Lunar New Year with Asian Inspired Ideas

The Lunar New Year began yesterday, January 25th, so it was a great excuse to make an Asian inspired meal, and read a couple of books with Chinese cooking as the theme.   In China, even though this is the dead of winter, it is called Spring Festival and the celebration can go on for days.  People wear red, and eat dumplings for good luck and prosperity in the new year.  I was amazed to find out that the Chinese New Year celebrations have more fireworks worldwide than January first at midnight.  It changes year to year, because it is based on the first new moon, much like Easter changes due to moon phases every year.  In the Chinese tradition, you are not allowed to take a shower or sweep your floors as that is considered ‘sweeping away good luck’.  Celebrations this year continue until February 8th, ending with the Lantern Festival.  So let’s have some fun today, read a couple of interesting books and cook a delicious meal.  Some of these links are affiliate links, some are to other posts on my blog.

Starting with a good book, The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones tells a story that is a bit different as a widowed American food writer has to deal with a paternity claim against her husband’s estate.  She has to go to China, and write an article on a Chinese chef while she deals with the personal issues.  A delightful read, full of information about Chinese food culture and traditions. There are several things I will be researching to learn more about. The history of food in the Chinese culture is so interesting, and much different than what Americans get in the local take-out place. The subtleties of texture vs taste, the symphony of a meal, the heritage of this ancient cuisine, all these things are explored and more. The author writes with authority and gives the reader an engaging story too. Recommend!

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A Tiger in the Kitchen by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan is a non-fiction memoir of a Chinese woman, raised in Singapore but coming of age in America.  After losing her job, she is interested in learning more about her heritage, and the cooking of her grandmother and aunts and in the process learn about her own family.  It is a well written book, full of humor and discovery.

For quilters, I offer my Sakura Tsuki Art Quilt for your enjoyment.  See how I made this with that link.

Sakura Tsuki Quilt at From My Carolina Home

So, now I needed a good meal for the Lunar New Year.  I looked no further than my new Milk Street New Rules cookbook.  Pairing a fish dish with snow peas and dumplings seemed just right.  I gathered my ingredients, to be sure I had everything.  I divided the ingredients in half as I only wanted servings for the two of us.  I had small 3-ounce cod fillets, so made two for each of us as they really shrink during cooking.  I used a whole container of shiitake mushrooms as it was only 3.5 ounces.

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First, I measured the oyster sauce, sriracha, soy sauce, salt and pepper, and grapeseed oil, then grated the garlic and fresh ginger into the bowl.

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I use this little baby box grater to do the small stuff.  Grating the garlic requires peeling without smashing.  To do this I cut off the root end, then peel it.  I used the same little grater to do the fresh ginger.  The ginger has such a fragrant aroma, citrus-like with a spicy component.  It was my first attempt to cook with fresh ginger, and I really liked it.

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Then all the ingredients were wisked together with a tiny wisk.

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Then I stirred the dipping sauce together with the last three ingredients and the water.

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I set up my bamboo steamer, lining the sections with parchment paper rather than use the metal steamer basket as described in the recipe.  The bamboo steamer makes it possible to steam the dumplings and snow peas I was serving with the fish at the same time.  I’ll make some jasmine rice in a separate pot.

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Shiitake mushrooms really soak up liquid, so clean them with a mushroom brush.  They are grown in sterile soil, so all you have to do is knock off any grains remaining.  Then slice them into strips.

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About 20 minutes before I wanted to serve dinner, I set the fish and mushrooms in the marinade.  Staring with the fish, rub the marinade into the fish.

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There will be some water from added from the fish, but don’t worry about that.  Add the mushrooms and work with your hands to be sure all the mushrooms have some marinade coating them.  The mushrooms will soak up any excess liquid.

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After about 10 minutes, place the cod in the steamer basket.

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Top with the mushrooms.

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Steam until done.  My fillets were a bit thicker, so they took about 15 minutes.  The top basket steamed the snow peas and dumplings at the same time. I removed it after 10 minutes as they were done.

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I plated the food on my Asian lacquer plates, with lacquer bowls to hold the rice and dumplings.

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Garnish with green onions.

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Steamed Fish with Shiitake Mushrooms

3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 tablespoon grapeseed or other neutral oil
8 medium garlic cloves, finely grated
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
4 6-ounce skinless cod, haddock or halibut fillets (each about 1 inch thick)
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon packed light or dark brown sugar
2 scallions, thinly sliced
In a shallow bowl or pie plate, whisk together the oyster sauce, Sriracha sauce, oil, garlic, ginger, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Add the fillets and turn to coat, gently rubbing in the sauce. Add the mushrooms and toss until evenly coated. Marinate at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Place a steamer basket in a large Dutch oven. Add enough water to fill the bottom of pot without touching the basket. Remove the basket. Cover the pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high. Meanwhile, mist the steamer basket with cooking spray. Arrange the fish in an even layer in the basket and top the fillets with the mushrooms, evenly arranging them. Return the basket to the pot, cover and steam over medium until the fish flakes easily, 8 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the vinegar, sugar, the remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce and ¼ cup water. When the fish is done, use a thin metal spatula to transfer the fillets and mushrooms to a platter. Sprinkle with the scallions and serve with the sauce on the side.

