Thursday was Lunar New Year, if you celebrate it I hope you had a good time. I typically don’t celebrate Lunar New Year, not because I don’t enjoy it, but because since moving to Illinois I often forget when the holiday is upon us. Living in Vancouver it’s hard not to know when the Lunar New Year is beginning. The signs are all over, the minute you enter Chinatown, and I used to spend a lot of time in Chinatown. I’m sure the Lunar New Year is a popular event in Chicago’s Chinatown but outside of that, not too many people around these parts seem to care. Then of course in many years previous I have actually been on vacation during the Lunar New Year, so it’s hard to celebrate when you’re in the jungle, or hiking a mountain. This year however our vacation is coming a month later then usual, and so I was free to celebrate.
Honestly, I was really tired from a long night at work, but I didn’t want to let that stop me from making and then eating something delicious. The meal I ended up whipping together is in no way ‘traditional’ but it’s Asian - or at least Asian fusion - and I think it did a pretty decent job of putting together a rather impromptu feast using mostly what I had on hand already.
One of the first things I decided to make was the Mongolia Beef from Lane Gold’s book “Vegan Junk Food” man this book never lets me down! I chose this because the recipe was simple, fast, I had everything on hand - including a bag of beefless tips in the freezer - and it’s been an oh-so-long time since I had Mongolia beef. I have to say this dish really exceeded my expectations. It was so full of flavor considering it had a short ingredient list. The sauce was rich, sweet and salty and thick. Absolutely perfect, like the kind of dish you’d order in a Chinese restaurant. Without doubt I will make this again and again.
Also from “Vegan Junk Food” I made the Takeout Orange Tofu. Again I chose this because it was simple, relatively quick, and had a relatively short ingredient list. Also I love orange tofu, - used to love Orange Chicken - haven’t had it in ages, and I remember years ago Bianca from “Vegan Crunk” made this and said it was delicious and I’ve always meant to give it a try. Well, I’m pleased to report that she wasn’t wrong, and this dish did not in any way disappoint. Again it had a thick, rich, sweet sauce, that was reminiscent of every Asian restaurant I’ve ever been too. Perfect, I’ll be making this again and again for sure. The only thing I did differently is I added some diced green bell pepper to the mix only because the sauce made more then I needed for the tofu, and I didn’t want it all to go to waste.
Lastly also from “Vegan Junk Food” I made the Takeout Fried Rice. This was a no brainer. You HAVE to have rice, and I love fried rice, and my husband loves rice in any incarnation, period. So even though I’ve made a million fried rice recipes in my time I chose Lane’s because 1) I already had the book out and 2) It was quick and easy and called for very few ingredients. I thought this version was really good, though I’ll admit I added some green onion to it. I probably would have used a bit more liquid, because the rice came out a bit drier then I like but otherwise this was great.
Now, once I got started on this Lunar New Year’s Feast I Couldn’t stop there, because what’s an Asian celebration without some noodles? I dug out my copy of Donna Klein’s book “The Chinese Vegan Kitchen” flipped to the Noodle chapter and promptly made the Sichuan Style Lo Mein with Sesame and Garlic. Now I love a good Lo Mein, and any noodle dish that includes a peanut or sesame style sauce is okay in my book, but DAMN these were some amazing noodles! No lie, I could have eaten the entire pan myself. This ingredients list is a bit longer then others I’ve seen - mostly stuff needed to make the sauce - but it comes together almost as quickly as it takes you to boil the noodles so no worries. I did add ½ a red onion, ½ a green bell pepper, and a ½ cup of sliced mushrooms to the dish just because I had these things laying around and I am trying to clean out the fridge as best I can before we leave for Europe. I would probably add that amount of veg again in the future because I think it worked really well, and also next time I think I’ll use the full amount of chili paste. I aired on the side of caution this time around and didn’t go with a full 2 tsp but felt for a dish called Sichuan it could have been spicier. That was my bad.
Now, no feast can be just protein and carbs, you need a little veg in your life, the greener the better. So using “The Chinese Vegan Kitchen” still I made Klein’s Chinese Broccoli with Vegetarian Oyster Sauce. This is a super simple side, you basically just saute Chinese Broccoli - or Gai Lan - then simmer it in a quick sauce of Vegetarian Oyster Sauce, rice wine, ginger, cornstarch, soy sauce and peanut oil. So good! I love Gai Lan!
Lastly I also made Klein’s Spicy Hoisin Glazed Green Beans. I chose this because I love green beans, I love hoisin sauce and this reminded me of a green bean dish I used to order all the time at restaurants around Vancouver. This type of green bean, or Sichuan style green beans have always been one of my favorite side dishes in any Chinese restaurant so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make them. Again it’s basically simply sauteed green beans that are simmered in a sauce of hoisin, garlic, peanut oil, soy sauce, chili paste, and sesame oil. So good!
I really wanted to make an appetizer and dessert as well, but I’ll say it, I was lazy. I wanted to make tapioca pudding, and Spring Rolls but I didn’t have the proper ingredients for either. I did however remember that the last time I was at Super H Market - the Korean Market in Niles, IL - I bought a pack of Vegetarian Spring Rolls. So I dug those out of the freezer and baked half the package. Really you’re suppose to fry them but my burners were all being used up at the time. Baking Spring Rolls is definitely healthier but doesn’t get the crispy. Oh well, still delicious for a store-bought roll.
So that was our Lunar New Year. I hope you had a good time celebrating, and I wish you Peace, Love and Prosperity for the New Year!