Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cooking Classes on the move


Wok Star Eleanor Hoh Traveling Cooking Class

A perfect combination of socializing, entertaining, learning

Learn a failproof stir fry technique for tasty, homestyle, healthy, sizzling wok meals with little cleanup.

This is not a typical cooking class where you get handed 3-4 recipes and that's all you'll learn. In a 3 hour class, you'll learn the art of stir frying, there'll be 2 woks in action. Very interactive and engaging.

A Wok Star Kit will get you started so you can BE A WOK STAR!

$65 per person
4 dishes paired with Tiger Beer and wines when held at wine venues
(Wines from these pairings will be offered at a discount at the event)
Reservations and prepayment required
or 305-865-9297

Here's my fall schedule, my Class page will have more details:
Sun. Oct. 26, 1pm-4pm - Naked Grape Wine Bar, Ft. Lauderdale
Tues. Nov.11, 7pm-10pm - The Grateful Palate, Ft. Lauderdale
Sat. Nov. 15 - 12pm-3pm - MiaCucina, Aventura
Sat. Nov.22 - 12pm-3pm - Shin, Upper Eastside Miami
Tues. Dec.2 - 7pm-10pm - The Grateful Palate
Sat. Dec.13 - 12pm-3pm - Shin













I have appeared on CBS, NBC, Fox & Friends & Ch.7 Style File and given demonstrations at Macy's, Bloomingdale's and Coconut Grove Art Festival. My class has been reviewed by food bloggers: Miami Dish , Mango and Lime, Amateur Gastronomer and Mighty Blonde.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Yin and Yang (updated)

Malaysian buffet table at Rasa Sayang Hotel.
We had a FEAST and a blast.
We didn't stop talking about it for days.


I chose the topic of yin and yang, hot and cold, the balance in Asian food. So, hot spicy chilies and cold toufu.

Lady snipping red chilies with her bare hands! I asked her how her hands didn't burn and she said she'd been doing it for 25 years and used to it, ouch. After dealing with chilies, wash your hands IMMEDIATELY and do NOT touch your eyes or go anywhere near your face. My mom used to put chilies on her thumb and when my sister and I didn't eat our dinner fast enough, she'd put that thumb in our mouth. Boy, it sure made us eat a lot faster, we forgave her. It also taught us to eat spicy at an early age, ha, ha. Oh, I have some good photos of my sisters and mom. So many to share with you.

This lady was incredibly deft at making up whatever curry paste you wanted on the spot. As you can see, she had pots of garlic, shallots, ginger and chopped chilies and all sorts of spices like cumin, turmeric (by the way, I just realized in Asia, we pronounce it tur-meric, not tu-meric). I took great shots at the Tropical Spice Garden. More later. Now, I really appreciate CurrySimple even more, it's quite a trick to balance all the right spices.

Fresh toufu, soft on the left and firm on the right. The texture was so creamy and yummy. My sister, Lynette (who lives in England) loves the way I stir fry toufu till crispy. As mentioned, the non-stick was HORRIBLE, I had to be patient, it took forever and needed more oil than I was used to using! Ugh... I just added a splash of tamari, lime juice and Lingham's hot sauce (or your favorite chili sauce) and crisp up some more, the juices help to carmelize. Ralph (my hubby didn't come, someone had to take care of cat and business) and I prepare toufu like this quite often for lunch and add on top of field greens, delish!

This stupid non-stick pan pretending to be a wok
was too shallow and small.
Now, I understand why so
many folks cannot get the hang of wok cooking.
Between the non-stick wok and gas stove with
wrong flame distribution,
this was one of the most
frustrating cooking experiences in my life.

Cooking in my lightweight, cast iron wok and gas stove at home is a breeze compared to that ridiculous non-stick. If people only knew what a DIFFERENCE cast iron makes. Because you cannot use non-stick above medium heat, you cannot crisp up anything. My sister loves the way I make Crispy Toufu, so I wanted to please her but it was just NOT possible. The handle kept tipping over making it very dangerous so I had to keep holding it the whole time! The other problem was the flame from the gas stove was flaring wide instead of being focused in the center like my Iwatani 10,000 btu stove. On my website, I get into this subject in-depth and also mention the many uses for a non-stick wok because it's useless for stir frying! One is to use it for salad which we did everyday.

