20100217 Chinese New Year Celebrations
This year is the Year of Tiger. It’s a tradition for Cantonese to make cakes for the Chinese New Year. The pronunciation of cakes, which is ‘GO’, is the same as the word ‘tall’ in Cantonese. Seniors in the family like to wish their grandchildren grow tall and healthy (快高長大) in the New Year. Therefore, cakes are an indispensable part of the Chinese New Year celebrations.
We make all sorts of cakes, sweet and savory, from rice or glutinous rice flours. My favorite is radish (daikon) cakes. You’ll find them where dim sum is served in a Chinese restaurant or they are sold pre-packaged in a Chinese grocery store when it’s close to the Chinese New Year. But let me tell you, these are no comparison to the homemade ones. For the ones money can buy, they are usually made with a very high proportion of flour and very little radish and other ingredients. Therefore, these cakes often turn out very hard and have very little flavor.
Before the New Year, I usually prepare a very fancy version of daikon cake which consists of Japanese dried scallops(瑤柱), dried shrimps（蝦米）, Virgina ham (金華火腿）， Chinese style cured and smoked ham(臘肉), Cantonese style sausage（臘腸）, plenty of shredded daikon and a small amount of rice flour. The mixture of all ingredients is steamed for about 45 minutes and let cool on wire rack. During the New Year, we normally lightly pan fry the cake before enjoying it. It is crispy outside with flavorful seafood and meats. Instead of the usual gumminess you’ll experience from store-bought daikon cakes, the mouthfeel of the inside of this cake is moist and soft, with the fibrous chunks of shredded daikon coming apart. With all the ingredients, it’s a big, tasty meal in itself and I like to dip it with Lee Kum Kee (李錦記) chili sauce before serving.
I must give credit to my husband for his efforts to assist me in the preparation of radish cakes this year. He took on the role of dicing and weighing ingredients and shredding the radish, which are the most time consuming parts of the process. He wanted to do this with me so that we can spend more precious time together. I truly appreciate his thoughts and prepare many good foods in return. The radish cake served today was pan fried and pictured by my husband as well.
As a parent, I too wish my children grow tall and healthy after eating my radish cake, the ‘GO’, and have a head start in the New Year.