Annual cycles offer so much to the creative person. They are times to celebrate, commemorate, remember. We are again in the midst of the 15 day celebration of the Lunar New Year. I’ve shared elsewhere that for some thirteen years I’ve been fortunate, privileged, just plain lucky to have traveled to Korea immediately after the New Year. My tenure on the editorial board of the International Journal of Intangible Heritage provided countless opportunities to learn about Korean culture and heritage, including the Lunar New Year.
2022 is the Year of the Tiger. There are actually several different tigers associated with the Asian zodiac: Metal, Earth, Fire, Wood, and Water. In other words, the five elements. In the Korean tradition, this is the Year of the Black Tiger. This designation originates from the term “iminnyeon,” is a combination of two Chinese symbols, “im” and “in,” with the Korean word “nyeon.” “Im” means black, “in” tiger, and “nyeon” year, therefore the “Year of the Black Tiger.”
So many symbolic foods are eaten at this season. Fish is one of them; the Chinese word for fish, Yú, sounds like the word “abundance.” It has to be a whole fish with head and tail to get the full effect of wishes for prosperity and abundance. Dumplings are another, they represent good luck; the rounded shape resembles the shape of gold ingots from ancient China.
I thought I’d bring the celebration to our dinner table a few nights … Constant Companion, Daughter, and I enjoyed small feasts to bring in this New Year.
Soba Noodle Soup with Mushrooms and Chard.* In a large cooking pot (Dutch oven), brown about 4 ounces of thinly sliced baby bella mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add 1 tablespoon minced ginger and 2 minced garlic cloves (you can also add 1-2 teaspoons of Sriracha). Cook for about a minute. Add 3 tablespoons soy sauce, scrape up the fond (that stuff that sticks to the bottom of the pot), cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add 4 cups of vegetable broth or dashi, bring to boil, the reduce to simmer, add 4 ounces of soba noodles and 2 ounces of shredded Swiss Chard.+ Also add 4 eggs in the shell. Cook eggs for about 6 minutes. Cook until the noodles are tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and portion into bowls. Carefully shell the eggs and slice in half, top each bowl with 2 half eggs.
+I froze the stems for future use in another vegetable broth.
To make this dish really celebratory of the New Year, add chicken dumplings to the soup. I had some frozen chicken dumplings. I did not include them because they are not one of Daughter’s favorites. We’ll enjoy them another time.
*This recipe came from thekitchn (https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-mushroom-and-chard-noodle-soup-recipes-from-the-kitchn-214635).
Stir Fried Chicken with Leek (and more).* Start by whisking together ¼ cup chicken stock with 1 tablespoon fish sauce and ½ teaspoon cornstarch. Next, in a wok or small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add 1 pound of skinless, boneless breasts, cut into 1/2-inch strips and stir-fry about 2 minutes. Remove the chicken. Add 2 medium leeks, white and tender green parts, cut into 2-by-1/4-inch matchsticks, 1 tablespoon minced ginger, and 2 thinly sliced Serrano chile, if you like spicy. Stir-fry for about 2 minutes. Add chicken and any pan juices to the vegetables and stir-fry for 1 minute. Whisk the stock mixture and add to the chicken and vegetables, cook til chicken is cooked through and sauce thickened. Serve with steamed rice.
This recipe is “and more” because I included the following from my larder: chopped celery, chopped yellow and red peppers, chopped garlic scapes, and enoki mushrooms from a recent stop at the Chinese grocery.
*This dish started with a Food and Wine recipe (https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/chicken-and-leek-stir-fry)
Steamed Whole branzino.* In honor of the whole fish, one graced our table for another dinner. Start by combining ¼ cup of vegetable stock and 6 six anises in a large skillet. After cleaning the fish, place it on its side and open the belly-flap. Season the cavity and outside of the fish all over with ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Sprinkle inside cavity evenly with the minced garlic, ginger, scallion whites, and the tangerine zest. Bring the stock to a gentle boil, gently place the fish into the skillet. Pour 1 tablespoon sake and 1 tablespoon soy sauce over the fish. Turn down to a simmer and cover, cook 10 minutes. Serve with steamed rice and sautéed chard.
*This recipe came from Saveur (https://www.saveur.com/steamed-whole-fish-dried-tangerine-peel-fennel-recipe/). As you might have already read, I adjust recipes accordingly to what’s in the pantry/larder and the tastes of my family. In place of the tangerine peel, I zested the peel and put it into the fish’s cavity. Look at the link for the complete recipe.
My apologies, I forgot to take a photo of the fish. It was as beautiful as it was delicious.
Thanks to the National Folk Museum of Korea for the featured image.