Chinese New Year is the most important season I look forward to every year and 2020 is the year of the Rat.
The Year of The Rat
The zodiac prediction for people born in the year of the Rat is that they like saving and collecting, they rarely have hard times financially and love organised lives.
Rats don’t look for praise and recognition, they are very sensitive and know when there is trouble. When they do take risks they are usually successful and if you receive a valuable gift from a Rat, know that they think highly of you
Preparing for Chinese New Year
Generally, preparation for CNY starts 2 weeks before, we will buy a whole new outfit and traditionally we will do a spring clean of the house and houseware which signifies removing the old and welcoming the new 2-3 days before.
After cleaning, we will decorate the house with mostly red, which in our culture means lucky, and gold which symbolises money or wealth, the most popular New Year decorations are upside down “FU”, which means good fortune and good luck arrive.
The “Red Packet” Envelope
Adults, especially married couples and the elderly will prepare the “Red Packet” this is a red envelope with a little money inside and is given to young children on New Year’s day, It is believed that the money in the red packet will suppress the evil from children, keep them healthy and give them a long life.
New Years Eve Dinner
The New Year’s Eve dinner is the most important dinner and the majority of Chinese will eat at home instead of a restaurant, as normally this is the family reunion dinner, especially for those with family members away from home.
During the dinner, traditionally a whole fish will be served and the other dishes are dependent on personal preference. We have lots of different traditional food for CNY in different parts of China, but my favourite is turnip/radish cake and it is not difficult to make it.
Turnip Cake / Radish Cake (Chinese Lo Bak Go)
- 1 daikon radish (about 20 oz., grated)
- 1 to 1-1/2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon dried shrimp (washed, soaked and chopped)
- 3-5 dried shiitake mushrooms (washed, soaked, and chopped)
- 1 Chinese sausage (diced)
- 1 scallion (chopped)
- 1-1/24 cups rice flour (130 grams)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch (8 grams)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- White pepper (to taste)
- Oyster sauce (for dipping, optional)
1. Add the grated turnip and 1 cup water to a wok or large pan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so the turnip does not brown. The turnip will produce liquid, some of which will evaporate. You will have liquid left in the wok with the radish that you will also use.
2. Scoop the cooked turnip into a large mixing bowl to cool. Pour any remain liquid in the wok into a measuring cup and add water until you have a total 1 cup of liquid. Add it to the mixing bowl with the cooked turnip.
3. Clean your wok or pan and place it over medium heat. Add a couple tablespoons oil. Add the shrimp, mushrooms and sausage, cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped scallion and remove from the heat to cool.
4. Add rice flour, cornstarch, salt, sugar, and white pepper to the mixing bowl with radish and cooking liquid. Mix well until the dry ingredients are well-incorporated. Add in the cook shrimp, mushroom and sausage, and be sure to scrape the oil from the pan into the batter. Mix well and let sit for 15 minutes.
5. Give the batter a final stir, and pour it into a well-oiled loaf pan. Place the pan into a steamer with plenty of water and steam over medium-high heat for 50 minutes.
6. Remove the pan from the steamer and let your turnip cake set for about 30 minutes. Once cooled, loosen the sides using a spatula and turn it out onto a cutting board. It should come out quite easily.
7. Use a sharp knife dipped in water to slice ½ inch thick pieces. I know people who’d enjoy it just like that, but most people pan-fry the turnip cake first. Add a couple tablespoons oil to a non-stock or seasoned cast iron pan over medium heat. Fry the cakes on both sides until golden and crispy. Serve with oyster sauce!
Note: You can also make this turnip cake in advance refrigerate it in the loaf pan, and slice/fry later. If you’ve refrigerated turnip cakes that you’ve already fried, the best way to reheat them is to re-fry them in a pan.
May Chinese New Year 2020 bring you health, wealth and an abundance of happiness!