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Yum!  The vinegar based sauce drizzled over the mushrooms and fish added a brightness to the meal.  I used it on the dumplings too.  Delicious!

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If you don’t like fish, another Milk Street recipe Taiwanese Pork is delicious!!  This recipe is so good it is now in my regular rotation of meals.

Taiwanese 5-Spice Pork at

Asian Noodle Bowls are quick and easy.  We have this for lunch regularly.

Asian Bowl Meal at

More ideas from my Japanese Inspired February from 2018, these Pearl Balls are fun to make and delicious.

Asian Pearl Balls at From My Carolina Home

My Asian Cabbage and Broccoli Salad goes well at any potluck.

Asian Broccoli Cabbage Salad at From My Carolina Home

Or try your hand at my Pork Shumai.

Asian Inspired Meals at From My Carolina Home

Milk Street has a lot of great recipes from all over the world.  Try Milk Street for $1 for three months (not an affiliate link). Thereafter, a year of digital access is just $19.99.  See the recipe for today’s feature with tips online at Milk Street, Steamed Fish with Shiitake Mushrooms.

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You can also get Milk Street New Rules on Amazon, and have a peek at Milk Street: Tuesday Nights cookbook for fast and easy meals.

Do you enjoy Asian meals?  Do you cook any Asian dishes?

15 thoughts on “Lunar New Year with Asian Inspired Ideas

  1. That looked like a yummy dinner! One of my college room mates was Chinese, her immigrated before she was born. She loved to cook, and did all our suppers. I have fond memories of folding a semester’s worth of won tons each Registration day!

  2. Darci Marshall

    The last Chinese chef sounds very interesting, adding it to my 2020 book list. Happy year of the rat!

  3. I am keeping my eye out for both of those books! Thanks for the tip. My tummy is growling ! I enjoy Asian meals, but don’t cook them, as my hubby does not. My daughter just moved nearby and I am a willing dinner guest when she is cooking something Asian inspired! 🙂

  4. s5821140gmailcom

    Carole, i rarely write comments, but i just have to tell you that your blog posts are such an inspiration to me, a reminder to “live”my life and not just “get it done”….thank you.

  5. Brenda Ackerman

    Hello Carole, The recipes you shared today have me wanting to make everything right now. Only, I can not due to the fact that my cupboards are missing all of the ingredients. LOL. The recipes that you share always look and sound so delightful. I have made some and enjoyed them. Have a wonderful time enjoying this meal every time that you make it! Have a splendid day!

  6. Joan Sheppard

    So I am officially starving and I can smell the Jasmine Rice. I ordered the “Milk Street” book and the “The Last Chinese Chef”. Enjoying “Resistant” right now. Loved “Mulberry Street.”
    The Milk Street book (read a couple preview pages) looks amazing. So many great tips and telling me why I’m doing this or that. Thanks again for telling us about these.

    I am finally caught up on all the MUST do sewing and will try the Sakura Tsuki pattern. I have the perfect fabric that I didn’t want to cut but didn’t want a whole cloth. Thank you so much.

  7. Carol

    Your meal looks good. I love Chinese food, but my husband won’t eat a bite. Funny because he was stationed in Korea during the Conflict and loved everything about the country. He MUST have ate the food!!

    I’m going to check out how you made that pretty quilt.
    xx, Carol

  8. Your meal sounds so delicious, i love Chinese food and so does my family. Now I am really hungry! I don’t have a steamer basket and I have never used one. I am intrigued by those titles, I will look them up at the local library.

    Thank you, Carole, for such delightful posts.

  9. Just wanted to say, we tried the Asian bowls recipe. It was so good. I mixed leftover chicken and shrimp in it with shrimp flavored noodles. Thanks for sharing your finds!

  10. thedarlingdogwood

    Looks delicious! I love using fresh ginger. Here’s my tip–it does really well in the freezer. You can peel the skin off before you freeze it if you want. Then just keep in the freezer and grate from frozen when you need it. We do this all the time–fresh ginger is fabulous in pretty much any Asian marinade.

    I put both books on hold at the library. Thanks for the recommendation!

  11. Joan Sheppard

    As a Sinophile I absolutely loved “The Last Chinese Chef”. I can almost taste the dishes he was making for the contest. It’s really hard to get a true Chinese meal even in Chicago with 2 Chinese areas. They serve what people are familiar with. But our H. S. teaches a class at night for us “mature” women and did we have fun with that.
    Thanks for the suggestion – just started reading “Resistant” – maybe not the best choice in today’s climate but it’s the only book I have left. Library closed – can’t even return the old books.

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