Some of my best friends are snakes……and I mean that in the best of ways! My Aunt is a vegetarian so when I was invited for Chinese New Year dinner, I knew what I was in for – good thing I love her cooking. I do apologize that I can’t tell you everything here, but I’ll do my best.
My first introduction to my Aunt’s vegetarian cooking was her sweet and sour dish. It’s made with all the usual ingredients substituting the breaded “surprise” pork bits with dried tofu (I know it as “fu-juk”). As my cousin says, a lot of people prefer this version once they taste it.
Another of my Aunt’s staple dishes is this eggplant stir fry. She uses the Chinese, narrow eggplant which is a lot firmer than the big ones we usually see in the supermarkets. And it’s nice and spicy so that even if you don’t like eggplant, you’ll love the gravy!
If you’ve ever been to a vegetarian Chinese restaurant or a Hollywood special effects shop, you’ll know the wonders they can do to make one thing look like something totally different. Hence the “salmon” with white sauce, the BBQ “pork” complete with the vivid-not-to-be-seen-in-nature red colouring and “squid” with snow peas stir fry. I would love to know how they get the translucent nature of the squid though.
The dish below is your typical tofu stir fry using the “hard” tofu. Paired with the subtle taste of the winter melon and greens, all the flavours meld together very nicely.
I could not tell you everything in this dish. Even after my Aunt explains it to me every year, I still can’t tell you. I know there are gingko fruit (the yellow things) and mushrooms (the dark black things), tofu of course (the big things in the foreground) and I think there were potatoes or some other root vegetable and quite possible some more mushrooms (the stringy things there might be enoki mushrooms). In any case, it is a traditional new year’s dish!
And of course, no Chinese meal would be complete without the sweet mandarins!!!