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Food, Family, and Chinese New Year

There are few better – or cheaper – ways to introduce your child to other cultures than through food.

With so many great ethnic restaurants, it’s easy for parents to get children accustomed to foods from different countries from an early age.

However, parents may be unsure of what to order that’s kid-friendly.

In honor of Chinese New Year, which runs February 3-15, over the next few days KidCulture will provide some suggestions to help parents choose food in Korean, Japanese, and Chinese restaurants.

In each of these countries, people celebrate Chinese New Year by sharing good food with their families and friends – and that’s a custom worth adopting.

So stay tuned for some fresh, fun, food ideas to help you introduce your child to other cultures.

 

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Books About Chinese New Year

Here are some suggestions for children’s books about Chinese New Year. Enjoy!

Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn, Cornelius Van Wright, and Ying-Hwa Hu

My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz

Happy Chinese New Year, Kai-lan! By Lauryn Silverhardt, Jason Fruchter, and Aka Chikasawa

Dragon Dance: A Chinese New Year Lift-the-Flap Book by Joan Holub and Benrei Huang

The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale by Ying Chang Compestine and Sebastia Serra

 

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Global Family Fun: Celebrate Chinese New Year

A little more than a month after most New Year celebrations end comes Chinese New Year, a fantastic opportunity to teach your children about Chinese culture and recommit to all the great intentions with which you started 2011.

Chinese New Year is celebrated around the world in countries with large Chinese populations and those with a significant shared cultural heritage. Indonesia, Malaysia, Chinatowns in North America, Australia, and Europe, as well as Korea, Vietnam, and Japan all celebrate the festival that begins on February 3 this year.

With its focus on family, good fortune, health, and happiness, Chinese New Year has many elements parents can adapt for their children.

For example, families in China prepare for the new year by thoroughly cleaning their homes in order to remove bad luck and make way for good fortune. However, they believe that it is very important that no one sweeps during the first few days of the new year because cleaning will remove the good luck once the new year begins.

Homes are decorated in red, the luckiest color, and adorned with intricate Chinese paper cuts. By putting up Chinese New Year decorations, you’re getting a head start on Valentine’s Day, which also incorporates red decorations.

Family visits are an important part of New Year celebrations and people usually buy new clothes. Your family can adapt this custom by planning a visit to an elderly neighbor or relative. They’ll be happy to see you whether you’re wearing new clothes or not!

Like most holidays around the world, food is a big part of the celebration. Throughout the holiday, families will share meals that include dumplings, fish, duck, chicken, noodles, and sweets.

Preparing the dumplings, in particular, is a family activity. Parents, grandparents, and children work together to prepare enough dumplings for the feast. Extended family and friends are invited so families have to be ready to feed a large crowd.

On the morning of the new year, children wish their parents health and happiness. In return, they are presented with leisee, money in red envelopes decorated with gold to signify wealth.  Children also are given oranges. The Chinese name for “orange” sounds the same as the word for luck or fortune.

Families cap off activities by setting off fireworks and some towns organize parades complete with lifelike dragons and lions. One of the most famous parades outside of China takes place in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

One final element of the holiday is forgiveness. People are urged to reconcile with each other and welcome the new year in with peace. That is especially fitting in 2011 as the ferocious and volatile Year of the Tiger gives way to the easy prosperity and peaceful negotiation of the Year of the Hare.

Although Chinese New Year celebrations last for more than two weeks, you can be a lot less ambitious with your activities. Sharing a special dinner, cleaning the house together, or making some special decorations are all you really need to do to give your family a flavor of the holiday and teach them about Chinese culture. Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy New Year!

 

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French Onion Soup

Although well-known in the United States (it even appears on the TGI Friday’s menu), French Onion Soup is actually an ancient soup that originated in France and is typically affiliated with the poor because it was cheap and simple soup to make.

This French Onion Soup recipe comes from Chef Danielle at CookingClarified.com.

Of all the soup’s we’ve covered so far, this is likely the only one my mother will make! French Onion Soup is one of her favorites. Bon appetite, maman!

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Sweet Corn and Sweet Potato Soup

Today’s Sweet Corn and Sweet Potato soup is an original recipe from Chef Danielle Turner, author of CookingClarified.com.

Although Chef Danielle created the recipe, it relies on typical ingredients – corn and sweet potatoes – used by Southeastern Native American Indians.

As Chef Danielle says, “This soup is summer in a bowl.” We hope you enjoy it!

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Peruvian Beef Stew

Peruvian Beef Stew

Photo courtesy of latina.com

Peruvian cuisine is known as one of the best in South America. Its influences range from the indigenous people to immigrants from Spain, Italy, China, Japan, and West Africa.

Peru’s traditional staples are corn, beef, and potatoes. You could easily add potatoes to this recipe, from Cooking the South American Way, to incorporate all of those foods.

Peruvian Beef Stew

3 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 medium onions, chopped

1 ½ lb. round steak, cubed

2 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. garlic powder

¼ tsp. red pepper flakes

1 tsp. salt

¼ c. white wine vinegar

2 c. beef bouillon

2 c. squash, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces

1 c. frozen peas

1 c. frozen corn

3 sprigs parsley

Heat oil in a pan and sauté onions.

