Chinese New Year – Yan Can Cook Style
By Nancy Eisman
China’s most important, colorful, and symbolic holiday, Chinese New Year 2015, begins on February 19 and ends March 5. Also celebrated in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, North America, and other regions and countries with significant Chinese populations, Chinese New Year is filled with many traditions involving family, friendship, and food.
Chinese New Year represents hopes and best wishes for a new year of prosperity and continued good health and longevity. Celebrations include special family dinners and community banquets, featuring vegetables and fruits that symbolize these positive sentiments.
This recipe, borrowed from Chinese Master Chef and our good friend Martin Yan, is a delicious appetizer for any Chinese New Year dinner. Not only is it warm, crispy, and full of flavor, it’s a favorite of Chinese food lovers everywhere and will be welcome at any Chinese New Year celebration. I changed up the recipe a little bit by adding some minced red onion for color, and Chinese Garlic Chives, aka Nira Grass, for extra flavor and because they symbolize longevity.
Chinese cuisine specifically, and most Asian cuisines in general, are very plant-based, with vegetables, rice, and soy protein starring in dishes that may include animal protein only as a supporting player. Many recipes can easily be totally plant-based, and will still satisfy all the flavor, texture, color, and nutritional requirements we want from what we eat.
I wish all of you a year of good health, good fortune, and of course good plant-based food!
Green Onion Pancakes
(Borrowed from Chef Martin Yan -Yan Can Cook)
Makes 8 pancakes
1 cup Boiling Water
2½ cups All-Purpose Flour, plus more for kneading the dough
¼ cup Cold Water
1 tablespoon Sesame Oil
½ cup Vegetable Oil
3 Green Onions, trimmed and diced
3 tablespoons Red Onion, minced
1/3 cup chopped Chinese Chives
3 tablespoons Cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon Salt
Cornstarch for dusting
Pour boiling water over flour in a medium bowl and mix, using chopsticks or a fork, until combined. Add cold water and stir until dough is evenly moistened. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes; re-flour the work surface and your hands as necessary to prevent dough from sticking. Return dough to a clean bowl, cover with a damp kitchen towel, and let rest for 30 minutes.
Stir sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Cut dough into 8 equal portions. Roll one portion into a circle 5 to 6 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick. Brush dough circle with a thin film of oil mixture. Sprinkle one-eighth of green onions, red onion, chives, cilantro and salt over dough and roll dough up into a cylinder. Coil dough cylinder into a round patty and tuck end of cylinder under the patty. Lightly dust the work surface with cornstarch and roll patty out to a 1/4 inch thick circle, dusting with more cornstarch as necessary to prevent sticking. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Heat a skillet wide enough to hold a pancake comfortably over medium heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and swirl to coat bottom. Slip a pancake into skillet and cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Repeat with remaining pancakes, adding more oil as needed. Slice each pancakes into 6 wedges and serve hot.
Optional Dipping Sauce: Take equal parts lite soy sauce and seasoned rice vinegar, plus 1 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger, 1 tablespoon of minced green onion, and ½ teaspoon of sesame seeds, and mix until combined. Or use your favorite dipping sauce.