Today millions of people around the world have started elaborate celebrations for Chinese New Year 2016. It is not just the Asian countries that are dedicated to festivities and fireworks that create so much smoke that you can hardly see beyond a foot. The Sydney Opera House in Australia was bathed in red light as part of city wide lumiere and lantern display to welcome in Chinese New Year and London has been selected as the first city outside the Far East to host the Magical Lantern Festival, a dazzling extravaganza of lights, music theatre, culture and art. In New York children are being given the day off from school as for the first time New York City Public Schools are closed to observe the holiday. Festivities in New York have included fireworks, a huge art show at the Javits Center (free to the public) and a special, extra Lunar New Year parade on the Upper East Side!
Chinese New Year Traditions and Food
The festivities usually start the day before the New Year and continue until the Lantern Festival, the 15th day of the new year. This year it’s the Year of the Monkey, the ninth animal in the cycle. The next Year of the Monkey will be in 2028.
Chinese New Year is the most important holiday for Chinese people and much of the Asian world, and like most cultures food plays a significant part. The traditional steamed Chinese New Year cake, known in Mandarin as nian gao (“higher year”), is flavored with almond extract and Chinese brown sugar. And eating a piece of it is supposed to improve your luck in the coming year. Certain dishes are eaten during the Chinese New Year for their symbolic meaning. Lucky food is served during the 16-day festival season, especially New Year’s Eve, which is believed to bring good luck for the coming year. The auspicious symbolism of these foods is based on their pronunciations or appearance. Not only do the dishes themselves matter, but also the preparation, and ways of serving and eating mean a lot.
Today I have a simple dish inspired by Chinese cuisine, Steak and Broccoli Stir Fry, which is served alongside egg noodles. Noodles, particularly longevity noodles symbolize a wish for longevity. So basically, if noodles are served, keep them as long as possible.
Sizzling Steak & Broccoli Stir Fry
1 pound broccoli, cut into florets
1 pound beef round steak, cut into 1/8-inch thick strips
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 cup medium free-range egg noodles
3 teaspoons sesame oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 inch piece of fresh ginger
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if needed
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Sea Salt and black pepper to taste
Trim the broccoli, cutting any larger broccoli stems in half lengthways, then place in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Add a good pinch of sea salt and leave for 10 minutes, then drain and put to one side.
Half-fill a pan with water and bring to the boil. Add salt and drop the egg noodles into the pan of boiling salted water and cook until just tender. Drain, then toss with 2 teaspoons of sesame oil and return to the pan. Cover to keep warm.
Season the steak meat with sea salt and black pepper.
Pound the coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar, or bash with the base of a pan, until fine. Sprinkle over the steak so they stick to it and give it a lovely, fragrant flavor.
Peel and finely slice the onion and garlic, then peel and finely chop the ginger.
Heat a splash of olive oil in a wok or large frying pan over a high heat, then add the onions, garlic and ginger. Fry for a couple of minutes, or until the onions have softened slightly.
Add the seasoned pieces of steak and stir-fry until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes., then add the broccoli and fry for a further 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Pour in the soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, toss in the pan until everything is well coated, then serve with the egg noodles.