If you tend to fall into cooking ruts, one easy way to snap out of it is to check out the holiday calendars of different cultures. Next up on my list of inspirations is the Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year.
I love cooking Chinese and Asian food all year, but certain foods carry symbolism in Chinese culture and are intrinsic parts of this holiday. Many of the new year’s foods are associated with luck and prosperity. Long noodles symbolize longevity; the word for “orange” in Chinese is similar to the word for “gold,” thus signifying wealth, so that fruit is commonly presented and shared (the round shape also signifying fullness); fish is served whole, to symbolize a strong year to come, start to finish; and green foods are equated with money.
It takes just a few ingredients ‚Äî garlic, ginger, soy sauce, hot chili sauce ‚Äî to turn a variety of vegetables into a delicious Asian side dish. Because my husband is knee-deep in love with bok choy these days, that was the vegetable I picked to create my prosperity green vegetable dish. Bok choy is available in cute baby versions, but for this dish you can use the inexpensive bigger bunches. Look for it in well-stocked produce sections or Asian specialty stores.
This dish has a nice amount of cooking liquid, so serve it over rice alongside a main course.
I’m under no illusions that money equals happiness, but I do know that this green dish makes my family happy, and that’s a rewarding feeling. Wishing all of you lots of luck in the Rooster New Year.
ASIAN BOK CHOY
Start to finish: 20 minutes
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 pounds bok choy, trimmed, sliced into 1-inch pieces, and rinsed
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Sriracha or other hot chili sauce
Place the sesame seeds, if using, in a large stock pot or braiser (this will seem silly, but you will use the same pan to cook the bok choy). Heat the pan over medium heat, stirring frequently until you can smell the sesame seeds and they turn a bit more golden in colour. This will only take 2 or 3 minutes; watch carefully that they don’t get too brown. Turn the seeds onto a small plate and set aside.
Heat the vegetable oil in the same pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and the ginger and stir for 1 minute until you can smell the aromas. Add the bok choy (it’s OK if it’s still a bit damp) and stir for another 2 minutes, then pour in the chicken broth, soy sauce and hot sauce, and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook the bok choy for about 8 minutes, until it is tender, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a serving bowl with its cooking liquid and serve hot, with the sesame seeds sprinkled on top if desired.