Cook's Corner: Honor ‘year of the rat'

Published 3:10 am Wednesday, February 6, 2008

By Staff
Happy year of the Rat! The Chinese New Year begins tomorrow, and as you may have already figured out, it will be the year of the rat.
When I realized the New Year would begin Thursday, I began thinking about some of my favorite Chinese dishes.
Although I love to cook and eat most Chinese dishes, I have vowed never to again make egg rolls.
Just after Larry and I married, I decided to try my hand at egg rolls.
Being a new wife and seriously wanting to impress my husband with my culinary skills, I undertook the task of making one of our favorite dishes.
Never before had I done so much chopping, steaming, blanching, rolling and frying than I did on that day. I was wet with sweat after the marathon of egg roll making and had what seemed like 400 egg rolls when I was finished.
Of course, I didn't have quite that many, but the recipe I used did produce a lot of egg rolls.
Even though I vowed never to make them again, I have found a recipe that is not quite as intensive in work and doesn't make a ton of egg rolls.
Since my mother-in-law gave me a food processor as a gift a few years ago, the job may go really smoothly this time.
I will admit, these egg rolls may sound labor intensive, but the flavors will certainly be worth the work.
This recipe calls for a can of drained shrimp. Cooked pork or chicken can be substituted for the shrimp if you prefer. The meat can also be left out for a veggie egg roll.
Egg Rolls
6 cups cabbage, shredded
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 cup fresh bean sprouts
1 celery stalk, diced
2 tablespoons chopped onion (optional)
1 (4 ounce) can shrimp, drained
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
black pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten
20 egg roll wrappers
vegetable oil for frying
In a large bowl, mix together cabbage, carrots, sprouts, celery, and onion.
Stir in shrimp, soy sauce, garlic powder, and black pepper.
Pour beaten egg into a skillet placed over medium heat; cook flat and thin, flipping once, until done.
Remove from skillet, cool, and chop finely.
Stir egg into cabbage mixture.
Sprinkle top with cornstarch, mix, and allow to sit 10 minutes. Mix 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cold water. Set aside.
Place two or three tablespoons of the shrimp mixture into the center of an egg roll skin.
Dip a spoon into the water and cornstarch mixture, and moisten all corners but the bottom corner.
Fold the egg roll skin from the bottom over the mixture, making a tight tube of the shrimp mixture.
Fold corners in from the sides, and press to stick against folded roll. Then roll the rest of the way.
Repeat with remaining egg roll wrappers. Pour vegetable oil into a deep frying pan to a depth of 3 or 4 inches, and heat oil to 350 degrees. Carefully place egg rolls into hot oil, and fry until golden brown. Remove to paper towels.
This next recipe covers two important things for the Chinese.
According to some of the culture's lore, serving chicken or fish holds the promise of happiness and prosperity - especially when served whole.
Noodles represent longevity: therefore, they should never be cut. Both of those ideas are covered in this next recipe.
Chicken/Noodle Stir Fry
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup sliced onion
2 cups broccoli florets
2 carrots, julienned
2 cups snow peas
4 cups dry Chinese noodles
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
In a large skillet brown chicken in oil, stirring constantly until juices run clear. Add the onion, broccoli, carrots and peas.
Cover skillet and steam for 2 minutes.
Add the Chinese noodles and teriyaki sauce. Stir noodles into chicken/vegetable mixture, making sure they are coated with sauce. When the noodles wilt, serve.
Some other symbolism in Chinese cooking include dishes made with oranges, which represent wealth and good fortune because they are China's most plentiful fruit. Duck symbolizes fidelity, while eggs signify fertility. Bean curd or tofu, however, is avoided because its white color suggests death and misfortune.
I hope that you'll get a chance to enjoy some great Chinese food at home. You'll be surprised how quickly the dishes come together after you've gotten all of the chopping out of the way. As a matter of fact, when I stir fry at home, the meal is usually ready within 20 minutes after prep is complete.
Next week, I'll be sharing some special recipes you might want to prepare for the sweetheart in your life.
If you have a special story or recipe that you'd like to share for Valentine's Day, please be sure to pass them along. I'd love to share it with our readers.
You can give me a call at 867-4876, drop by the office at 407 St. Nicholas Ave. or send it by e-mail to
Until next week, Happy Cooking and Happy Chinese New Year!

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