While it’s true that one end-of-the-year holiday is in the books for 2014, there are two more to cook for. When I first went to Hong Kong (pre-1997), I was astounded by the number of holidays they celebrated there – essentially all the traditional Chinese holidays as well as all the British ones – possibly 30+ days each year in total. Asian New Year (年节: Nián Jié, or Nián Festival) alone is over two weeks long. They love holidays in Hong Kong, and simple, clean, often ingenious Asian celebratory cuisine was always to be found.
To my delight, I also found that much of that festive Asian cuisine adapted perfectly well to the spirit of our own end-of-year holidays as well, and I thought I’d put out a few examples.
These snacks start life as colorful, tough eyeglass-lens-like, thin, semi-transparent disks. They puff up like popcorn in hot oil, and they have a very pleasant, surprisingly concentrated shellfish taste. Shrimp chips are reminiscent of New Year’s Day celebrations, but certainly are very welcome at any party gathering.
Blogger Jonathan H. Liu
and his eight-year-old demonstrate their preparation.
One of the oldest ways in the world to prepare coffee. Because this robust coffee is brought to a gentle boil three separate times, complex flavors emerge and are locked in. Select a rich, complex roast with a distinctive flavor, such as Kona (Hawai’i), Java (Indonesia), or mountain Việtnamese, and grind it as finely as you possibly can using a mortar and pestle. Weaponize it lol! Traditional Turkish coffee has four grades of sweetness, as follows:
||half a teaspoon sugar
||one level teaspoon sugar
||one and a half teaspoons sugar
For each demi-tasse, put 3 ounces (90ml) of cold water in your boiling pot, between one to two heaping teaspoons of your fine-ground coffee powder, and your choice of the amount of desired sugar from the table, above. Stir only until the sugar is fully dissolved and your coffee grounds sink to the bottom. Bring to a gentle boil over moderate heat, then take it off the heat to rest for a short time. Repeat a second time, then a third. The objective is to produce a thick foam head (called a crema
) on top of your poured brew.
Fully evolved, heady and complex with layer upon layer of wonderful flavors – no wonder it’s considered one of the best coffee preparations in the world.
Morsel delicacies called dim sum evolved from the need to add something to eat to the age-old practice of tea-tasting (yum cha) for travelers along the ancient Silk Road.
Har Gao are made of a delicate thin wheat starch skin in which is steamed a chopped shrimp filling. Not the easiest appetizer to make, but luscious and very refined. Who doesn't like har gao?
Serve as-is (more traditional), or with a dipping sauce of two parts shoyu (soy sauce) with one part fine rice wine vinegar with the tiniest pinch of sugar added.
a fine blended fortified wine apéritif port or sherry, but less harsh, lighter, delicate, and more natural and fruity. Japanese umeshu
(梅酒: plum liquor or plum wine) predates sushi culture by about a millennium, and it couldn't be more festive. Some offerings have an ume
plum or two in the bottom of the bottle.
While you can make your own - and Japanese people do - buy a good bottle of Choya or Takara umeshu
for as little as $9 at an Asian grocery. Serve it ice cold in a tiny apéritif glass along with your dessert. Delicious, and with just the perfect amount of natural sweetness - your guests will have no idea that it’s Asian.