Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 6, 2021
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Eat well & prosper

Ring in the Chinese Year of the Rooster with these traditional treats

While many of us have already hooted and hollered our way into the New Year, for Chinese-Canadians New Year celebrations don't begin until February 9. The most important period in the Chinese lunar calendar, the New Year or Spring Festival is a time for feasting. An assortment of sweet and savoury food is offered throughout the 15-day event, which symbolizes abundance and wealth in the coming year.

Most dishes have a symbolic meaning or a name that sounds like the Chinese word for happiness, fortune, prosperity or longevity. Spring rolls and dumplings packed with a variety of fillings are essential because their golden shells represent gold bars, whereas the round shape of fish and meatballs portrays togetherness. The tray of togetherness -- a round tray spilling with specialties like sweetened lotus root, candied melon and dried melon seeds -- is intended to guarantee a sweet start to the new year.

Here are six recipes that'll have you warming up the wok, not only this New Year's, but all year round. They range from easy, everyday dishes, like pan-fried minced chicken with lettuce or sautéed shrimp with lotus root and water chestnut created by Chef Ip of the Shang Palace at the Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel, to slightly more sophisticated offerings, like stir-fried lobster and scallops with cucumbers and bell peppers created by Chef Wai-Keung Kwong of the Tang Court at Hong Kong's Langham Hotel.

Pan-fried Minced
Chicken with Lettuce

Since the literal translation of this dish is "Golden Rooster Heralding the New Year," Chef Ip recommends this dish as the perfect choice.

1 c. (150g) diced bamboo shoots
1/3 lb. (150g) minced chicken
1 tsp. (5ml) chicken stock
1/2 tsp. (2.5ml) salt
1 egg
1/4 lb. (125g) liver sausage
1 tsp. (5ml) oyster sauce
1/2 tsp. (2.5ml) dark soy sauce
small head of iceberg lettuce

Blanch the bamboo shoots in boiling water for 2 minutes then towel dry. Heat a wok over medium heat and, without adding any oil, fry the bamboo shoots until completely dry, about 2 minutes. Remove and set aside.

In a bowl, season the minced chicken with the chicken stock and salt. Add the egg. Using the same wok, sautÄ the minced chicken over medium heat, stirring vigorously to prevent it from sticking, until the chicken turns white, about 5 minutes. Add the bamboo shoots, liver sausage, oyster sauce and dark soy sauce and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove and keep warm.

Separate the lettuce into leaves. Wash and pat dry. Arrange a few leaves on a plate into shell-like pouches then fill the leaves with the minced chicken and bamboo shoot mixture. Serve warm. Serves 2-3.

Sautéed Shrimp with Lotus Root and Water Chestnut

1/2 lb.(250g) shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp. (5ml) cornstarch
3/4 tsp. (3.75ml) oil
1/4 lb. (125g) lotus root
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 garlic clove, pressed
8-10 fresh or canned water chestnuts
2 carrots, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. (2.5ml) sugar
1/2 tsp. (2.5ml) chicken stock
salt and pepper

Rinse the shrimp in cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Slice halfway through the back of each shrimp. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine the cornstarch, a 1/4 tsp. (1.25ml) of oil and the salt. Add the shrimp and let marinate for 30 minutes.

Heat 1/4 tsp. (1.25ml) of oil in a wok over high heat. Stir-fry the shrimps until curled and pink-red in colour, about 5 minutes. Remove from the wok and set aside.

Peel the lotus root and slice thinly (about 1/8 inch/2.5mm). Using the same wok, heat the remaining oil and stir-fry the garlic until fragrant. Add the lotus root, celery, water chestnuts and carrots and cook for 3 minutes. Add the cooked shrimps. Season with chicken stock, sugar, salt and pepper and cook for 1-2 minutes to blend the flavours. Serves 2-3.

Stir-fried Lobster and Scallops with Cucumbers and Yellow and Red bell peppers

Chinese love seafood, especially lobster. It symbolizes good health while the colourful yellow and red peppers symbolize gold and silver.

3 oz. (90g) scallops (about 12 small scallops)
1 lb. (500g) lobster, shelled and chopped
sesame oil
11/2 c. (169g) peeled and sliced cucumbers
1/4 c. (40g) diced yellow bell pepper
1/4 c. (40g) diced red bell pepper
1/2 tsp. (2.5ml) salt


Rinse and drain the scallops. Poach in hot water until firm and opaque, about 4-5 minutes. Drain and remove.

Heat a wok over medium-high heat. Stir-fry the lobster pieces until the meat starts to turn white, about 2-3 minutes. Remove and keep warm.

Using the same wok, heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Sautée the cucumbers and yellow and red bell peppers until cooked. Add the lobsters and scallops, season to taste and reheat in wok. Serves 2-3.

Fried-Crispy Dumplings

2 1/2 c. (600ml) white flour
2 eggs
1/2 c. (125ml) vegetable oil
1/4 c. (60ml) granulated sugar
1 1/2 c. (375ml) cold water
3/4 c. (113g) finely chopped peanuts
1/4 c. (60ml) white sesame seeds
1/2 c. (115ml) granulated sugar
oil, for frying

Dust a work surface with flour. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs, oil and sugar; knead well. Add the water a little at a time and knead the mixture into a soft dough. Roll into a thin sheet and stamp out about 20 rounds with a 3-inch (8-cm) cookie cutter. Set aside.

In a lightly oiled pan over high heat, stir-fry the peanuts and sesame seeds with the sugar. Remove from heat and let cool. Place some of the filling in the middle of each round of dough and seal and crimp the edges. Deep-fry the dumplings in hot oil over low-medium heat until golden brown. Let cool and store in airtight container. Makes 20.

Deep-Fried Sesame Balls
A popular New Year's dessert, sesame balls symbolize happiness since the cracks in the surface of the fried dough look like smiles.

1 1/4 c. (300ml) white flour
2 tsp. (10ml) baking powder
2/3 c. (150ml) granulated sugar
2 tbsp. (30ml) oil
1/3 c. (90ml) water
1/2 c. (125ml) white sesame seeds
oil, for frying

On a surface, sieve together the flour and baking powder. Add the granulated sugar, oil and water and knead into dough. Set aside and let ferment for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough into a long strip. Cut the strip into 2-inch (5-cm) pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Sprinkle each ball with a little water and coat with sesame seeds.

Heat the oil in a pan over low heat until hot and deep-fry the balls until they crack and turn golden brown. Remove and drain. Let cool and store in airtight container. Makes 10.

Steamed New Year Cake
The Chinese name for this cake, nian gao, literally means "year cake." Since the word gao sounds similar to the Chinese word for tall or high, this cake symbolizes the increased success and good fortune of the new year.

3 3/4 c. (600 g) fine glutinous rice flour
1 box (1 lb./450 g) cane sugar
3 1/4 c. (810 ml) cold water
1 Chinese red date
6 almond or melon seeds
2 eggs
oil, for frying

In a large pot, add the water and sugar and bring to a boil. Strain and let cool.

Sift the rice flour into a deep bowl. Add the strained liquid a little at a time. Stir until smooth.

Brush the pudding container (or round metal baking dish which will be covered with foil and tightly tied) with a layer of oil. Pour the flour-sugar mixture into the container. Steam, covered, over high heat for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove from heat and garnish with red date and almonds or melon seeds. Let sit overnight then remove the pudding from the mould.

Beat the eggs. Slice the pudding into wedges and dip in egg batter. Pan-fry both sides over low heat until light brown and fragrant. Serves 12-16.


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