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2009 is the year of the Ox, according to the traditional Chinese zodiac, a calendar made up of 12-year cycles.  People born in the year of the Ox are considered stubborn, loyal, patient, and capable of inspiring great confidence in others.  They are also known for having considerable mental and physical stamina, and often make great leaders.  President Barack Obama was born in the year of the Ox, as were Richard Nixon, Walt Disney, Charlie Chaplin, George Clooney, and Napoleon Bonaparte.  If you were born in any of the following years, you are an Ox, too!

1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009

New Year’s celebrations, or Spring Festivals, as they’re known in Chinese, vary from region to region throughout China and the Chinese diaspora.  Common elements include fireworks, feasting, and the color red.  Some traditional foods include jiaozi (dumplings) and melon seeds, along with a number of fish dishes, often consumed on New Year’s Eve.  The word for “fish” in Chinese is yú (鱼), and is a homonym for “surplus” – these kinds of similar-sounding words are considered auspicious in Chinese culture, and so fish is symbolic of plenitude and a successful harvest for the coming year.

This is a tasty version of a traditional Chinese fish dish.

    You will need:

  • 4 fillets meaty white fish, such as halibut, rockfish, or black cod.
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • a handful of cornstarch on a plate
  • 4 large dried black Chinese mushrooms
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed, and chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup bamboo shoots, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup snow peas, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 T rice wine (mirin)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 3 T cornstarch mixed with 3 T water
  • peanut oil
  • sesame oil
  • white pepper
1.  Soak the fillets in salt water for half an hour.  While they are marinating, move on to step 2.

2.  Soak the dried mushrooms in warm water and set aside.  Prep the vegetables, and combine them in a small bowl; set aside.  Combine the garlic and ginger in a small bowl; set aside.  Mix together the rice wine, broth, oyster sauce, salt, sugar, soy sauce, and vinegar; whisk until well blended, and set aside.

3.  Drain and rinse the fish, and pat the fillets dry with paper towels.  Dip each in beaten egg and then dredge in cornstarch until they are evenly coated.  Fry in hot peanut oil until they are golden brown; remove with a slotted spoon, drain briefly, then transfer to a serving dish.  Keep warm.

4.  Remove the dried mushrooms from the bowl and squeeze out any excess liquid.  Trim and discard the stems, and then slice into think strips and add to the bowl of vegetables.

5.  Heat a few tablespoons of peanut oil in a wok, swirling it around to coat the sides of the pan.  Fry the ginger/garlic mixture until it starts to turn golden, and add the rest of the vegetables, stirring quickly.  Saute for a few minutes, then add the liquid mixture.  Allow it to come to a simmer, then whisk in the water/cornstarch combination.  Bring the whole lot to a boil, and test the vegetables for doneness.

6.  Season liberally with sesame oil and white pepper, then pour the vegetable sauce over the fish.  Serve immediately.

Celebrate Chinese New Year – Crispy Fish
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