Sunday, February 14

Chinese New Year

Well it's the year of the Tiger... Sorry, I had to go there! We just got home after celebrating Chinese New Year at our favourite local Chinese restaurant here in San Antonio, Kim Wah!

Kim Wah is a gem of a restaurant hidden in a typically ugly San Antonio strip mall. A group of us from work try to visit at least every two weeks and order an insane amount of really good food for about the same price as some horrid chain eatery lunch would set us back - Our favourites are peking duck with soup, salt toasted pork rib, snow pea leaves with garlic, beef flat noodles and of course the deliciously wonderful eggplant with sticky, sweet sauce! We were invited to last year's banquet but couldn't get a group together in time so I was determined not to miss out this year, even if New Year's Eve fell on the valentine's day weekend.

This year we did make it, along with our food savy friends Matt and Claire and of course Mr Roo (a fave of the restaurant staff). In my 'stupid white people' attempt to wear red for the evening I managed to dress Marty and myself in matching t-shirts (threadless of course) and didn't realise until we were on our way. The beloved thought it was intentional!

The restaurant was packed with a great mixed croud of people who knew the traditions and those of us who were just having a lovely time learning it all. I have to say they did a really good job of making it inclusive - of making sure we knew what was happening and why.

First course out was the Peking duck which is always a delight. They serve it sliced with fluffy steamed rice buns, spring onion slivers and hoisin sauce and you make little tasty duck rolls. Marty loves the sauce! Usually this is served with a broth made from the bones and either watercress or wombok, but there was no room for the soup at this banquet (Marty loves the soup too).

Next up was shrimp skewers served with a delicious dipping sauce that was more curry paste than sauce (poor Jose, there was lots of seafood but we made sure she had plenty to eat too)

Then came sticky, fall off the bone tender braised pork ribs with sweet 'special sauce' (like a rice wine based Texas BBQ sauce only Chinese... yummy!)

After that we had the most divine dish - braised abalone with shiitake mushrooms and snow pea leaves in garlic sauce. It was incredibly simple but sooo good. The sauce didn't overpower the very subtle abalone and the mixture of textures was a real treat.

The abalone came out with one of my absolute favourite dishes and one that I would be training myself to make if only I could find the lotus leaves - sticky rice with Chinese sausage and bbq pork in lotus leaves. This wonderfully chewy rice dish is sweet and salty and has a rich, smoky tea flavour from the leaves. I'm glad it came out last or I would have totally filled up on it! We also scored a serving of the wonderful eggplant in garlic sauce thanks to the chef who was worried there weren't enough non-seafood dishes for Jose and knew it was a favourite of our table.

Somehow our dinner was timed perfectly so that just as all the food was all served the entertainment began. Marty was sleeping peacefully on the beloved's chest at this point but we decided to wake him and let him watch rather than have him woken and risk the wrath of a frightened babe! Lucky for us he loved the whole show - I think he thought the whole thing was purely for his entertainment!

There were ribbon dancers, plate dancers, a martial arts demonstration from an award winning 9 year old (who reminded me an awful lot of Aang) and of course the lions! Silly me thought the lion dance for the blessing of the restaurant would involved just one lion, but there were LOTS of them! The lion dance was very noisy with lots of drumming and cymbals but Marty loved it - we all did. I felt like I was in a room full of Wild Things and I think Marty thought his toys had come to life, it was brilliant!

Josie feeding a lion a money filled red envelope for good luck

This was the lucky lion that ate the food offering from the restaurant. No mean feat considering it involved one of the puppet masters jumping onto the shoulders of the other while still manipulating the costume!

All up it was a really fun night - good friends, great food and giant lions!! Oh and dessert was pretty tasty too... Mango with tapioca and pomelo


Dumblond said...

How fun! I haven't seen a Chinese New Year celebration since 3rd grade. My first elementary school would have a special assembly every year. I even got to feed on of the dragons a red envelope. I would love to take my kids to one so they could experience that.

julie said...

ah, memories! so nice to know what the food you are describing tastes like - the duck and the eggplant were some of my favourite food experiences of north america - although i did have a fair few amazing offerings in texas - several from your own kitchen of course.

Glad you had a great time. wish i could have celebrated - i am a tiger, it will be a great year me thinks...

Anri said...

Looks like so much fun! I think I'm missing out and will really have to do the Chinese New Year thing some time. I'm a Tiger too, so should have really done something this year!
Glad Marty enjoyed the show! I'm hungry now and would love some Chinese food! x

Liz said...

Very envious - my parents, who we normally celebrate CNY with, are out of the country at the moment, and with the nearest decent Chinese restaurant 60 miles away, we decided that this year it was probably best to save up the celebrations until they're back so we have someone to party with. Good to see Marty being exposed to the good stuff so early too!

Adrienne said...

I can see why you're regulars - that all looks marvellous.

In Cantonese that sticky rice dish is called law mai gai and it's usually served at yum cha. The lotus leaves are readily available from Wing & Co. I have recipes. We should have a dumpling date.

We had Chinese New Year at my uncle and aunt's place, probably the best one in years. Melanie made lanterns, everybody bought a dish and Al caught the lobsters. We had marquees and tables set up on the lawn. You can come next year.


Mariposa del Diablo said...

I'll have to check that place out. It looks fantastic!!

Big A said...

Like Julie, I recall those tastes and textures very lovingly. What a great occasion. I hope it's stacked away in Marty's memory banks.

Mothersupex said...

Yum, you described the dishes with such expertise. The food sounded just scrumptious.

I'm pleased you woke Marty and that he enjoyed the show, which WAS put on, just for him :-)

Lara said...

Thanks so much for your blog; at least I can keep up with you through it.
We have gone to the Asian Festival three years in a row and seen the lion dance, the 9 year-old martial artist, the ribbon dancers, etc. AWESOME, AWESOME. Fed our bus fare to the lion. Oops. I never realized how cool it would be to see how Christopher's response has changed over the years; It will be fun to watch this with Marty. This year when we got home, he lined up some boxes and coffee tins and began to drum; so Lynnea and I danced as a lion.
Missing you all even though you are still in the same city,

Anonymous said...

We didnt celebrate Chinese new year with our friends at the Buffet this year as we have domne in the past. We really enjoy being with the Chinese and taking part (or watching at least) and the Lions are great! I was waiting for the internet to seep into my computer when Andrea rang us to tell us about their 48 hour trip. So sorry to hear that, it sounds horrendous.Hoping you can post them on your blog soon!
Hope you all have a lovely time.