Last week, the Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot near UT campus opened. It’s the first chain store in Austin. This was good news for people who love Chinese hot pot. The Little Sheep is the Mongolian-style hot pot, which is famous for its flavorful broth, including ingredients like goji berries, jujubes, and a mix of herbs.
Actually, there are many regional versions of hot pot throughout China due to the variety of broth and the specific meats used. Lamb is a common choice in colder Northern China while fresh seafood like live shrimp, oysters, and squid are used in coastal cities like Guangdong. Chongqing is known for Sichuan peppercorns and other mouth-numbing ingredients.
It’s another rare cloudy day in Austin. Spring seems to be wakened by vernal rain this week. Temperature is gently climbing up. The exuberant colors of the early spring in Austin this year reminds me of a simple yet delicious Chinese comfort food dish-tomato and egg stir-fry. It is definitely my favorite dish amongst Chinese cuisine. Back in my undergrad life, winter in Wuhan is bone-chilling, smoggy, and depressing. But when I was scarfing down stir-fried tomato and eggs at the university cafeteria, I felt like being in the subtropical warmth.
Tomato and egg stir-fry is simple to cook: just oil and salt can make it really delicious. And it tastes especially fresh with very original flavor with rich nutrition. The most important point is that it saves thousands of cooking beginners from messing up their first cooking attempts, which should be awarded as “the Great Savior of Novice Chef”!
It is said that there are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people’s eyes. I wanna say that a thousand people can make a thousand different kinds of tomato and egg stir-fry dishes. There have always been disputes about whether to peel the tomatoes, whether to cook the egg tender or old, whether to add sugar, green onions/scallions, ketchup or starch. It can be added on top of rice, or eat with lo mein, or mix with spaghetti. There are just so many variations and flexibilities in this simple dish, thus making it most popular.
This weekend is the traditional Lantern Festival, which indicates the end of Spring Festival. Believe it or not, it has a history traced back about 2000 years in the beginning of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220)! Here come the Chinese history and culture lesson 🙂 Emperor Hanmingdi was an advocate of Buddhism and he heard that some monks lit lanterns in the temples to show respect to Buddha on the 15th day of the first lunar month. Therefore, he advocated that all the temples, households, and royal palaces light lanterns on that evening. Gradually, this Buddhist custom became an important festival among Chinese people.
Lantern Festival is called 元宵节 Yuánxiāojié /ywen-sshyaoww jyeah/ and it also has an alternative name as 上元节 Shàngyuánjié shung-ywen-jyeah/. Chinese people celebrate it by enjoying lanterns, guessing lantern riddles, eating tangyuan or yuan xiao (glutinous rice balls), lion and dragon dances, etc.
I remember when I was young, my grandparents always said that you couldn’t perfectly end the Spring Festival without eating Tangyuan in Lantern Festival. Therefore, I decide to adventure to make small rice balls on my own according to the recipe. I prefer the sweet flavor, so I want to try with purple sweet potato filling. Here are the steps:
Last weekend was traditional Chinese Spring Festival, the biggest festival in China to celebrate the lunar New Year. It’s a festival about families getting together to have the annual reunion dinner and usher the coming of new year. But it’s been the first year that I didn’t spend the Spring Festival with my family back in China since I’m studying my master’s degree in the States now.