Chinese New Year arrived on Sunday, and with it, a two-week period of celebration for the Year of the Tiger. In honor of the lunar new year, we talk with two prominent Chinese Americans about their favorite New Year foods and memories.
Diana Kuan has written about food for Gourmet, Food & Wine, The Boston Globe, and many other publications. She also the founder of the popular blog Appetite for China.
And B.D. Wong is the Tony Award-winning actor best known for his roles as Dr. George Huang on "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" and Father Ray Mukada on HBO's "Oz."
Read Diana's recipes for two lucky Chinese New Year dishes:
Stir-Fried Vermicelli with Garlic and Scallions
Soak the vermicelli in cold water for 15 to 25 minutes, until they are soft enough to eat but still firm. (If you're in a hurry, soak it in warm water for 5 to 10 minutes; the warmer the water, the faster it'll take.) Careful not to oversoak, or they will be too soggy to stir-fry. With a colander, drain out excess water. In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, yellow rice wine, water, sugar, and pepper and set aside.
Heat the cooking oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger until fragrant and the onions begin to caramelize, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add half the sauce mixture. Add the vermicelli, then the rest of the sauce. Stir the noodles well until the vegetables and seasonings are mixed through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to plate(s) and serve hot.
Turnip Cakes (Law Bok Gow)
In a large heatproof bowl, combine 400 grams of rice flour and 2 cups of water. Mix well until the mixture is smooth and velvety, and set aside.
In a small bowl, soak shiitake mushrooms in about 1/2 cup of cold water for 30 minutes to soften. In a separate small bowl, do the same with the dried shrimp.
Meanwhile, bring water to boil in a small pot. Place Chinese bacon in the pot and cook for 3 to 4 minutes to soften. Remove from heat and pat to dry. Finely chop and set aside.
Once the shiitakes are done soaking, remove from water, squeeze out excess water, finely chop, and set aside. Remove shrimp from water, finely chop, and set aside.
Peel the turnip, and cut into 2 cm thick slices. Then cut slices into strips about 2 cm thick. Set aside.
Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a wok. Add shrimp and mushrooms and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the cooking wine and soy sauce and stir until the shrimp and mushrooms are well-coated. Add the Chinese bacon, cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, then remove from heat and set aside.
In the same wok, toss in the turnip strips and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes, adding a bit more cooking oil if necessary. Then pour in 1 cup water, cover the wok, and let the turnip steam for 10 to 15 minutes until just cooked. Pour the hot turnips into the bowl with the rice flour mixture and mix thoroughly, until the turnips are well-incorporated into the mixture. Add the bacon, shrimp, mushrooms, and salt. Stir until evenly distributed. Pour the resulting mixture into a round 10-inch cake pan and smooth out the top.
Steaming: Bring water to boil in a large steamer big enough to fit the cake pan. (Unless your pan is part of a metal steamer set, in which case the pan should fit right in.) Carefully place the pan into the steamer, cover, reduce heat to medium-low. Steam 1 hour, or just until cake is set and is firm to the touch. Check the water level regularly and replenish, if necessary, with boiling water. Carefully remove the pan from the steamer and allow to cool on a rack for about 1 hour.
When cooled, run a knife along the edge of the cake to loosen sides. Invert to unmold and flip the cake right-side up onto a cutting board. You can serve the turnip cake as-is and sliced, or wrap the cake in plastic and refrigerate until ready to stir-fry.
To slice: Instead of cutting into wedges, slice the cake into rectangles 1 inch thick strips, then again into 3 inch long rectangles.
To stir-fry: Heat a medium to large skillet over medium heat. Add enough oil to barely cover the bottom and fry the cake in batches, about 3 to 5 minutes per side until golden brown. Serve immediately plain or with oyster sauce, soy sauce, or chili sauce.