Toufu is delicious if you treat it right, just needs a little TLC. Most think it's bland but that's the beauty of it, it absorbs the flavors of whatever you're cooking it in. There are many different varieties in the Asian markets like baked, puff, flavored, try some.

Sorry, the presentation was really bad but it's all we had. Everyone was sick of me saying, "don't eat yet till I take the photo!" This Quai Teow is the 3rd best after my mom's and Lynette's. It was so ridiculously cheap, only $3 US for the whole plateful, not much shrimp but quite eggy. We had it twice from the same stall, it was so good.

I will post Lynette's Quai Teow she made when we were visiting my other sister, Valerie in Asheville, NC! It's so much work. They claimed it took all day because the bean sprouts had to be topped and tailed.

I promise I'll work on adding more Penang food journeys. Our favorite was at Rasa Sayang, a Shangri-La Hotel which was conveniently across from where we were staying in this northern coastal village called Batu Ferringhi (many different spellings.) I took this photo of Rasa Sayang from my bedroom window of our rental apartment.

I must have taken 30 shots, the presentation and quality of food was INCREDIBLE and so worth it! Well, our friend Rose had a 20% discount card which made it even more affordable. Dirt cheap at $20 compared to a buffet in a classy hotel in USA.

And if there's anyone who knows more about Penang it is Bee at Rasa Malaysia, I asked her where to visit when I was going to Penang. She does a fantastic job of promoting Penang, her hometown. Her blog is just one of the most beautiful ones I've come across. Full of wonderful and amazing dishes from all over Asia, she's even started a new blog for Nyonya food (mix of Chinese Malay.) I'm not sure if Bee ever sleeps.

I'm trying my best to take shots to illustrate my story. My emphasis is showing that weeknight dinners can be easy, no recipes required. Use what you have, always making sure you have a good balance of protein and carbs and Keep Cooking Simple and Tasty.

Check the Travel section for more of my food journeys in Asia...and here's another of my post on Penang Food Stalls.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Food Stalls in Penang

Excited to tell you my family reunion was the best one yet, mainly due to all the good food in Penang. Yet, it still can't come close to the flavors and love my mother put into her cooking. This will be a first in a series from my food journey in Penang.

The front row left is the choy sum with dark green stems and leaves, above that is a box of delicious sweet pea stems which we had raw nearly everyday in our salads. Right infront is a box of baby bok choy.

I really miss the wide variety and abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits at the markets, it makes me very homesick for Asian food. Everything is so cheap, you can eat like a king there. We mostly had salads for one meal and ate out another meal. Always tons of fruit for breakfast and after dinner.



Four different types of ginger, top: young ginger, galangal (yellow ginger used in curries), bottom left is older ginger and right is even older ginger.













Desserts in bright colors, layered sticky puddings made with pea flour, sweet potato, sticky rice and gelatin. We love chewy, sticky desserts, yummy. The trick is not to refrigerate them because they solidify, so best to devour in one go!












I love the way they decorate with flowers in between the vegetables!























The little brown cone paper packages are so cute, filled with Nasi Lemak, which is rice topped with a delicious sambal (chili) sauce and little fried dried fish on the side, boiled egg and cucumber, all wrapped inside a pandan leaf which has a wonderful aroma. This is a perfect lunch item and you see them sold everywhere.

More to come. By the way, it rained like cats and dogs the last two days there so we were glad we had some great days.






Friday, August 1, 2008

Organic and Farmer's Markets (Updated 7.17.11)

Here's a selection of local sources to pick up fresh farm produce so you can savor seasonal veggies from local farmers and also support them. I love going to them and wish I lived closer to one so I can go everyday.

