January 23 is the first day of the Chinese lunar new year this year. This year is the year of the dragon, a most auspicious sign in the Chinese Zodiac. I know that 2012 is a dark foreboding year according to some cultural beliefs but there is still a chance for things to turn around.
The Chinese new year is met with a lot of luck, wealth and happiness boosting ceremonies and food. This dish, called san choy bau, is one of the dishes that is popularly eaten in the new year.
The Cantonese word for lettuce sounds like rising fortune so it is lucky to eat lettuce as the year begins. San choy bau is lettuce wraps filled with a stir fried meat filling. Iceberg lettuce is usually used as the wrap. I chose to serve the filling on gem lettuce boats instead because they are easier to take apart, smaller and a better shape to for eating.
I used eight main ingredients in the filling because the Chinese word for eight sounds like fortune. Among them is the winter bamboo shoot which is a symbol of wealth. Dried Chinese mushrooms adds a depth of flavour and chestnuts adds a hint of sweetness. Toppings of spring onions, toasted sesame seeds and fried rice vermicelli adds freshness, extra nuttiness and crunch. This appetizer is so enjoyable that you might not want to move on to the main course.
To all who are celebrating Chinese new year, I wish you
GONG XI FA CAI! KUNG HEI FAT CHOY! XIN NIAN KUAI LE!
1 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
2 chicken thighs, skinned, deboned and chopped
2 tbsps. cooking oil
2 cloves garlic
3 dried Chinese mushrooms, chopped
1 whole winter bamboo shoot, diced
10 cooked chestnuts, each cut into 6 pieces
1 tbsp. oyster sauce
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp corn flour
3 tbsps. water
spring onions, chopped
a handful of rice vermicelli
toasted sesame seeds
Season the chicken meat with the light soy sauce and sesame oil.
Heat the 2 tbsps. of oil in a wok and stir fry the garlic for 1 minute. Add the chicken meat and stir fry for 2 minutes or until it changes colour. Add the mushrooms, bamboo shoots, chestnuts, oyster sauce and sugar. Stir fry for another 2 minutes. Mix the corn flour with the 3 tbsps. water and add to the pan while stirring. This will form a thick glaze to moisten and hold the mixture together. When the sauce is absorbed into the mixture, the filling is done.
Heat up enough oil for shallow frying in a clean wok. When the oil is very hot, throw in the rice vermicelli. This will instantly puff up. Scoop up the noodles at once and drain on kitchen paper.
Toast the sesame seeds on a dry pan until golden.
Chop off the core of the gem lettuce and wash and dry the leaves. Serve the filling warm with the toppings on the side and let everyone make their own san choy bau.
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