From Easy Family Recipes from a Chinese-American Childhood: 150 Delicious Chinese Dishes for Today's American Table, by Ken Hom
The Chinese New Year celebration was always the biggest holiday in my family. We would pay the traditional homage to our ancestors by burning incense at the small family altar that stood at one end of the living room. My job was to rub some honey over the kitchen-god poster on the kitchen wall so that he could report only sweet and good things to the Jade Emperor in heaven.
Then the New Year's food preparation would begin. Certain foods were always served at the New Year table, because they symbolized particular good and noteworthy aspirations. Fish, which represent abundance and good fortune, were an essential item. Likewise noodles, a symbol of longevity - what good is abundance and good fortune without the time to enjoy them?
My Mother, being a good and faithful Buddhist, always made her vegetarian dish, a savory vegetable casserole that I remember to this day. I have altered my mother's recipe by using chicken stock; she used water, though a vegetarian stock could be substituted. The bonus is that this dish reheats well.
Cut the bean curd into 1-inch cubes. Drain it on paper towels. Soak the mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes, then drain them and squeeze out the excess liquid. Remove and discard the stems, and finely shred the caps into thin strips. Soak the bean thread noodles in warm water for 20 minutes and drain well. Soak the hair vegetable in warm water for 20 minutes and drain well.
Cut the Napa cabbage into 1-inch pieces.
Heat a wok or large frying pan over high heat until it is hot. Pour in the peanut oil, and when it is very hot and slightly smoking, deep-fry the bean curd cubes in 2 batches. Drain each batch well on paper towels.
Drain off all but 1-1/2 tablespoons of oil and reheat the wok. Toss in the mushrooms, Napa cabbage, salt, and pepper and stir-fry for 4 minutes. The mixture will be rather dry. Then toss in the bean thread noodles, hair vegetable, rice wine, stock, soy sauces, bean sauce, and oyster sauce. Bring the mixture to a simmer, toss in the fried bean curd, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.
Finally, swirl in the sesame oil and serve at once with plain rice.
Hair vegetable, also known as black moss, is a seaweed that looks like matted hair. Its Cantonese name, "fat choy," sounds like "becoming prosperous," so it is a standard item on the New Year menu. Popular in South China, it can be found in Chinese markets in the U.S. It comes dried and needs to be soaked before using.
Adam Rapoport, editor in chief of Bon Appetit magazine and the website www.bonappetit.com, knows his way around a grill. He has edited an entire book on the subject: The Grilling Book: The Definitive Guide from Bon Appetit.