In Asia, there are farmer's markets everyday and people like to shop right before they go home to prepare their meal. There is a LOT of choice and everything is so fresh and gorgeous smelling, it is intoxicating and a feast for your eyes and nose. Here's my post, Hong Kong Market where you'll see fish so fresh, they're still swimming.

Mark Bittman, The Minimalist, New York Times columnist wrote a great article about "Eating Food that's Better for You, Organic or Not" that reflects so much of the same philosophy I have - "that the organic question is a secondary one" when we don't eat enough vegetables in the first place!

photo: Irene Sperber, Fruit & Spice Festival

Well, now you have wonderful fresh vegetables, I hope you'll try my simple, easy and delicious stir fry with an Asian twist.

Here are two sites that provide nationwide information:
Local Harvest
Punch in your zip code for Community Supported Agriculture farms that sell subscriptions to receive regular delivery of seasonal crops.

Farmfreshtoyou

South Florida sources:


New addition! Here are 2 groups that may interest you, if you know of any others, please share with us by emailing me at wokstar@eleanorhoh.com

South Florida Food Swap: I made kimchi to swap with Marie's (founder) aji (Colombian chili sauce) but didn't quite make it to the swap cause I was on my way to Hong Kong. You can find out how it all works as well as upcoming swaps in your area!

South Florida Foodies: This is a closed group, you have to request to join but what a fun group of foodies! They organize gatherings at the latest, trendiest, yummiest restaurants. An upcoming gathering is an 'Avant Garde Pot Luck' in a private penthouse apartment for just 30 and I got in!

Wow, amazing how many new fresh farmers' markets have sprouted since I last posted this!

Bee Heaven Farm: organic farm started in 1955. They now offer CSA program through Redland Organics. They can be found at Gardner's Market, Pinecrest Sundays from Jan. to April.

Coconut Grove Organic market: They have prepared dishes and desserts, not cheap but good. Go early so it's fresh and the vegetables don't get wilty. I believe my favorite bread, mango and date from Key West is available there. Be prepared to wreck your diet because once you start the loaf, you cannot stop.

Coosemans Miami, Inc. Specialty Produce. 1111 NW 21st Terr, Miami, FL 33127 (305) 545-0824
I just met them at the Food & Beverage show (10.26.2010) with their beautiful display of fruits and vegetables. They were bursting with color and so fresh I asked if they were 'real'!! They insisted I try the famous "Electric" flower called Szechuan Button, grown in Africa and China! Makes your mouth and lips tingle, very weird. CALL before you go, they cater to restaurants, so EARLY shopping hours!

Farmfreshmiami.com is a new site for organic fresh produce. Sounds like Erika is doing a great job of getting into different locations. We talked about cooking classes to use her produce.

Green South Miami, Farmers Market is a brand new market as of Dec.4, 2010. I first heard about this when a board member of this organization attended my cooking class at Miami River Wall. Here's great writeup of it's launch.

Hani's Organics: I met Hani, the goat cheese farmer and his lovely family at Fairchild Tropical Garden when I did a cooking demo there. He was a big hit, long lines wait for his Mediterranean lunch offerings. Mango and Lime did a great writeup.

Josh's Organic Market
The Living Foods site does a great job of showcasing it, not sure why Josh does not have a website. I've met Josh and he does an incredible job with getting unusual produce including Durian! They had to wear leather gloves to cut through the spiky outer skin, dangerous but ooh so worth it. It is a forbidden fruit to transport in Asia because of its pungent smell, I won't even tell you what they call it there (not pleasant). It's definitely an acquired taste. I love it, it's very creamy and the consistency is like a very ripe avocado. My mom makes a delicious glutinous rice with coconut milk and durian, very rich but yummy. You never know what Josh brings out.
Peter Kastan & his new plant towers!

