In anticipation of the Chinese New Year, the house is swept clean of all of the "dust" from the past year so the new year will begin free from old troubles. Then begins a 16-day celebration called Chinese New Year, or the Spring Festival, according to travelchinaguide.com.
This year, Feb. 19 marks the beginning of the Year of the Ram. The ram, goat or sheep (the names in Chinese are similar) is symbolic of calmness, harmony and solidarity. Sheep coexist peacefully with humans, they are strong and filled with vitality, and they hold their leaders in high esteem.
While people throughout Asia celebrate, the customs vary in different countries. The main purpose of the holiday is to think of family and wish everyone prosperity and peace in the new year. The dishes served on Chinese New Year each have a meaning and a wish for good health, good luck and success, according to echinacities.com. A traditional reunion feast includes hot and cold dishes. You might find teriyaki chicken and fish, wonton or potstickers, mandarin oranges, melon, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, a special vegetarian dish made of black algae, cakes, chocolate candy coins and other treats.
After dinner, the chldren look forward to receiving red packets or envelopes containing money or pretend money in even amounts — odd amounts are for funerals — and if they so choose, everyone enjoys dancing into the night. You might consider inviting a dragon to the party — they can dance, and in China they signify dignity and the power of good, according to travelchinaguide.com.
Wontons have been served in China for over a thousand years, according to chinahighlights.com. Here is a recipe for a crunchy, delicious appetizer that may bring you happiness all year.
WONTON WITH SAUCES
1 pound lean ground beef, turkey or chicken
3 green onions, sliced into ¼-inch pieces
2 raw eggs, beaten
1 handful raw bean sprouts, chopped (rinsed canned bean sprouts can be substituted if you can't find fresh)
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (Kimlan brand)
1 package wonton skins (available in the grocery store produce or deli section)
For the filling, brown the ground meat in a skillet. Remove from heat and add the green onions, eggs, bean sprouts and soy sauce.
Set aside filling. Lay out on dry surface a dozen wonton wrappers. Moisten the edges of two sides of each wrap with water, and place about 1 teaspoon of filling in center.
Fold in half diagonally to make a triangle and pinch the edges closed. Heat about 2 inches of vegetable oil in a skillet. Fry the wonton until light golden, turn and cook the other side, then drain on paper towels. Salt lightly. May be chilled, stored airtight and reheated in a 375-degree oven until sizzling. Serve hot with sweet and sour sauce, soy sauce or teriyaki sauce.
SWEET AND SOUR SAUCE
1 cup chicken broth
1½ cups pineapple juice
¾ cup vinegar
¼ cup ketchup
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
¼ cup cornstarch
Whisk ingredients together in a medium saucepan. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly until thickened. Serve hot or refrigerate and reheat before serving.
1 cup light soy sauce (Kimlan brand)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 or 3 drops hot sauce
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Shake the ingredients together in a jar with a lid until combined. Refrigerate leftovers.
Pam McMurtry is a wife, parent, artist and writer with a bachelor's degree in art teaching. She is the author of "A Harvest and Halloween Handbook."