Category Archives: Chinese New Year

Year of the Goat

or the Ram or the Sheep.

it’s all in how you translate it.


Any way you do, it still deserves some celebrating.

Several years ago, we had a January/February Birthday party and celebrated on the Chinese New Year.  Among the things we served were


The MGM logo is one famous lion head

The MGM logo is one famous lion’s head

Lion’s head isn’t the actual head of a lion – just lion sized meatballs.

lion's head wiki

Lion sized meatballs – no lions are harmed in making this dish!


2 # ground pork

1/3 C dark soy sauce, plus 1 Tbl for the gravy

1 Tbl dry sherry

2 tsp light brown sugar

Salt to taste

4 Tbl corn starch

2 # napa cabbage, cut into 2” pieces

2 Tbl oil

  1. Put the meat in a large bowl.
  2. Mix together 1/3 cup soy sauce and the sherry, and ½ C cold water. Add 1 tsp of the sugar, salt, 1 Tbl of the cornstarch and mix well.
  3. Add this mixture to the meat.
  4. Using your hands, mix this all together well.
  5. Let this stand for at least 15 minutes.
  6. In a soup plate (or other deep plate) mix together 3 Tbl cornstarch and 2 Tbl of cold water to make a thin paste.
  7. Divide the meat into 8 portions (roughly tennis ball size). Form each portion into a ball with your hands.
  8. Heat the oil in a stir fry pan over medium heat.
  9. Coat the meatballs in the cornstarch paste, coating evenly. They will be sticky.
  10. Brown the lightly coated meatballs in the hot oil for about 5 minutes or until browned evenly. Don’t crowd the pan. Handle the meatballs gently as they are very soft – Helen Chen uses 2 spatulas and gently loosens them from the pan when turning them. As they cook, transfer them to an ovenproof baking dish. Reserve the oil in the pan for the cabbage.
  11. When all the meatballs are browned and in the baking dish, combine the remaining 1 ½ Tbl soy sauce and 1 tsp sugar with ½ cup water and add it to the dish with the meatballs. Cover and simmer on low heat for 1 ½ -2 hours. I put them in a 350° oven and when they were good and bubbly, turned it down to 325°.
  12. Meatballs can be made up to this point ahead, and then re-heated.
  13. In the reserved pan, stir the cabbage in over medium-high heat about 5 minutes or until the cabbage is wilted.
  14. When the meatballs are cooked through, remove the meatballs from the baking dish with a slotted spoon. Skim the fat off the baking dish. Put the cabbage in the gravy, Put the meatball back on top of the cabbage.
  15. Recover and simmer for about 10 minutes more to heat everything through.
  16. Serve hot.

Helen Chen’s Chinese Home Cooking. 1994. pp.205-6.

Helen Chan Chinese Home Cooking

Helen Chan’s Chinese Home Cooking

Jelly Belly Year of the Goat tribute - here's to a sweet year ahead!

Jelly Belly Year of the Goat tribute – here’s to a sweet year ahead! The New Years celebrations last 15 days – the first for this year was Thursday February 19th.

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Filed under Chinese New Year, Recipe

Culinary Biography for Two

One of my stated purposes of this blog (which I need to review from time to time because I’m easily distracted) is to form an outline of my culinary biography.

What are the foods and food occasions that I remember and shaped me ever so many different ways?

My fascination and delight with cookbooks is part of my foodways story.

Because it’s the Chinese New Year, there’s one cookbook in particular that I associate with this time of year. I actually bought it September, according to my note in the flyleaf, and probably read it then. It’s been read several times since as well.

Helen Chen’s Chinese Home Cooking

Helen Chan Chinese Home Cooking

Helen Chen’s Chinese Home Cooking

I remember that I was going through Kingston Mall,(which properly was called something else, and is something else yet again now, but it’s proper alias is ‘Kingston Mall’ and eventually the people who make all the fancy signs and naming decisions will just name it what it is called) on my way from one place to another, and there was a display of books where there usually wasn’t a display of books.

