A horse is a horse. Of course.
And then there are the years that trot out of the gate twelve at a time, dogs, rats, goats, rabbits, horses, oh my, and a new moon rising with promises of happiness, good fortune, and longevity.
Wild dragons couldn’t drag me away.
It is the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, or the Lunar New Year if you want to get my moon reference. 2014 marks the Year of the Horse, and those born to it are said to be cheerful, perceptive, witty, and talented. There are jokes about being long in the face.
Also, I’m a pig.
There are 15 days of celebration in the Chinese New Year, which happens to end this year on Valentine’s Day with the annual Lantern Festival, and there’s your romance, people.
There are a few different stories about the origin of the Chinese Zodiac, but my favorite is that Buddha invited all of the animals to visit him on Chinese New Year, and guess which twelve decided to show up?
If you guessed the twelve animals from the Chinese Zodiac then you are right!
You’re so smart.
To learn more about Buddha, the Chinese Zodiac, or Chinese New Year, find a computer and push buttons on it, because I’m hungry and this is where I’m going to shift gears to the lucky foods of the holiday, namely Buddha’s Stew (aka “jai”), a vegetarian dish that promises prosperity, longevity, the fulfillment of wishes, a CENTURY! of harmonious union, and the birth of children. Seriously, when is the last time you ate something that brought all of that to the table that wasn’t tequila?
I like to call it Good Luck, Jai because I don’t know what that means and it’s probably offensive, but it sounds like Good Luck, Charlie, which is a show on the Disney Channel, and kids love a good tie-in.
I’ll warn you, the recipe is a bit of a project, but it’s really good. Also, all that harmony and prosperity stuff. The boys love it.
This is what it looks like, give or take:
I had to use a photo from Pinterest because we sat down to watch Sherlock and totally forgot to take pictures of our dinner; however, Sherlock was AWESOME.
The recipe varies a bit (see above), depending on where you have it or which region inspired it, but the ingredients are usually pretty similar:
2 generous tablespoons of Kikkoman Soy Sauce
1 cup vegetarian broth
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed well with equal parts cold water
10 fresh brown and/or white mushrooms (slice caps and remove stems)
10 fresh Chinese water chestnuts (peel and quarter)
10 snow peas or snap peas (slivered)
4 slices peeled, smashed ginger
2 cups Napa cabbage (torn into pieces)
1 cup firm tofu
1/2 pound baby bok choy hearts
1 pound baby carrots
1 can bamboo shoots or fresh equivalent (halved or sliced)
Chinese parsley (cilantro) for garnish
salt and sugar for seasoning (optional)
rice of your choice
I’ve also seen bean curd sticks, black moss, lily buds, dried black fungus, gluten balls, ginkgo nuts, and seriously, ginkgo nuts and gluten balls? That’s way too funny to eat. Add them if that’s your thing.
In a hot wok (it will smoke) add vegetable oil, salt, and sugar (if desired). Stir-fry mushrooms, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, carrot, ginger, bok choy, cabbage, and anything else I forgot to mention. Cook for 5 minutes over high heat.
Slowly add broth then cover and cook for another 5 minutes over low heat.
Add the tofu, snow peas, and soy sauce then cover and simmer for an additional 2 minutes. This is where I usually add more soy sauce, because it’s good. Also, I often skip the tofu because what the hell is it actually doing?
Carefully stir in cornstarch mixture to form a light gravy, adjusting as necessary.
Serve over rice, drizzle with a bit of sesame oil, and top with sprigs of fresh Chinese parsley for the pretty.
Eat until full, enjoy good luck as one does.
Here’s to the Year of the Horse! And look at these pandas!
The beginning of this post is taken from the Mr. Ed theme song, because why wouldn’t I?