Happy New Year! This year Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dragon, is on Jan. 23, 2012. Unlike the Western calendar, which welcomes the New Year on Jan. 1, The Chinese New Year syncs with the lunar calendar, so their new year is celebrated in January or February, and not on the same day.
Around the world, cultures from Spain to Sweden usher in the New Year by serving traditional food said to bring good luck, prosperity and happiness. I’ve noticed the American South’s tradition of eating peas for pennies and greens, said to symbolize dollar bills, has caught wind in Michigan. I’ll bet in this economy there must have been quite a run on peas and greens a few weeks back.
But even though I ate my peas and greens on New Year’s Day, since yesterday, my luck’s run awry; within a 24 hour span my basement flooded due to a clogged sewer line in the street and the power was knocked down in my neighborhood. I need additional ammunition to ensure Lady Luck does a better job watching my back; lucky for me the Chinese have a plethora of food said to bring good fortune when welcoming their lunar new year.
According to many websites, including primaltrek.com, the Chinese character for fish has the same pronunciation as the Chinese character for surplus. The fish symbolizes the wish for “more”, more good luck and more fortune. (More insurance, in my case.) A pair of fish represent a happy marriage, so the following recipe accommodates two fish. Fish is often served on the eve of the Chinese New Year, and there is much protocol surrounding the custom.
For example, it’s important to keep the fish whole, with the tail and head intact. According to websites such as Chinese New Year Food Superstitions, the entire body of the fish represents family unity. “If you’re serving guests, place the fish on the table facing them as a sign of respect and welcome.”
If you or your guests are squeamish about eating something that appears to be regarding you, I recommend covering the head with a Dragon Lily Blossom, which blossomed as I brewed the tea I used to steam my snapper. (The tea buds were purchased from Spice Merchants in Kerrytown). The tea imparts minimal flavor, but the orange lily and osmanthus blossoms are an interesting garnish and conversation piece.
Monahan’s Seafood in Kerrytown always has a marvelous selection of whole fish, which Mike Monahan tells me are much appreciated by his Chinese clientele, who insist their fish be as fresh from the sea as possible. He selected two beautiful snappers for my recipe below, but says walleye would have been an excellent choice, as well.
In the American South, eating leftover beans demonstrates frugality to the good-luck Gods, ensuring them you are sincere and deserving of prosperity. According to Chinese Food Superstitions, it’s protocol, as well, to save leftover fish for later consumption, insuring abundance for the future.
The Feng Shui horoscope forecast for 2012 says “… The year 2012 holds much promise and may be a major transition in your life. Whether it turns out extremely good, or really bad, will depend on how you ride the mighty Water Dragon.” A great year for cresting waves with the Water Dragon – as as long as he’s not in your basement.
Gong Hay Fat Choy!