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A Feast For Year Of The Monkey

According to the Chinese Lunar calendar, beginning Jan. 22 through Feb. 8, 2005 people of Chinese descent will celebrate the Year of the Monkey. Depending on the calculations the lunar year could be either 4701 or 4702.

No matter the date, celebrating the Chinese New Year is all about family and ushering in blessings of great luck and good fortune. The Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen and her mother Wan-Ling Chen kick off the New Year with a traditional Chinese Fire Pot or "Huo Kuo" and make Pot Stickers.

Chinese New Year celebrations can last an entire month, two to three weeks or just one day depending on the family. No matter the length of the party one thing remains constant, there's always an abundance of food.

In the Chen home the Chinese New Year generally begins on New Year's Eve with a big family meal called Huo Kuo. The fire pot, in it's finished form is basically a huge soup.

Mrs. Chen says, "Years ago in China, you had to cook the pot over charcoal and the fire was very slow so everybody sat around and talked about the past. You carry on conversation and cook so you can enjoy everyone's company. This gives you a warm feeling that says 'I love you.'"

The hot pot in which "Huo Kuo" is prepared doesn't look like your traditional soup pot. These days the pot filled with a little water is heated over a tabletop butane gas burner into which meat, fish, vegetables and noodles are cooked.

The following are the recipes:

Huo Kuo Fire Pot - Chinese Fire Pot Feast
Any of the following foods can be served in varying varieties:

Meats And Seafood:
Beef thinly sliced
Chicken breast thinly sliced
Scallops
Cod
Shrimp, shelled, deveined

Vegetables: Use one, some or all of them
Bean sprouts
Napa cabbage
Seaweed
Noodles
Mushrooms
Tofu
Rice cakes

Dipping Sauces: Use at least 2 of the following:
Soy sauce
Chinese hot mustard
Hoisin sauce
Oyster sauce
Sesame oil
Rice vinegar

Sometimes small individual strainers are used as well as chopsticks for dipping or to fish out morsels that fall into pot.

Traditionally, diners start with meat first and then move onto vegetables. As the dinner progresses, the ingredients add more and more flavor to the broth.

Instead of noodles, the fire pot can be served with steamed buns or dumplings.

Method:

  1. Bring stock, scallions and garlic to a simmer over low heat on a tabletop burner or in a traditional Chinese Hot Pot. Place in the middle of the table.
  2. Pour hot water over cellophane noodles and let soak for 30 minutes. Drain and place in a bowl.
  3. Lay sliced meat out on platter.
  4. Lay prepared vegetables neatly on another platter
  5. In various small bowls, place each of your chosen dipping sauces. Place bowls on table around simmering broth
  6. Each guest gets a bowl, a small plate, chopsticks and a spoon.

How To Dine Hot-Pot Style
  1. First pick up some meat with the chopsticks and swish it around in the hot broth until cooked through, about 1-2 minutes.
  2. Dip meat in some of the sauce and eat. Alternatively, place a little of various sauces of your choice in your bowl, mix together to taste, and dip the meat in this.
  3. About halfway though the dining, add the noodles to the broth to simmer.
  4. Dip the vegetables in the broth and proceed as with the meat.
  5. Finally, spoon some of the broth and noodles into your bowl and drink as a soup.

Pot Sticker

2 1/2 cups All-purpose flour
2/3 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
3/4 lb. ground pork (or beef)
1/4 lb. shrimp (coarsely chopped)
3 pieces dried mushroom (soaked & minced)
3 oz Chinese chives (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon ginger juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon vinegar
3 tablespoons oil

Method:

  1. In a big bowl add flour and boiling water. Use chopsticks to mix it well, then add cold water and knead it into a big dough. Keep it aside for 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Mix ground pork, shrimp, mushroom, chives, ginger juice, soy sauce and sesame oil together in another big bowl.
  3. On a kneading board sprinkle a small amount of flour, and knead the dough until it is smooth. Divide into 30 equal pieces, and make them into small balls then with the rolling pin roll them individually to form about 2 2/1 inch round shell.
  4. Scoop 1 tablespoon of pork mixture and place it in the middle of the shell and close the shell. (Imagine you are looking at the face of the clock, bring the point of 6 o'clock over to 12 o'clock and press together at that point, then it forms a half circle and along the edge squeeze the shell and seal the shell. (Try to make it a new moon shape.)
  5. Pour 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in the flat bottom skillet (10 inches). Heat the skillet at medium heat. When it is well heated place the pot stickers (15) into the skillet. Let them form a circle. Cook for 1 minute or until the underside of pot sticker turns a golden brown. At this moment, add 2/3 cup hot water (with 1 teaspoon vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil in it). Cover and cook until there is no more water (3 minutes). Add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil along the edge. 1/2 minute later cover the lid and drain off the excess oil. Take a plate big enough to cover the skillet. Simultaneously turn over the plate and the skillet. Pot stickers will rest on the plate with the golden crusty side up.

Years ago in China, pot stickers were shaped like gold or silver nuggets to symbolized prosperity and good fortune.

At the New Year's Eve celebration red envelopes with money are given by the parents and elders to the children who are single. This is a symbol of good luck and good fortune. Adult children (those who are married only) bestow upon their parents a bread package with money inside - a wish to them for good luck and good health.

The Year of the Monkey is supposed to be good for those in business and those born in the years 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004 fall under the Monkey.

Julie Chen was born in the year of the rooster.

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