When the Chinese New Year rolls around, my mother, Jenny Jiang, stays in the kitchen all day. Like all great cooks, she enjoys preparing food because it brings her joy to feed people. The New Year holiday gives her an excuse to cook up a feast and bring out dish after dish. She’ll pop out of the kitchen and wait for our reactions, and when we chomp away happily, her smile widens.
Every family has its favorite holiday dishes, but there are some dinner table staples: Dumplings are a symbol of prosperity, while a chicken dish signifies liveliness.
Here, my mother shares recipes for her signature dishes, ones that she’s confident will win over dinner guests, no matter the occasion. Her steamed chicken dish is simple but tastes so good, because the meat is tender and clean in flavor. Plus, the dish includes wood ear mushrooms, which are said to be good for clearing out fat from your body.
Since a mother never forgets to encourage her children to eat vegetables, a dish of Chinese greens, choy sum, is my mother’s specialty. Her version turns vegetables into something I actually love eating.
And for dessert, my mother makes a creamy soup made of taro and coconut milk, a comforting end to the meal.
So for this Chinese New Year, try your hand at making a Cantonese home-cooked meal. You can find the more novel ingredients, like wood ear mushrooms and taro, at Chinese grocery stores.