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Full moon party

By Pauline D Loh ( China Daily Europe )

Updated: 2018-03-02

Editor's Note: Spring Festival is all about feasting and celebrating with food. We help you to understand some of the culinary traditions and recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation.

With the first full moon of the lunar year, the 15 days of celebrations for the Spring Festival wind down and life will return to normal. On this day, yuanxiaojie, there will be one final round of eating and drinking.

Symbolism is very important in Chinese culinary traditions, and so, to reflect the full moon, glutinous dumpling balls will be eaten first thing in the morning. Tangyuan and yuanxiao will be made and eaten throughout the country.

 Full moon party

The round shape of tangyuan denotes tuanyuan, or reunion. Photos Provided to China Daily

Tangyuan is popular in southern China and is made by mixing fine glutinous rice powder with water to form a dough, which is then molded around fillings like red bean paste, sesame paste and crushed peanuts. They are cooked in sweet soups, sometimes scented with osmanthus flowers or flavored with sweet rice wine.

Yuanxiao, named after the day itself, is a northern delicacy. Its production is more complex and involves a ball of filling tossed onto damp glutinous flour in a tray. The tray is rhythmically rolled around until the filling is coated with layers of rice flour and becomes nice and round. These dumplings are then cooked in water.

Both are sticky dumplings with round shapes that denote tuanyuan, or reunion. Many family members will once again depart from home with the sweet taste of the dumplings in their memories as they return to the cities to work. It may be a full year before they again get the chance to see home and hearth.

But before they go, there is still one more day to relax.

In many parts of the country, yuanxiaojie is marked with lantern parades and exhibitions. Intricately made lanterns of all shapes, sizes and colors are gathered in parks and town squares and brightly lit.

Everyone competes to see who comes up with the prettiest, tallest, biggest and longest lanterns.

Often, these have poems on them that are riddles, and groups of friends will make the rounds to see who is best at solving the word puzzles.

Culture parades featuring folk dances, stilt walkers, costumed opera characters, choirs and modern day singers and dancers add to the final festive air. This is also the last day of the Lunar New Year temple fairs, a traditional fairground for holiday makers.

On this day, lion and dragon dancers will be doing their best to impress their audiences, ending a fortnight of performances that have earned them considerable amounts of lucky money in red packets, or hongbao.

It is also around this period that the various clan or village associations will have competitions among them to find the most able lion or dragon dance teams. These can get pretty intense in the heat of firecrackers, loud drums and martial arts moves.

When it comes time to eat, all the auspicious dishes that marked the first new year meals return to the table, including the festive chickens, pig trotters, whole fish and vegetarian specials.

In addition, jiaozi dumplings and noodles are served. It is a northern tradition to have jiaozi on all major occasions, and a farewell meal definitely needs jiaozi.

Noodles, for good health and longevity, will also be on the table. Different communities will serve their regional specialties, from light soup noodles to rich braised noodles topped with seafood and meat.

Once the evening meal is finished, many will opt for an early night to prepare for their long journeys the next day. Life goes back to normal.

paulined@chinadaily.com.cn

Recipe

Prawn and squid braised noodles

(A festive noodle dish from Fujian)(Serves 4)

Full moon party

500g medium prawns

500g large squids, cleaned

300g pork belly

4 eggs

1 kg fresh yellow noodles, loosened

500g beansprouts, tailed

2-3 stalks Chinese chives

2 tablespoons minced garlic

Soy and fish sauce

Pepper

Prepare the stock. Heat up about 3 liters water in a large pot. Cook the prawns, squid and pork belly in it. Once cooked, ladle up the ingredients and reserve the stock, keeping it on a low simmer.

Peel the prawns, devein, and place the heads and shells in a muslin bag and throw it back into the stock.

Cut the squid tubes into rings, reserve.

Cut the pork belly into slices, then into strips and reserve.

Wash and dry beansprouts and reserve.

Clean the chives and cut into 4-5 cm lengths.

Prepare to fry the noodles.

Fire up a wok on high heat and add oil. Quickly fry the garlic till it is fragrant and add the noodles. Toss to mix well. Add the pork strips, followed by the prawns and squid and the beansprouts.

Break the eggs and stir into the noodles.

Ladle in the reserved stock, adding more as the noodles absorb the liquid. The braised noodles should be moist but not too watery. Finally toss in the chives.

Season with soy sauce, fish sauce and pepper to taste.

Serve with cut red chili and lime or lemon wedges to squeeze over the noodles.

(China Daily European Weekly 03/02/2018 page19)

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