The year of the rabbit will be ushered in with many festivities on February 3rd this year. Because the Chinese calendar is different from the traditional calendar, the Lunar New Year’s Day is always on a different day (much like how Easter falls on a different day every year). Every year is symbolized by an animal, which rotates every 12 years. You’ve probably seen the calendar on a paper place mat in a Chinese restaurant.
Now, as an ‘ABC’ (American-born Chinese), my knowledge of the Chinese culture is not as great as one who is born in Asia. I typically refer to the Lunar New Year as “Chinese New Year,” but after some (internet) research, I have learned recently that not only the Chinese celebrate this holiday. Vietnamese, Indonesians, Filipinos, Malaysians, and many other people (Asian or not!) celebrate this holiday. To celebrate, many people enjoy wearing traditional clothing, eating good food, and setting off firecrackers. Most children enjoy getting red envelopes best, though! The red envelopes contain money, but I’ve been given chocolate coins before. There are many traditions and customs that are kept, which you can learn more about the holiday online.
For those of you who live in Wake County, there is a great Chinese New Year festival that is held on the 29th of January here in Raleigh! Tickets are cheap and you’ll be able to experience live performances and yummy food. (I am not affiliated with TACAS or the festival’s sponsors! I just recommend the festival to those who want to learn more about the Chinese traditions.)
Since I can’t give the lovely readers of this blog red envelopes for the holiday, I’d like to share a recipe! It’s one of my favorite treats from Hong Kong. It’s an egg custard pastry literally called egg tart.
I got this recipe off Allrecipes.com, but my additional comments and suggestions are italicized. You can always substitute the eggs and dairy ingredients if you have allergies or a special diet. Don’t worry about wasting ingredients, burning your house down, or eating too many sweets. It’s a holiday! Or you can just drive out to the nearest Chinese bakery (here in Wake County we have Grand Asia Market on Buck Jones Road) and purchase them!
For the pastry:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 pinch salt
- 10 tablespoons butter, diced
- 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons cold water
For the custard:
- 1 cup water
- 3/4 cup white sugar (You may want to cut the sugar in half. My family prefers it less sweet!)
- 3 eggs
- 3/8 cup evaporated milk
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C.) (It varies from oven to oven, but I would lower the temperature to 350*F and check on them frequently to prevent burning.)
- In a large bowl, mix flour and salt together. Blend in butter with a pastry cutter until mixture resemble coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the cold water. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture to form a soft dough. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Divide dough in half. Roll each half out to 1/8 inch thickness. Using a 3.5 inch (8.5 centimeter) fluted round cookie cutter, cut out 22 rounds. Press dough into lightly greased 3 inch tart pans. (Or just use foil baking cups!)
- In a saucepan over low heat, stir water and sugar until sugar dissolves. Measure 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the resulting syrup and set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, combine eggs, evaporated milk and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Strain into reserved syrup and mix well. Pour into prepared tart shells.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is set. (I would bake the tarts covered with a piece of foil, to prevent burning. For the final 5-10 minutes, remove the foil to let it bake to the golden brown appearance. Just keep a watchful eye on them!)
Hope you all plan to celebrate the Lunar New Year! Remember, you get lots of good food (and maybe even money, too) if you celebrate. 🙂