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01.12.2006

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new year, take two 
how to host a Chinese New Year's feast 

by Yee-Fan Sun
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1 2 3 4 5
continued from page 1

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a good start
The Chinese are positively obsessive about good food, so naturally, a lavish feast of tasty eats is the focal point of any Chinese New Year celebration. Traditionally, formal Chinese meals begin with a cold platter of small eats. It's generally fairly meat-heavy, and treats that most non-Chinese find scary, like jellyfish salad (delicious) and sliced pig's ear (less delightful), often show up. As freaking out my guests isn't exactly one of my goals as host, I like to offer a different take on the cold platter tradition, and begin the meal by setting out a few dishes on the table that can be served either cold or at room temperature.

There's no need to go crazy with this -- keep things simple with quick dishes you can make yourself ahead of time, or readymade eats. If you're going the homemade route Chinese pickled cucumbers (right) always go over well and can be made anywhere from a couple of hours or a day ahead. Simple stir-fried veggies that remain tasty at room temperature are also a good choice, like bean sprouts cooked with red chile (page 3).

If you're lucky enough to live in an area with a big Chinese community, the job might be even simpler. Scour that big Asian market; poke around in the little eateries. Chinatowns are generally packed with little restaurants specializing in roasted marinated meats; buy some Chinese roast pork (char siu pork) and slice it up, or create a platter of ready-roasted duck. For your vegetarian pals, look for baked seasoned bean curd (tofu gan) in the refrigerated section of any decent Asian market; slice it up, arrange attractively, garnish (minced scallion or a cilantro sprigs work dandy) and you have an instant appetizer.


Chinese pickles
1 lb. cucumber (preferably the long skinny English or Japanese varieties as opposed to the fat American sort)
tsp. salt

dressing
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
-1 tsp. chile bean paste, depending upon desired heat
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
tsp. salt

serves 6 as a side

1 Trim the ends of the cuke and discard. Cut the remainder into 2" sections. Quarter each section, trim off any really seedy bits, and slice to form " thick batons. Transfer the cucumber sticks to a sieve or colander; toss with tsp. salt and let sit over a bowl for an hour to drain off excess water from the cucumbers.
2 Meanwhile, mix up the dressing ingredients. When the cucumbers have been salted for an hour, toss them with the dressing. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least a couple of hours to let the flavors sink in.

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