Category Archives: Recipe

New Year with Sticky Rice Cake (年糕) and Fish

A colleague asked me yesterday what would be served as traditional dish during Chinese New Year. Right away I thought there would be many different celebratory dish, but what stood out were sticky rice cake and fish…

The New Years marks a time of changing cycle, changing shifts, where beginning meets the end, and where chaos would happen. So all traditions and rituals for New Years have long been established for good omen and well wishing. Sticky rice cake and fish are a good example of this tradition. It is not required to combine the two items in one dish, but both are required to be served…

Why? Because the Chinese word for “sticky,” or “粘” (nian,) has the same pronunciation as the word for “year”, or “年” (nian.) Whereas the word “fish”, or “魚” (Yu,) shares the same pronunciation with the word “surplus”, or “餘” (Yu.) Therefore, having sticky rice cake and fish on the New Years table is a good omen for the upcoming year, echoing the lucky phrase “年年有餘” (nian-nian-yo-yu), meaning “having surplus year after year.”

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Crispy Sticky Rice Cake

Sticky rice cake comes in different kinds and flavors. I am introducing today the sweet sticky rice cake made with red beans, wrapped in spring roll wrapper. This recipe was a spontaneous creation at a hot pot party years ago.

Ingredient list:

  • Store-bought or home-made red bean rice cake, 6 to 8- inch diameter
  •  Store-bought or home-made spring roll wrapper, around 6″ squares.
  •  Deep fryer
  •  Deep frying oil, a gallon, or the amount enough for your deep fryer.
  •  1/4 cup cooked white rice to be used as edible glue
  •  1 cup Water
  1. To make edible glue, in a sauce pan, mix cooked white rice with 1 cup water, stir, mash, and use high heat to bring it to boil. Reduce heat, continue stirring and mashing, until the rice-water mix is reduced to thick congee texture. Remove from heat. Then set aside to cool.
  2. Remove packaging of the sticky rice cake, if bought from store.
  3. Cut the rice cake disc into bite sized chips.
  4. Wrap each individual rice cake chips with a single sheet of spring roll wrapper. Use the edible glue to secure the end of the wrapper. Without securing, they may unravel in the deep frying process.
  5. Setup and heat deep fryer to 350 degrees
  6. Deep fry the wrapped rice cake in batches until golden brown. Drain oil and set aside to cool before serving.
red bean sticky rice cake
This is a photo of a red bean sticky rice cake, similar to a store-bought version with the packaging removed.
My version of sticky rice cake
Here’s my fried sticky rice cake being cooled right before serving. It was crispy on the outside, warm and sweet on the inside. (Yum!)

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Sautéed Tilapia for Eight

During Chinese New Year, a plate of fish is often required on the table, for the symbolism explained earlier. It doesn’t matter which kind of fish. The Asian culture cook and serve food in its entirety for wholesomeness. We cook and use all parts of animal and fish for sustainability–not to create animal waste of God’s gift. But for my western readers, I hereby publish the recipe of my famous tilapia fillet, which I cook for my in-laws every Christmas Eve.

Ingredient list:

  • 4 large fillets. 2 servings per fillet.
  • 2-inch section of Ginger root of 1″ diameter.
  • 6 stalks of scallions
  • 1 TBSP Sautéing oil
  • Salt

Preparation:

  • Sprinkle one pinch of salt on each side of fillet.
  • Cut all ginger root into thin slices. Julienne about half of the slices to be used for topping.
  • Julienne all scallions
  • Setup a frying pan with a cover

Cooking:

  1. Grease the pan with sautéing oil. Use medium high heat. Spread in the sliced ginger in the bottom of pan. Once the ginger pieces starts to bubble, lay down tilapia on top of ginger slices. Spread the julienned ginger and scallion over the fillets. Reduce to medium heat and cover.
  2. When the fish turns completely white, remove from heat and serve. If a firmer texture is desired, it may be cooked longer with cover, for about 3 to 5 more minutes.
IMG_2094
In this photo, the plate on the left had chili powder added to the plate, for those who like a kick in their tilapia. Also there are cilantro to top it off as added garnish.

I hope you enjoy these recipes…
新年快樂,恭喜發財!
(Xin-nian-kuai-le, gung-xi-fa-cai!)
Happy Chinese New Year, Congratulations for your new wealth!

Our Favorite Winter Breakfast – Chicken Rice Soup

In my childhood memory, winter in Taipei was always gray and cold. Taiwan, sitting at Tropic of Cancer, never snowed. But, because it is a basin city, with humidity trapped within the surrounding hills, the chilly winter rain was always cold enough to pierce the bones. Everyone would get sick everyday, sniffles and sneezes everywhere…

This was the season when Mother always had a pot of chicken soup ready to serve at any time, especially for breakfast at 6:30 in the morning — Yes: The children in my family grew up having chicken soup for breakfast. 🙂 It warmed our soul, and it prepared us for the work/school day ahead. Especially for the tough city commute that sometimes had my head sandwiched between the standing people’s buttocks on a bus… Only in Taipei.

IMG_0412Ingredients to serve a party of 4 to 8: 

  • 8 chicken wings (approximately 2 lb.) Thawed. Can be substituted with 2 lb. of legs and/or thighs
  •  9 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  •  12 oz. Daikon cut to bite size chunks
  • 10-12 oz. Whole onion, chopped
  • 5 oz. Carrots, sliced
  • 4 oz. Celery Heart (approx. 3 stalks)
  • 2 oz. Ginger, 1/8” to 1/4” slices for flavoring
  • 1 cup scallion or cilantro, chopped
  • 8 cups of cooked rice

Preparing the chicken:
Boil 12 cups of water. Place the thawed chicken pieces into the boiling water. Bring back to boil and immediately remove from heat. Let stand in pot for 12 hours or overnight. Drain and gently rinse the chicken under running water. Pluck excess feather where necessary. Chicken is ready to use.

Note: The purpose of this prepping process is to remove excess chicken fat and blood, which results to a healthier, leaner and a more aesthetically pleasing ingredient. We recommend using the prepared chicken immediately or to refrigerate and use it within one day.

Making the Soup:
In a large pot, combine chicken with water, ginger, vinegar, onion, celery, carrots and daikon. With high heat, cover and bring to boil. Leaving the pot covered, simmer in low heat for another 15 minutes while skim excess oil from surface. Remove from heat and serve.

Serving Suggestions:
1 cup of cooked rice is the recommended serving size per person. To serve the soup, place one chicken piece in each rice filled bowl before scooping in other ingredients. Pour soup over rice. Garnish with scallions or cilantro and serve.

Note: The picture above shows 2 servings of the soup made with chicken wings and garnished with scallions.