Coast Cooking

Get ready to ring in the Chinese New Year with these Asian recipes to help make it a good year

Spring rolls just may bring you a wealthy New Year.
Spring rolls just may bring you a wealthy New Year. Special to the Sun Herald

Chinese New Year 2018 is Feb. 16 and it is the Year of the Dog.

In China most employees get seven days off work, including three days that are legal holidays.

“The celebration lasts for 15 days from the first to 15th day of the first lunar month,” according to travelchinaguide.com, “and in folklore it starts even earlier, from the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month.”

Not only can you enjoy the party in mainland China but you also can enjoy it in Taiwan, Hong Kong and many Southeast Asian countries, and countries all over the world with significant Chinese populations.

And, the local Vietnamese community on the Mississippi Gulf Coast celebrates each year as well.

Not only is it a time of firecracker celebrations, giving of money in traditional red envelops, but it also is a time of great feasting, and many of the foods represent good prospects for the New Year: dumplings and spring rolls represent wealth, noodles represent happiness and longevity and fish represents increased prosperity.

Cooking Chinese food can be intimidating, but there are shortcuts that even a novice can make with a little practice. Take a trip to your local Asian market and visit the frozen section. You’ll find almost everything you need there, and preparation is a snap.

Here are a few ideas that just might bring you luck in the Year of the Dog.

Spring Rolls or Egg Rolls

These two rolls can be different things in different parts of the world, but most often egg rolls have meat (pork or beef) while spring rolls do not (although they may have shrimp). Buy them frozen at the grocery store, or buy them at your favorite Vietnamese restaurant. Cook according to package directions.

Whatever variety you buy or make, I think you will like these dipping sauces.

Garlic-Soy Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons peanut oil

1 teaspoon hot sesame oil

1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

One small pinch of sugar

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Serve in small individual bowls.

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup fish sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 clove garlic minced

Big pinch red pepper flakes

Combine well, and make sure the sugar dissolves before serving.

Udon Noodle Soup

This is not a traditional Chinese recipe at all, but just a good, and simple, combination that will make for a hearty soup. Serves four.

2 package Udon noodles (refrigerated or packaged)

1/3 cup dried mushrooms

2 cups chopped leek

2-3 cloves chopped garlic

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

Soy sauce, sriracha

Optional roasted pork from Asian market or browned ground pork

Oil as needed

Soak the mushrooms in stock for 20 minutes. If you are adding the pork, brown it first, then set aside. Sauté leek in oil until tender, add the mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Add stock, and optional pork and bring to a simmer. Add noodles and cook only until separated. Taste and season as needed. Add pork if desired. Serve at once.

Dumplings

Dumplings can be bought frozen at almost any Asian market. If you want to try something really good, buy cucumber kimchee from a Korean grocery store (may I suggest the Oriental Market, 1670 Pass Road), and pair it with freshly fried or steamed dumplings.

Dipping Sauce for Dumplings

There is a huge variety of frozen dumplings at the Asian market. Follow package directions for cooking. You can serve with soy sauce or this dipping sauce that is easy to put together.

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon Chinese chili garlic sauce

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Combine all the ingredients, mix well, taste and adjust seasoning to your taste.

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