Sunday, January 22, 2012

Lunar New Year Food traditions

It's the start of the Lunar New Year for Chinese people and I wanted to enjoy some of the Chinese Holiday traditional foods so I headed over to T&T Supermarket in Thornhill. One of the things I picked up were the Red Bean Sesame Balls as seen above. The first time I tried one of these Sesame Balls was when my mother brought them home from a lunch outing with friends. She had no idea what they were but thought I might like them so she brought one home for me to taste. I never had anything like it before and loved it. It was a long time before I saw it available at malls and supermarkets around the city. It now seems common place for me to see them around. I can go down to the mall in my building and get some from Furama even. The creamy centre and if they are fresh the outside will be fairly crispy and if done well not greasy. These ones weren't super fresh so I popped it in the microwave for about 15 sec and it softened them up.

What do these Sesame Balls symbolize making something small turn into big capital gains in the future.

Here is a recipe if you want to try making them for yourself.

Jien Duy (Sweet Sesame Seed Ball)

The following recipe is from renowned chef Joyce Jue.


1-1/3 cups water
4 or 5 sticks Chinese brown slab sugar
1 pound glutinous rice powder/flour
1 cup canned sweet red bean paste filling (or black bean or lotus paste)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
Peanut oil for deep frying

Bring water and sugar to a boil, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Put rice powder into a large bowl. While the sugar-water is still hot, slowly stir it into the rice powder. Gather up the dough and knead until smooth. Roll dough into two 1 1/2-inch-thick logs. Cut each into 1 1/2-inch rounds. Using the palms of your hands, roll one round into a ball. Flatten ball and place a 1/2 inch piece of bean paste in the center. Fold dough over and roll into a smooth ball to enclose the filling. Wet your hand and dip ball into sesame seeds to coat the surface of the ball. Press lightly to help the seeds adhere. Set aside, covered. Repeat with remaining dough.

Heat 3 inches of oil to 325 degrees. Carefully slip a few balls into hot oil and gently fry for 12 to 15 minutes. After the first 3 minutes, gently squeeze balls every few minutes with a pair of wooden cooking chopsticks. This helps the balls to expand. Continue squeezing and turning balls until they are gold brown and feel full of air. Drain on paper towels. Cool before serving.

Makes 16 balls.

Other foods that are eaten or popular during Chinese New Year are the following:

* Lotus seed - signify having many male offspring

* Ginkgo nut - represents silver ingots

* Black moss seaweed - is a homonym for exceeding in wealth

* Dried bean curd is another homonym for fulfillment of wealth and happiness

* Bamboo shoots - is a term which sounds like "wishing that everything would be well"

* Fresh bean curd or tofu is not included as it is white and unlucky for New Year as the color signifies death and misfortune.

* Whole fish, to represent togetherness and abundance,
* Whole chicken for prosperity.

The Fish & chicken must be presented with a head, tail and feet to symbolize completeness. Noodles should be uncut, as they represent long life.

The abundance of food prepared was meant to symbolize abundance and wealth.

* Chinese Dumplings - the more dumplings you eat during New Year celebration, more money you can make in the New Year.

Lucky Saying for Eating Dumplings: Bringing in wealth and treasure — felicitous wish of making money; amass fortunes

* Spring Roll

Lucky Saying for Eating Spring Roll: A ton of gold (because the fried spring rolls are all with golden color, which makes them looking like gold bars, the symbolism of treasure)

* Nian Gao (Glutinous Rice Cake)

In Chinese, Nian Gao sounds like "getting higher year by year". In Chinese people's mind, the higher you are, the more prosperous your business is. Main ingredients of Nian Gao are sticky rice, sugar, Chestnuts, Chinese date and lotus leaves.

What I love about a lot of the Chinese traditions and foods are that they consider certain foods good luck for health, wealth and prosperity and each different food is eaten for a different property.

Chinese people give gifts of things like Boxes of Mandarin oranges, the round fruits are especially lucky to them.

They give special boxes of seeds which is also a prosperity symbol for them.

Try something different with your friends and family and have a Lunar New Year Party, have some dumplings, spring rolls, oranges and a whole fish or chicken and enjoy the traditions and foods of the Chinese Culture.

Learn about other people through food and food cultures and you will always connect to the Global world around you.


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