don't worry, Poppa Trix had his fair share!!):

And remember all that bread I made during the snowstorm? Well, even with all the shoveling hunger we had worked up we still didn't manage to finish it all before it went stale, so for  breakfast we had French toast and scrambled eggs, with yummy Canadian maple syrup from Mardi of Eat, Live, Travel, Write.  The batter was eggs, half and half, sugar, and a pinch of vanilla powder (thank you Silvia!):


This was a perfectly delicious - and gut-busting - Valentine's Lunar New Year celebration. Gong Hey Fat Choy,  Gong Xi Fa Cai, Happy New Year, and course Happy (what's left of) Mardi Gras!


  1. wow so impressive! When I first saw the eggs I was like how did she do that?? they look so pretty! I have to try rice noodles - I have them and haven't cooked them yet. Happy New Year :)

  2. I so enjoyed reading every word of this post! I was smiling at your evocation of your childhood culinary experiences. The miracle is " you have rejected cake mixes and bologna sandwiches" How did that happen?
    Loved that spread! So beautiful, refined, great idea to couple the almonds for a heart symbol! Makes me want to eat chinese fare all of a sudden.

  3. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the eggs! Must do them...having people over Sat...so cool. Fabulous spreap, as usual my dear!

  4. That is indeed a feast! so many pretty goodies - who needs a heart-shape cake when you have marble eggs for Valentine?

  5. Awww, you wonderful woman, you. How lovely is all that food?! You put me to shame. :( Well done, Trix! The food is amazing. You're amazing. How I wish I was your neighbour!

  6. You did it again Ms Trix, I love the egg cracked glass effect, and the method. Wow easy it looks! Also have always wanted to try these cookies sounds like what I was looking for yum...and of course you never go wrong with the pasta dish terrfic, informative and very nice tribute to the Chinese NY!

  7. Very well done! Happy Chinese New Year lovely :)

  8. Trix, I love your eggs... even the shell looks like art... awesome photos too!

  9. Happy Chinese New Year!

    Everything looks so deliciously yummy!
    Those eggs are fabulous!! :)

  10. A wonderful feast to celebrate Chinese New Year! The egg is so neat, I've got to try doing that too!

  11. I've always loved those tea eggs. They look like art pieces and they taste so complex.

  12. What a splendiferous spread! Those eggs remind me of Raku pottery - beautiful! ~Mary

  13. I think that photo of the egg with all the cracks and stuff would make a nice wall hanging--very beautiful photograph! I love, love, love the cookies!

  14. The eggs are beautiful! thanks for the shoutout!

  15. tea egg...i showed this to my hubby.... my hubby had this in Malaysia. It smells like Bah-kuh-teh, according to him.

  16. Happy Chinese New Year! What a lovely spread you've created for your New Year's. And may all that it implies evolve into the truth for you! Thanks for sharing.

  17. Hmm those noodles look delicious. I love the way you so lovingly adapted and researched into it. It is my year, I am a tiger after all and hoping to wake up to such a delicious breakfast one of these days lol

  18. Wow...I'm amazed at your cooking. You can cook way better than many Chinese! Well done! Love those cracked eggs....gorgeous! Love your blog :)

  19. What you missed in your growing up culinary years you are making up for now. Your tea eggs are really beautiful; what a photo!
    I'm all over the noodles.

  20. The cookies are great, but my favorite in this post are the tea eggs! Just wonderful photography with them too!


  21. The tea eggs are amazing!! Great pics!!


  22. Hey Girl, playing catch-up with posts ... very impressive, love the cookies with the almond hearts, the tea eggs are fab but my favorite would be, what else? your shrimp dish....

  23. Those tea eggs just made the top of my to-do list! Aesthetically, they look amazing and I'm sure they taste even better!

  24. wow, can I just have a little bit of everything please? :)

  25. Wow! We are both amazed by your eggs! Those cookies are also adorable & the shrimp looks amazing!

  26. This is a great menu. You even followed the symbolism of the food. Oops, we didn't have that. We just dive into the food. Those Chinese tea eggs are a must-try. Awesome job.

  27. What a feast! I LOVE those eggs - so beautiful! And yay - you got to use the maple syrup!!!!

  28. Hi, this is my first visit here :)

    I did the eggs too and I must say yours look so much better!