Tuesday, February 3, 2009 ;
10:03 AM
Backdated posts! Boxes came, CNY arrived, ds1's birthday party left me with no time to catch a breath, much less blog. But, the kids are finally back in school and I have time to sit down and blog again.

The week before CNY was China Week in school, so the kids came home singing New Year songs, showing me how to do Chinese knots (中国结), Chinese kites, and other New year-related crafts and activities. ds2 told me about banging, shouting and screaming while they paraded around the school to chase the monster away. I guess it was 年(Nian) he was referring to.

ds1 told me about making a paper dragon and this below, a mantou made to look like a porcupine. He made it himself, and wrapped the dough around the filling, which were all M&Ms! He brought it home to show me, and said it was to share with all of us. The eyes were made of red beans. None of us wanted to eat it though. Me and Dh were thinking he could have made it under less than sanitary conditions (you know how kids pick their noses, scratch their heads and then continue working?). ds2 just didn't feel like trying it. So ds1 happily ate it all up, and kept going on and on about how delicious it is.

That week, I was very very busy at home too. Clearing the house, making way for the impending arrival of the boxes, and preparing a lot of food.

Here's one dish: 土豆丝。Potato strips stir fried with other veggie strips. It tastes yummy, a bit like rosti, but with the spiciness of the peppers as well. Dh had told me it is a popular item on the menu of many local restaurants he tried around his factory. So I asked ayi about it, and she showed me. Very simple to make too, so I think it'll quickly become a staple on our home menu.

Just get all those veggies and cut them into strips. Stir fry, and you are done. Sprinkle crushed sesame seeds on top, and wow, it is so fragrant! The colours of the various veggies make the dish very presentable too.

Then of course, ayi and I made maybe a zillion jiaozi. Ok, I am exaggerating, but the exhaustion at the end of the day made me feel like I had wrapped a million.

Making dumplings or jiaozi in Northern China is a tradition. They usually gather together, the whole family clan, and make together, just before the CNY. Then they freeze them and eat them over the CNY holidays. Especially at the stroke of midnight on CNY eve.

Since we are here, I got the boys to do it together with me too. Of course, that added more to my fatigue. Cos I had a lot more cleaning up to do. They enjoyed it immensely though. After I taught them the correct way of wrapping, they tried many other ways too. Then after I steamed or boiled the jiaozi, they realised what methods allow the jiaozi to stay together and which made the jiaozi split and spill all the contents out.

But then, they like to eat the wrap more than the filling, so they are actually happy that the jiaozi split. Grrrr.

Ayi also taught me this simple looking, appetizing but tedious Korean dish. It is rice vermicelli with chap chae (mixed vegetables).

The veggies typically include spinach, black fungus, carrot, onions, lots of minced garlic. The meat involves either pork strips or beef strips.

Sesame seeds are a must.

Boil the vermicelli, pour some sesame oil over, and then cook each veggie separately. Then stir fry all the veggies together, then mix together with the vermicelli. That involves a lot of pots, basins and pans. I maxed out all the stuff I had in the kitchen and the total cooking time must have been more than 1hour.

The spinach alone required these steps:
boil water,
when it is vigorously boiling, add some salt (crucial - makes spinach very brigh green, according to ayi)
switch fire off, dump washed and cut spinach into water.
Stir and then pour all the water away, drain, and pour some sesame oil over the cooked spinach.
Wear disposable gloves on one hand,
hold pot with the other ungloved hand,
use gloved hand to mix spinach together with oil. Smells really good at this point.
Crush some sesame seeds with gloved hand and sprinkle over spinach then mix with hand again.

Don't let me get started on the separate prep steps for the black fungus. The cleaning alone takes so much time.

Although this vermicelli could keep well and I actually could separate it into so many portions and didn't need to cook lunch for several days, I still think I might not do this if ayi didn't help, cos it is very tedious to me. I take my hat off to the Koreans!

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