Add meat and brown well, about 20 minutes. Add all spices, the vinegar, and the beef bouillon. Bring to a boil, stirring to mix well. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 45 minutes. Add squash, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add peas and corn and heat thoroughly. Garnish with parsley.

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Israeli Bean Soup

Cooking the Israeli WayI found this recipe in Cooking the Israeli Way, part of a great cookbook series geared toward children.

This recipe stood out for me because I love soup (clearly) and I like that this is a fast, vegetarian dish that still packs a lot of protein and fiber.

Israeli Bean Soup

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 onion, peeled and diced

1 can beans (navy or kidney)

1 small can tomato puree

2 cans beef broth

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

3 c. water

Heat over over medium-high heat in a pot. Add onion and sauté until brown. Add beans, tomato puree, broth, garlic, salt, pepper, and parsley. Boil soup, stir occasionally, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

 

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Ginger Beef & Noodle Soup

Ginger Beef and Noodle SoupGinger is the great food discovery of my 30s.

Until then, I’d never really appreciated this amazing little root, which combines great flavor and healthy properties. Chinese herbalists have been using ginger in food and medicine for more than 2,500 years, so it’s no wonder that it plays such an important role in Chinese food.

Ginger is especially helpful in warding off and minimizing colds and the flu – all the more reason to give this soup a chance!

This recipe, which is based on the well-known Chinese dish, is fast and easy to prepare. Enjoy!

Ginger Beef & Noodle Soup

10 oz. lean beef tenderloin, cut into ¼ in. strips

2 c. water or beef broth

1 c. shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced

¼ c. rice wine vinegar

2 tbsp. soy sauce

3 large cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. sesame oil

1 tbsp. ginger, minced

¼ c. sliced green onion

¼ c. canola oil

Directions:

In a large bowl, add beef strips, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, and ginger.  Stir until the meat is covered, set aside to marinate.

In a saucepan, heat canola oil over high heat.  When oil ceases to crackle, add shitake mushrooms.  Cook on high for 2-3 minutes.

Add the beef and marinade to the saucepan.  Cook until meat is browned on all sides, about 5-7 minutes at high heat. Add water or beef broth. Bring to a boil. Add noodles. Cook for 7-10 minutes or until noodles are desired consistency.

Remove from heat. Garnish with green onion and serve.

 

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Brazilian Chicken and Rice Soup

There are few foods that go better together than chicken and rice.

In Brazil, they’ve created a fantastic soup from this combination called Canja con Arroz.

This recipe is from Cooking the South American Way. The photo is from a blog called Flavors of Brazil.

Brazilian Chicken Rice Soup

1 chicken, cut into pieces

2 stalks celery cut into 4 pieces

1 carrot

1 onion, quartered

2 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

8 c. water

Place in a stockpot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, simmer for 1 ½ hours. Use a colander to strain broth into a bowl. Set chicken pieces aside to cool. Discard vegetables. Return liquid to pot and add the following ingredients:

2 stalks diced celery

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 medium parsnip, peeled and diced

1 medium turnip, peeled and diced

1 tomato, chopped

1/3 c rice

¼ tsp. basil

¼ c chopped parsley or chives

Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. When chicken is cool enough to handle, cut meat into bite-size pieces. Add to broth and heat thoroughly. Serve hot.

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Peshawari Broth

Peshawar is a famous city in northwestern Pakistan which has been officially recognized as one of the oldest cities on earth.

This recipe, from At Home with Madhur Jaffrey, is based on a traditional broth soup that is served before the main meal in Peshawar.

One of the things I really like about this book is that it not only looks at Indian food but it also includes recipes from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.

While you can buy a MILLION books on how to cook Italian or Chinese or Mexican food, how many books teach you recipes from Sri Lanka or Pakistan?

I love that Madhur Jaffrey is giving these countries – and their cultures, people, and cuisines – a chance to be better known.

Unfortunately, I could not find a photo for Jaffrey’s recipe so I used a photo of aab gosht, a Pakistani meat broth, upon which Jaffrey based her recipe.

Peshawari Broth with Mushrooms and Fish

5 ¼ c. beef broth/stock

½ tsp. whole cumin seeds

½ tsp. whole fennel seeds

1 tbsp. whole coriander seeds

6 cardamom pods

6 whole cloves

½ tsp. black peppercorns

Salt

1 tbsp. olive or canola oil

4 oz. fresh oyster mushrooms, broken apart into 1 ½ in pieces

1 fresh green bird’s eye chili or about 1/8 tsp of any fresh hot green chili, finely chopped

½ lb fillet of any white fish such as flounder, without skin, cut into 1 x 2 in pieces and sprinkled lightly with salt on both sides

4 tbsp. chopped cilantro

Put the broth, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom, cloves, and peppercorns in a medium pan and bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat to low and simmer very gently for 20 minutes. Strain, then pour strained broth back into the same pan. Check the salt and make adjustments, if needed.

Pour the oil into a nonstick frying pan and set on medium high heat. When hot, put in the mushrooms and green chili. Stir and sauté for about 2 minutes or until the mushrooms have softened. Salt lightly and stir. Transfer the contents of the frying pan to the pan with the broth.

Just before eating bring the broth to a boil. Slip in the fish pieces, turning the heat to low. When the fish pieces turn opaque and the broth is simmering, the soup is ready. Sprinkle in the cilantro, stir once, and serve.

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