Jungle walls is the most exciting 'farm' started by Peter Kastan. They are vertical, hydroponic (no soil) plant walls for interior or exterior and pretty amazing and beautiful. I am very lucky he hosts my Wok Star cooking classes at Miami River Wall. He recently started standalone self contained plant towers which you can purchase from him or rent them with ready planted herbs, edible flowers, really anything you want. He literally just brought these in, so the plants are still seedlings but are growing FAST. I LOVE this idea, I think it will be very successful for chefs who want to have fresh herbs to garnish their dishes. Easy for apartment living and really anyone who enjoys having fresh veggies right at their fingertips. Best part, you don't have to remember to water them, it's on a timer and all the nutrients are at the bottom of the tower. It goes to my whole philosophy of keeping things simple and easy. If you have a garden, scroll to bottom "Grow Your Own Veggies" for tips and techniques for home gardeners.

Little River Market Garden is only supplying produce to Michael's Genuine Food & Drink restaurant currently. But take a look at her site for the csa program.

Laurenzo's Market: 16445 West Dixie Hwy, North Miami is where I do my produce shopping when I give classes. I also list them on my handouts as a resource for getting fresh local produce. They also have a separate deli with freshly made pasta, cakes, everything Italian. Their cafeteria offers typical Italian food from pizza, pastas, daily specials to my fav Greek salad.

Mango and Lime, a Miami blog wrote about a chef who grows all his own produce and keeps bees on the roof! Seems like this is the way to go for many chefs now. New York Times wrote about same story, only 5 months later!

OrganicBuyingClubSoFla.com
- I met Jayne Rosenbaum, President at an event at Oleta Park promoting organic fresh produce.
305-868-2136 email: jetsetrose@the-beach.net

photo: Irene Sperber, Fruit & Spice Festival

Paradise Farms host the Slow Food dinner series with chefs in their outdoor kitchen and beautiful garden. Only available for purchase to restaurant chefs. Chef Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine Food and Drink has been heavily involved with this series. Everything we've had at Michael's has been fabulous quality and delicious like the Duck confit and Crispy Beef Cheeks. Michael trains his staff so well that when you get up, they refold your napkin!

Redland Organics
They have a fall program where you can buy 1/2 or whole box of a variety of seasonal organic vegetables and fruits at a local pickup point. Visit their site for details. I know people who are very pleased with their farmshare.

Redlands Market: I probably have over 30 photos from my visits to this market. Many wonderful Mexican ingredients like Calaloo leaves and cactus as well as the usual produce but very fresh and cheap. We eat at the MANY Mexican food stalls. I'll blog about this, so stay tuned as they say. (don't think there's website, I couldn't locate it.)

Redland Fruit & Spice Park : This park holds many events like fruit and vegetable festivals, cooking classes, Asian Cultural events etc., so visit their site for their calendar.

Robert is Here: celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2010. Wow, Robert has really got a little empire going there. You have to visit to believe it. I've visited many times, probably have over 70 photos from all angles.

Roots In the City: Go support this wonderful progam in Overtown started by Chef Michael Schwartz and Michel Nischan. Contact them to see when they start up in the Fall.

SeriouslyOrganic.net specializes in delivering organic produce, grass fed beef from north Florida to restaurants. Their site is not up yet so take a read here about what they do. It's a small, small world because I met the owners separately.

Teena's Pride: they specialize in heirloom tomatoes as well as other produce. They also have a CSA program.

Thai Temple: Whenever there is a festival at the Thai Temple, there are usually vendors selling Thai fruits, vegetables, herbs and orchids. My favorite festival there is when monks from all over the world congregated there to celebrate the Temple's anniversary. The food was from just one or two local restaurants, less choice but the Thai curry, Pad Thai was EXCELLENT. Whereas the New Year festival was a bit more commercial and you had to really make your selection carefully. There are wood bench seats under trees in their orchard garden. It's also very serene and calming to hear monks chanting, bring a cushion, it's mostly sitting on the floor. It is amazing how many people I bumped into that I knew, small world.
The Market Company operates many Farmer's market in Miami-Dade including Upper East Side at 66th Biscayne Blvd. at Legions Park, Aventura Mall, Lincoln Rd., Brickell Village and many more.

