At the same time many of us are packing away our noisemakers and Champagne glasses, people all over the world are just beginning to prepare for the new year.
Chinese New Year is a celebration of the lunar new year—the first day on a calendar based on the phases of the moon. The lunar new year is celebrated all over the world (this year on Jan. 28), with each country and culture having its own different traditions and celebrations. The Chinese New Year festival is widely celebrated in China, but also in other countries like Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysia, where there are many people of Chinese origin.
Chinese New Year is a huge celebration for Chinese-Americans as well, and there are tons of traditions that help ring in the festival. Alongside gifts, parties, and decorations, special "lucky" foods are presented to bring prosperity in the upcoming year, like coin-shaped dumplings, long noodles to represent longevity, and oranges, which are a Chinese symbol of luck and good fortune.
Since food is so central to the celebration, a Chinese-inspired dinner is a great way for you and your family to share in the tradition of our friends and neighbors. China is a very large country with many regions and a long history, which means there are many variations in what is considered traditional.
Most Americans have become familiar with a style of Chinese food that bears only a mild resemblance to what diners in China eat every day. While American-style Chinese food may not always be authentic to the flavors of China, it is an opportunity to introduce our families, especially children with developing palates, to flavors they may not experience every day.
Despite our best efforts, kids aren't always open to trying new foods, so in this recipe for Chinese Take-Out Chicken and Broccoli, we offer an easy and familiar dish to teach an essential technique in Asian cuisine: stir frying, in which most ingredients can be used interchangeably, like shrimp or pork instead of chicken.
Once you have the hang of stir frying, you can begin to experiment with new ingredients. This recipe already uses fresh ginger, scallions and soy sauce. But your family might be surprised to learn that they love sesame oil, hot chilies, Szechuan peppercorns and oyster sauce (a very common Chinese ingredient that acts more like a seasoning than its own flavor).
We live in a global community where we are inspired by the traditions of people halfway across the world. This Chinese New Year, take the opportunity to share in the celebration—and maybe next year you'll be ready to make those coin-shaped dumplings!
CHINESE TAKE-OUT CHICKEN AND BROCCOLI
Start to finish: 25 minutes (Active time: 20 minutes)
Servings: 4 to 6
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
1 bunch green onions, sliced
2 tablespoons cider or rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup chicken stock or water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 cups (1 bunch) broccoli florets, broccoli rabe, or broccolini
In a large saute pan or wok, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown, stirring the chicken occasionally to cook it evenly on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate and set aside.
Add the garlic, ginger, and green onions to the pan and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, chicken stock or water, and the cornstarch. Mix with a whisk until there are no clumps and set aside.
Add the broccoli to the pan. Add the cornstarch mixture and stir to coat the broccoli.
Stir in the chicken, cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil, and cook on medium-high heat until the broccoli is bright green and cooked through, for 3 to 5 minutes.
Nutrition information per serving: 270 calories; 67 calories from fat; 8 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 83 mg cholesterol; 552 mg sodium; 19 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 30 g protein.
The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.