Chinese New Year Bento

It's been a tough year to get restarted on the cooking track. I've had family visit, work interruptions all manner of excuses. I had wanted to get this bento out last week but events conspired against me. So I present Chinese New Year Bento (two weeks late). I figured I've done Valentine's day bentos in the past besides, the bento project is about exposing my diners to new foods and culture so this would be a little more.

Lions are a Chinese symbol for joy and happiness. The lion's head meatball is traditionally pretty large maybe baseball sized. I went with golf ball so I could fit three of them into the box. The greens represent the lion's mane. It's a really tasty braised pork meatball that is first seared and finished with the bok choi over the top of the meatball to steam down for the final cooking process. Lion dances and Dragon dances are a prominent tradition with Chinese New Year. Loud fire crackers and red paper were discovered to be the bane of the "Nian" monster that would yearly terrorize the ancient Chinese hence the performances and red signs everywhere to chase away the Nian.

So for New Years you must always eat Noodles to represent wishes for a long life. Not much in the way of naming creativity, simply "Long Life Noodles" the soup/sauce consists a simple soy chicken broth with egg flowers (eggs symbolize fertility to go with your long life). I added a bit of ham for flavor and some green onions. This is a very simple dish definitely a good one to have if you've done a bit too much ringing in the new year. Chinese New Year is usually celebrated over several days each day performing a different ritual from remembering your ancesters to celebrating the various Chinese deities.

Black Tea Marbled Eggs - again eggs for fertility. Usually there the eggs are of darker color when cracked open (left egg) I should have exposed more cracks per egg so I think I failed a bit on this recipe (it's only the first time I've attempted this one.) Next time more tea and soy sauce and probably a bit more time steeping.

Nian Gao with Sweet Azuki bean. Nian Gao has a double meaning as the words also sound like Yearly higher or wishing you great achievements in the new year. This is one of my Mom's favorite dishes to cook for the New Year, it's very unusual to the American palatte. It's got a sticky mochi type texture, sweet soft azuki bean and topped with a crunch crust of sesame and coconut. My mom uses soy milk instead of real milk and that flavor really comes thru on the dish. It's not terribly sweet and probably goes well with a bit of hot tea.

Really simple bento this week. I'm going to try to get back into the regular tempo, but I'm afraid some upcoming work travel will interrupt me. I'll do what I can. In the meantime thanks for stopping by.

Box Contents:
  • Lions Head Meatball
  • Long Life Noodles
  • Black Tea Marbled Egg
  • Nian Gao with Sweet Azuki Bean


Petrina said…
I used to take a bunch of friends out when I was in Austin and introduce them to traditional CNY dinners. The dinners were a big hit, but two stumbling blocks were the fish with heads (traditional) and the desserts. First year, they served red bean soup. Comments were like, "Why are there beans in my dessert? What is this, yuck!" So the next year, they served nian gao. "Why did you order us phlegm for dessert?" "Unusual to the American palette," is right!
Ironjack said…
Haha, yeah phelgm does just about cover the texture and look. I think you just need new friends :) I have to hand it to my eaters though, they have been an adventurous lot in fact the Nian Gao was their favorite!

Thanks for dropping by!

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