TropTree: I met Dean Richardson at the Toyota Venza event on Lincoln Road where some of his unique veggies were showcased by restaurant chefs. His specialty is growing unusual veggies like Red Noodle Long Beans. I want to go visit his farm when it's not so hot. Sign up for his weekly Virtual Farmers Market flyer, he doesn't have a website yet, so email him: troptree@bellsouth.net or call 786-325-3936. Umm Blue Spice Basil sounds interesting. He doesn't even harvest till he knows what you want!
Common Asian veggies. Plate of Bok Choy

GROW YOUR OWN VEGGIES!
Well, if you have a garden and want to grow your own veggies, think about growing some Asian ones. I sent off some Asian veggie seeds to Carolyn, who's starting a 'Wok Garden'! I'm so excited, honored and thrilled cause she's going to document their progress and we get to see how she stir fries them.

Carolyn is an avid gardener who promotes "growing your own food and live better." She's got tons of tips and techniques for home gardening on her blog, so go check her out.

If you don't have a garden, you can still grow your own veggies! See Jungle Walls above, there's a FABULOUS plant tower idea for us busy folks: low maintenance, self sufficient, ecofriendly way to have fresh veggies and herbs whenever you want them all year round!

Wok Star on WLRN

A night when many press were there, Myriam Rojas (friend and assistant),
Carli from Miam Herald (to my left),
Food News & Views radio host, Linda Gassenheimer is 3rd from the right.
Rene Gonzalez, architect and Marguerite Gil (radio host, freelance writer)


Linda attended one of my first Wok Star class held at Bulthaup in Miami Design District when I first moved up from Key West in 1993. I met Linda many years ago in Key West at her book signing for Keys Cuisine and since my move to Miami Beach, we keep meeting up at events around town. Linda has published 7 books and does an amazing job of juggling her radio show, personal appearances and writing. I didn't realize the extent and scope of her work until I heard her on a Slow Food Miami panel recently at the Gable Stage, Biltmore Hotel. Gosh, maybe I should start working on my book, Wok Star!

Wok Star on WLRN
Whet your appetite for upcoming Olympics
WLRN NPR 91.3 FM or online
Thursday, August 7: 1:30pm-2:00p

Listen to my interview with Food News and Views, host Linda Gassenheimer : Chinese cooking expert Eleanor Hoh whets our appetites for the upcoming Olympics with Chinese cooking tips and a look at fast food Chinese style.

Rainbow Lettuce Wraps, Tiger Beer and prezzies for
radio hosts, Joe Cooper (Topical Currents),

Linda Gassenheimer (Food News and Views)
and Fred Tasker (wine critic)


Visit Linda's website www.DinnerInMinutes.com for more information.

Pending approval, call in and you may win a Wok Star class certificate for two guests, value of $130.

Visit my PRESS page to see other media appearances.


You can download printable 3 FREE party dishes perfect for entertaining. Simple, easy and delicious dishes.

Updated -
During the interview, Linda mentioned many weird things like scorpions and insects offered on skewers in China. Well, I read in NYT's 8.2.08 about the new $25 million, 23,000 sq. ft. Audubon Insectarium, in New Orleans showcasing termites and bugs. Especially popular with kids who have this "love, hate" relationship with squirmy, slimy insects. There's even a wax-worm stir fry or crispy rice crickets to try! Please tell us about your visit if you go.

Free Beijing Olympic Recipes

























It's summer but there's a LOT going on...

Watch Olympics and savor... Friday 8.8.08
"8" is a very lucky number in Chinese culture, so that's why Olympics starts on that day, in fact Ralph and I were married on Jan.8, 1988, oops, now you know we celebrated 20 years together!

Take a Wok Star class next Tuesday, August 7 at The Grateful Palate, just in time to learn in 3 hours so you can whip up your own favorite Asian dishes.

Or you can order a Wok Star Kit with my complete class and audio cookalongs (like I'm a private coach in your kitchen) so you can learn in your own home.

Here are FREE RECIPES for 3 simple party dishes, perfect for setting the mood while watching the Beijing Olympics with family and friends. Best paired with an icy, cold Tiger Beer (it's from Singapore where my mother was born).
Thai Curry Salmon, Rainbow Lettuce Wraps,
Singapore Chili Shrimp. Eleanor's healthy alternative to chip & dip. Perfect for any game night.

