It is Chinese New Year, which is always a big celebration every year. If you live in a city like mine with a large enough Chinese population, you will see that the whole city will have turned into a place of red and gold decorations at least one week before the celebrations have officially started. Chinese restaurants, malls, and supermarkets will display every variation of red paper decorations that have words of blessings or good wishes printed in gold characters that you hang on the walls and doors. These paper decorations are called fai chun (揮春). Often the Chinese characters are combined with other symbols that are important for Chinese New Year such as mandarin oranges, gold ingots or dragons.
When we wish someone a happy New Year, we usually recite a few fai chun wishes, especially to our elders. We say fai chun wishes just before we accept red pockets/envelopes of lucky money. These words of blessings are made up of four Chinese characters. Some popular examples include:
- 學業進步 (xue ye jin bu). When said to students, it means “improvement in your studies”
- 恭喜發財 (gong xi fa cai). This literally translates to “congratulations on making a lot of money”, but it is understood to mean “Happy New Year”.
- 出入平安 (chu ru ping an). This fai chun is wishing for safety when leaving and entering the house or anywhere they have to go. It is usually posted horizontally over the main door frame of the house to wish safety and protection for the people going in and out.
- 年年有餘 (nian nian you yu). This takes on the literal meaning of “every year have plenty”. The last character yu is a homonym to the word for FISH in Chinese, which is written 魚. This is why fish have a symbolic meaning on Chinese New Year’s dinners, and some of our New Years dessert molds are in the shape of a fish.
- 生意興隆 (sheng yi xing long). This is an important well wish for prosperity in a new or old business. You say it to wish somebody a good business. Businesses post this fai chun in their offices to bring blessings of prosperity.
Perhaps the most important blessing to wish onto someone and also for yourself is身體健康 (shen ti jian kang), which means “Good Health”. Chinese elders are always saying that this is the most important aspect of life, and age-old traditional Chinese medicine has so much knowledge about limitless ingredients dedicated for different medical purposes. Often when I cook a good Chinese feast for my guests, I try to incorporate some of this knowledge. I believe it’s a good practice to design a menu for nutritional targets without sacrificing on good taste. That is my biggest challenge as a good home chef.
This is a Taiwanese dish which is considered sophisticated and less common in China. With proper pan frying techniques, it is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. In traditional Chinese medicine (also known as Eastern medicine), eggplants are known to remove excess ‘yang’ energy, or heatiness (熱氣) that causes sore throat and fever from the body.
45g cooked prawns
1 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp chicken powder
3 tsp cooking wine
Vegetable oil for frying
茄子 300 克
韭菜 100 克
熟蝦 45 克
雞蛋 1 隻
麵粉 1 杯 加 2 湯匙
鹽 2 茶匙
白胡椒 1 茶匙
雞粉 1 茶匙
酒 3 茶匙
Chop the eggplants into 5 cm long sections. Slice every section lengthwise into 3 pieces. Place eggplant into a steaming dish or bamboo steamer and steam until softened (approx 5 – 10 minutes). Let cool.
Wash and finely dice the chives.
Wash and drain the prawns. In a small bowl, slightly beat the egg.
In a medium mixing bowl, marinate the eggplant and prawns with 2 1/2 tsp vegetable oil, the salt, pepper, chicken powder, and cooking wine for 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and egg.
Stir in the chopped chives and prawns and mix until well combined.
Heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil on a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spread the eggplant mixture evenly on the skillet and pan fry until you see bubbles or until golden yellow. Flip and pan fry the other side until golden yellow. Remove, cut into wedges, and serve.