Planning a simple, intimate Chinese New Year celebration can help shake off post-holiday blahs and help you forget that tax time is just around the corner.
Whether you plan a large or small gathering, serve several dishes to capture the spirit of traditional Oriental dining. Appetizers like spring rolls can start the meal, or offer a sampling of dim sum (steamed dumplings) to introduce guests to Oriental flavor. Follow the appetizers with a light and sprightly soup meant to tempt but not dull the appetite.
Sichuan-Style Pork Cutlets and Pork and Red Chile Stir-Fry are both highly seasoned entrees that will delight the palate. Serve plenty of steamed rice or Oriental-style noodles as a foil for these spicy dishes.
Pork is a good choice for the entree because it cooks quickly and is complemented by the exotic flavors. Cold Chinese beer is an appropriate accompaniment to this spicy menu. End the celebration with traditional almond or fortune cookies--a token of luck for the year to come.
ORIENTAL PORK SOUP
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 pound lean pork, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1/8 teaspoon finely grated ginger root
6 cups water
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon
1/2 cup sliced carrots
3/4 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup sliced green onions
Heat sesame oil in medium skillet. Add pork and ginger and saute over medium heat until done. Drain pork and set aside.
Bring water to boil in 4-quart Dutch oven. Stir in bouillon. Add carrots, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Add mushrooms, green onions and pork. Simmer 2 minutes. Ladle into individual serving bowls. Top each serving with cilantro sprig. Makes about 6 1/2 cups.
SICHUAN-STYLE PORK CUTLETS
1 pound boneless pork sirloin cutlets, cut 1/4 inch thick
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons dry Sherry
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 cups cooked vermicelli
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds, optional
Pound pork sirloin cutlets to 1/8-inch thickness. Brown cutlets, a few at a time, with garlic in peanut oil over medium heat. Pour off drippings.
Combine Sherry, soy sauce, brown sugar and red pepper and pour over cutlets. Cover tightly and cook over low heat 20 minutes or until cutlets are tender.
Combine water and cornstarch and add to pan and cook until thickened. Serve over pasta, garnished with sesame seeds. Makes 4 servings.
PORK AND RED CHILE STIR-FRY
1 pound lean boneless pork, cut into thin slices
2 tablespoons oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 pound green beans, cut into 2-inch lengths
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 small red chiles, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon shredded ginger root
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
Hot cooked rice, optional
Shredded lettuce, optional
Trim pork of fat, if necessary. Heat oil in skillet and add garlic and stir-fry until light brown. Add pork and cook until brown. Add green beans and stir-fry about 8 minutes.
Push meat and beans to one side of pan. Add sugar, soy sauce, chiles and ginger and stir to dissolve sugar. Add sesame oil and vinegar. Stir to coat meat and beans and serve immediately with cooked rice or shredded lettuce. Makes 4 to 5 servings.