More FREE easy recipe variations, it's all there for you to relish -
Thai Curry Salmon using CurrySimple (ready mix coconut milk and paste, just open and pour). Available at Wholefoods and Wild Oats or directly from CurrySimple.com.
Steamed ground turkey meatloaf with umboshi plums (another way to use your versatile wok)

Wok Star cooking classes


















MIACUCINA

kitchen and closet design showroom
host Wok Star Eleanor Hoh

A perfect combination of socializing, entertaining and learning

Saturday, Aug.16, 12pm-3pm
$65 per person
4 dishes paired with Tiger Beer, Fiji Water and Prosecco

Click here for reservations and prepayment.

Spaces are on a first come, first save basis. Prepayment will guarantee your spaces. So, please do not leave till last minute and be disappointed when you cannot get in.

Wok Star Cooking Classes
I'm excited to announce 4 new venues hosting my Wok Star classes in Broward: Naked Grape Wine Bar, Wilton Manors; Hollywood Vine; Chef Jean Pierre Cooking School and The Grateful Palate. I feel quite honored to be The Grateful Palate's first cooking instructor to inaugurate the newly renovated space. For all those in Broward, take advantage of this exceptional chance to be in a really classy setting.

Just in time for the Olympics starting 8.08.08, very important and a lucky date in Chinese culture. This is a perfect time to learn how easy it is to make quick, easy exotic dishes in your own home and enjoy while you watch the Olympics with your family and friends. Spread the word and let's make this a happening! We need to work fast, so please reserve and prepay ASAP, details below.
ate

Watch a CBS and Fox News Style File video or a slideshow of my class by
Miami Dish plus read a review by Mango and Lime as well as comments from people who have attended my event.

Menu
Rainbow lettuce appetizer with ground turkey, hoisin sauce & crunchy pumpkin seeds
Easy stir fry veggies with an Asian twist
Shrimp with asparagus, carrot & topped with cashews
Tilapia with zucchini, squash & bell peppers in spicy, brown bean

Join me for an unforgettable class and learn my simple, no-recipe technique focusing on quick, "easy style", weekday, 30-minute, one-dish meals with little clean-up. It's a very interactive, engaging class with many who will get to stir fry.

My Wok Star Kit will be available for purchase at the class. The Kit includes a preseasoned cast-iron wok set, instructional discs with my personal selection of Asian ingredients so people can go home and start implementing what they've learned in class. If you cannot make it to a class, the Kit has my complete class plus audio cook-alongs (it's like I'm a private coach in your kitchen).

You'll get tons of tips and information on brands of ingredients and where to pick them up in Asian markets. Many will get a chance to stir fry and ask burning questions about wok cooking. I'll bust some myths about wok cooking like throwing everything in a wok or using a flat wok on electric stoves.

You'll soon be able to make dinners with the whole family and enjoy eating together. Simple, healthy, weekday dinners with readily available ingredients that will entice even the pickiest eaters to an exotic and scrumptious dinner. Plus you'll save money eating out and gas money to get there. You can now create those favorite Asian meals in your own home and it's easier than you think.

Look forward to meeting you at this class...





Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Celebrate Chinese New Year at home

Wok Star Eleanor Hoh offers delicious 2009 Chinese New resolution.

For 2009 Year of Ox predictions and horoscope.

Longevity, prosperity, and good health
This year's Chinese New Year will be Thursday, February 7, 2008. It means I can begin a new leaf and sweep away some of my bad habits, starting off with posting blogs on a regular basis! I collected and summarized information from many sources including Wikipedia and also from my childhood memories to hopefully give you a flavor of how we celebrate this very important occasion in the Chinese Lunar calendar.

I would love to hear how you spend your Chinese New Year.

You'll find out what to eat, wear, even tips on how to make a Chinese scroll, how to present a table setting and decorating your home for your own Chinese New Year celebrations with your family and friends. There's also Forecast for Rats, who are celebrity rats and zodiac meanings etc.