With a sign.

40_off_peIn my memory this was in Lechmerelogo, which I believe was never actually in Kingston…but it was also 1995….and the sticker on the book says “Provisions” which was a great little fancy kitchen shop. But in my memory there were large appliances and a basket of books where there were usually none. I would have sworn this basket was near dishwashers or washing machines….but probably not.

The real point, and the one I can document, is that the books were already marked 1/2 off – Chinese Home Cooking was regularly $25 and a red line was drawn through that number and a  $12.50 was written in by hand. It all seems so quaint now…..and they were additional 40% off.

I’m not good at math, but I even can figure out Under ten bucks at this time……and that put it right in my cheap thrills budget.

Now Helen Chen happens to be Joyce Chen’s daughter….

Joyce Chen from Channel 2, WGBH who had a cooking show Joyce Chen Cooks in the 1960’s.

Julia (Child) and Joyce (Chen)

Ironically, although they shared studio space, the only image I could find of the two of them together was when their commemorative postage stamps were released in 2014.

Ironically, although they shared studio space, the only image I could find of the two of them together was when their commemorative postage stamps were released in 2014.


Here’s Joyce cooking up a storm.

So my purchase, and my use, is part of my culinary biography.

The book is also part of Helen Chen’s culinary biography.

This book is lovingly dedicated to my mother, Joyce Chen.

“….my mother used to talk to me about her wish that one day we would write a mother-daughter cookbook. As the weeks became months, and the months became years, our busy lives never brought us together in the kitchen to accomplish this collaboration. With the advance of my mother’s illness and dementia I thought that dream was gone forever.

I was wrong. One morning I awoke with the realization that my book was the collaborative effort my mother wished for after all. Instead of having my mother beside me, I had her thoughts, her philosophy, her recipes, and her stories to guide me.

….I can’t recapture our past or change our destiny, but with my mother’s recipes I truly feel that she has actually been with me, leading me through the maze of her recollections, stories, traditions, experiences, and food that she once prepared. Once in a while I’d be working on a recipe and think of her so much I would have to drive over to the nursing home to be with her.

In my mind I see her now as she used to be – smiling, talking, spatula in hand, apron on, warm fragrant aromas wafting from our little kitchen in Cambridge. That’s how I remember my mother.”

Helen and Joyce

Helen and Joyce

Here’s one recipe from the book:

Smashing Radishes Salad

20 radishes or 2 bunches or in times of desperation, a grocery store prepacked bag

½ teaspsoon salt

2 Tablespoons light brown sugar

2 Tablespoons cider vinegar

1/3 teaspoon sesame seed oil

  1. Trim both ends of the radishes. Wash them well and drain well. Scrape away any discolored bits.
  2. Crush each radish with the broad side of a Chinese cleaver. If they’re large, cut them in half first. You want them crushed enough to soak up the dressing. Lacking a broadsided Chinese cleaver find something else handy (and clean) to thwack a mighty blow. A can-na something, a marble pestle, a handy rolling pin. More than a bruise, less than a buncha broken bits.
  3. Crushed radishes into a bowl, sprinkle with the salt, toss….let them rest for 15 minutes. Then drain. Transfer to the serving dish.
  4. Mix the sugar and vinegar together in a small bowl (I actually use a small jar and shake it all up).Pour over the radishes, drizzle it all with the sesame oil and toss to blend.
  5. Serves 4 as a side.

NOTES: I have used both dark sesame oil and light sesame oil depending on carefully I read the directions or the labels on the bottles – both are good.

Also – a little hot sauce – and I’ve tried them all, my favorite is Rooster sauce – is hardly ever amiss. ½ teaspoon or to your taste.

Helen also mentions that her mother would buy extra radishes that they would snack on with peanut butter….also very good; any sort of peanut dressing is also good on smashed radishes.

Adapted from Helen Chen’s Chinese Home Cooking, p. 285.



Filed under 1990's, Chinese New Year, Influencers, Recipe