Monday, January 26, 2009

Make Way for the Ox

Today is the first day of the Lunar New Year, which ushers in the year of the Ox. I thought I'd post a picture of oxtail soup, and then I realized that, yeah, I don't usually eat that. So instead, to get into the new year festivities, I went to the Flower Fair at San Francisco's Chinatown this past weekend.

A few blocks are closed down in Chinatown and people swarm the streets, shopping for flowers. In the new year, it's good luck to have blooming flowers in your home. The sign of blossoming represents prosperity (the Chinese will look for any reason for good fortune) as well as the approaching spring. Red, orange and green are popular colors because red is an auspicious color, orange resembles gold and green is associated with dinero.

The traditional Chinese new year cake is called nien gou. It's not your regular cake made of flour but instead it's made with sticky rice flour. This creates a pudding-like cake that's sweetened with brown sugar and sticky when eaten fresh. At this stand, they were selling a variety of flavors, including coconut. My mom used to make these really huge ones that we'd carve out and eat for days.

I spotted this truck selling lots of citrus, which is again representative of prosperity and spring. They had it bunched up that you can hang as wall ornaments.

This is the pomelo, or a really huge grapefruit. It's another popular fruit for the new year, again because the gold color looks like money. My mom liked this fruit so much that she made us take baths with the leaves from the pomelo tree so that we'd be all cleansed for the new year.

Hope you're all having a big celebration for the new year! Here's to continued prosperity and good food in the coming year!


Mark Scarbrough said...

Happy New Year! And oh, how your post made me want nien gou. This is one of the many reasons I miss living in the city, am sad to live in the country where I'm at least 1 hour from any place that would even have sticky rice cakes right now. Ah, well. I get the stars and quiet--but no rice cakes!!!!

foodhoe said...

ooh I would probably like those sticky rice cakes. Someone was saying that their family fries them! (oh but you don't like fried foods...) happy new years chef ben!

Nate-n-Annie said...

We cut our nian gao into slices, dip them in an egg batter, and pan fry them. It's soooo gooood!

Happy Niu Year!

Chef Ben said...

Yes, frying with eggs is the way to go. It's a perfect way to heat up and reuse the nien gou a few days after new year when the cake starts to harden a bit. Foodhoe, since it's panfrying, I'm OK with it because I'm mostly just against deep-frying.

Carolyn Jung said...

You're not a fan of oxtail stew/soup? You are missing out. Oh, it's one of my fave things in the winter. Truly, if you love short-ribs, you will like oxtails even better. Mmmmm!

Chef Ben said...

I can't say I'm against oxtail soup, it's just I never ate it and don't know about the idea of it. I might try it the next time I see it on the menu. I mean, it is the Year of the Ox.

Palidor said...

Happy CNY! I didn't know that nian gao is a traditional new year cake. I'll have to try it!