If you happen to live in South Florida, I'll be giving 3 Special Wok Star cooking classes with surprises at three different venues. These always fill up fast. Otherwise, those unable to schedule a class into your busy life, my Wok Star Kit has everything you need (including Asian seasonings) so you can celebrate at home.

Celebrations:
Chinese New Year is the longest and most important celebration in the Chinese calendar. The new year begins on the first day of the Chinese calendar (Feb.7, 2008), which usually falls in February, and the festivities continue for 15 days.

During Chinese New Year celebrations, people wear red clothes, give children 'lucky money' in red envelopes and set off firecrackers. Red symbolises fire, which the Chinese believe drives away bad luck. Family members gather at each other's homes for extravagant meals.

What to eat:
New Year's eve is dinner with family, I remember my mother serving one of everything: beef, pork, chicken, duck, fish, shrimp, soup, several veggie dishes.

Traditionally, many dishes symbolize good luck like Buddha's Delight: a vegetarian dish with Chinese mushrooms, toufu, a variety of veggies and very important, black hair moss. Dumplings, both sweet and savory, which represent luck packaged inside. Noodles, ALWAYS served uncut represents longevity and long life. I like to crisp mine up under the grill (first boiling them and rinsing dry) by spreading them on an oiled wax paper or foil to prevent sticking and squeeze a little oil all over noodles.

For sweets: always tons of Mandarin oranges, tangerines, clementines dotted all over the room. There's also a brown, sticky, glutinous New Year cake (lean gao) which is cut into slices and fried with egg. My mother who is Malay/Portuguese loves to add spice to anything and our favorite was our fresh homemade turnip cake which has dried shrimp, Chinese sliced mushrooms and scallions and steamed. She would slice this and fry with chillies till crispy, delish! Gosh, this makes me so homesick. You can buy this from a dim sum restaurant and do stir-fry at home.

Another tradition is the lacquered candy box. I managed to get one at a Korean market. It has about 6 sections inside a round box and in each you would include chocolate coins in gold wrap and mostly dried candied fruits and vegetables like lotus seed and root, water chestnuts, pineapple, coconut and black and red melon seeds.

Clothing:
A big favorite of mine is getting new clothes though my mother had a habit of buying a roll of material and the seamstress made variations on a theme for each of the 4 girls! My mother was so proud of her idea but it was so embarrassing for us because everyone knew you were related when we paraded down the street. When we got older, we axed this habit but laugh about it now.

Red is commonly worn throughout the Chinese New Year because it is believed that red will scare away evil spirits and bad fortune. In addition, people typically wear new clothes from head to toe to symbolize a new beginning in the new year.


Flower Meanings:

Plum blossom symbolizes luck
Kumquat symbolizes prosperity
Narcissus symbolizes prosperity
Chrysanthemum symbolizes longevity
Bamboo A plant used for any time of year
Sunflower means to have a good year

Decorations
:
Lanterns, especially red in different sizes and shapes are hung on the 15th day of celebrations but I put them out during the two weeks.

TIP: Anything I can get my hands on that are red or gold and Asian looking. Posters with Good Luck characters, red knots. The secret is to go to section of an Asian market where you can buy ever so cheaply a big packet of paper cuttings and all sorts of wonderful decorations, paper with gold streaks etc. I even made several scrolls which hang on my walls in my apartment all the time. It's easy - use empty tube containers and brown wrapping paper as my background and cover tube containers on both ends of scroll, then paste the cuttings, etc. on top (see scroll photo). Put brown string through the top one and you're done!

It's good to put a small mirror to ward away evil spirits, also red paper cuttings or posters with Good Luck characters on your front door (see photo) and windows.




Forecast for Rat Year beginning February 7:
On health matters the year 2008 is favorable due to renewed vitality. In romantic involvements, the earth rat year is a good year for marriage and interludes. Nonetheless, earth Rat Year 2008 will be a congenial year that will find most of the people socializing and enjoying themselves with their loved ones.

