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.”
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.
- 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
- 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.
- Remove packaging of the sticky rice cake, if bought from store.
- Cut the rice cake disc into bite sized chips.
- 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.
- Setup and heat deep fryer to 350 degrees
- Deep fry the wrapped rice cake in batches until golden brown. Drain oil and set aside to cool before serving.
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.
- 4 large fillets. 2 servings per fillet.
- 2-inch section of Ginger root of 1″ diameter.
- 6 stalks of scallions
- 1 TBSP Sautéing oil
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
I hope you enjoy these recipes…
Happy Chinese New Year, Congratulations for your new wealth!