Celebrity Rats: Louis Armstrong, Shirley Bassey, Marlon Brando, Doris Day, Clark Gable, Hugh Grant, Charlton Heston, Gene Kelly, Glenda Jackson, Kris Kristofferson, Gary Lineker, Sean Penn, Burt Reynolds, Olivia Newton-John, Tommy Steele, Donna Summer, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Kim Wilde, Jennifer Anniston

Compatible with :
Dragon, Monkey, Ox
Less Compatible with : Snake, Dog, Pig, Rooster, Ram, Rat, Tiger
Least Compatible with : Horse

Ideal Job: Financial advisor, Broker, Moneylender, Lawyer, Detective, Antique dealer, Auctioneer, Songwriter, Pathologist.

Positive: Rats can be charming, protective, compassionate, communicative, dynamic, familial, thrifty, skilful, sober upright, attractive, idealistic, prosperous, experimental, calm, sensual, loving, talented, adaptable, open-minded and brilliant entrepreneurs.

Negative: Rats can also be possessive, picky, defensive, excessive, addictive, fickle, stingy, bumptious, bossy, exploitive, anxious, argumentative, opinionated, overbearing and self-obsessed.

Good luck
▪ Opening windows and/or doors is considered to bring in the good luck of the new year.
▪ Switching on the lights for the night is considered good luck to 'scare away' ghosts and spirits of misfortune that may compromise the luck and fortune of the new year.
▪ Candy is eaten to ensure the consumer a "sweet" year.
▪ It is important to have the house completely clean from top to bottom before New Year's Day for good luck in the coming year. (however, as explained below, cleaning the house after New Year's Day is frowned upon)
▪ Some believe that what happens on the first day of the new year reflects the rest of the year to come. Asians will often gamble at the beginning of the year, hoping to get luck and prosperity.
▪ Wearing a new pair of slippers that is bought before the new year, because it means to step on the people who gossip about you.
▪ The night before the new year, bathe yourself in pomelo leaves and some say that you will be healthy for the rest of the new year.

Bad luck
▪ Buying a pair of shoes is considered bad luck amongst some Chinese. The word "shoes" is a homophone for the word for "rough" in Cantonese, or "evil" in Mandarin.
▪ Buying a pair of pants is considered bad luck. The word "pants"(kù) is a homophone for the word for "bitter"(kŭ) in Cantonese. (Although some perceive it to be positive, as the word 'pants'(fu) in Cantonese is also a homophone for the word for "wealth".)
▪ A haircut is considered bad luck. The word "hair" is a homophone for the word for "prosperity". Thus "cutting hair" could be perceived as "cutting away your prosperity" in Cantonese.
▪ Washing your hair is also considered to be washing away one's own luck (although modern hygienic concerns take precedence over this tradition)
▪ Sweeping the floor is usually forbidden on the first day, as it will sweep away the good fortune and luck for the new year.
▪ Talking about death is inappropriate for the first few days of Chinese New Year, as it is considered inauspicious as well.
▪ Buying books is bad luck because the word for "book" is a homonym to the word "lose".
▪ Avoid clothes in black and white, as black is a symbol of bad luck, and white is a traditional funeral color.
▪ Avoid vulgar words. (not only restricted to New Years)

Zodiac:
According to the Chinese zodiac, you take on the characteristics of the animal associated with the year of your birth, but those characteristics are also influenced by what time of day you're born, what fixed element you belong to (water, metal, wood, fire, earth), as well as the influence of Yin and Yang.

People born in the Year of the Rat are noted for their charm and attraction for the opposite sex. They work hard to achieve their goals, acquire possessions, and are likely to be perfectionists. They are basically thrifty with money. Rat people are easily angered and love to gossip. Their ambitions are big, and they are usually very successful.

The cunning Rat hitched a ride on the back of the Ox and crossed the winning line first. The Rat was followed (in order) by Ox (Cow), Tiger, Rabbit (Cat), Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram (Goat, Sheep), Monkey, Rooster (Chicken), Dog and Pig (Boar).

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

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