As a 25-year teacher and homeschooler, one of my favorite ways to introduce students to a culture was by sampling foods from that country. Kids love my around the world taste tours, too. If you're exploring Chinese New Year in your classroom or family homeschool, here are recipes and food ideas to try.
Michigan State University has put together a power point describing the regions of China. Use that tool to introduce children to the eight culinary regions of China, as described by Travel China Guide.
* Shadong (Lu or Mandarin cuisine) in north China, Beijing and Jinan City: dishes focus on duck, carp, chicken and seafood, particularly abalone (shellfish). Shadong food emphasizes garlic, shallots and sea pumpkin. For a simplified shadong dish, stir-fry prawns (shrimp), asparagus spears and chunks of squash or pumpkin in garlic, shallots and peanut oil.
* Chuan (Szechuan cuisine) from Sichuan province: food is very spicy and hot, using chilis, peppercorn, peanuts, sesame, garlic and ginger. Steam or boil cellophane, rice, ramen or lo mein noodles. Make a thin sauce of crunchy peanut butter, garlic, sesame or peanut oil and minced ginger. Toss noodles with sauce, sesame seeds, sliced scallions, and peanuts. Offer red pepper flakes for students who wish to try it, but warn them that it's hot.
* Hui (Anhui cuisine) from the Huangshan mountains, these foods employ vegetables, mushrooms and rice. Steam jasmine or basmati rice and or make egg foo yung by mixing chopped bok choy, napa cabbage, mushrooms and bean sprouts in egg mixture and frying. Make gravy by mixing simmering soy sauce with corn starch dissolved in cold water. Eggs are a Chinese New Year ceremonial food and symbolize fertility.
* Min (Fujian cusine) comes from the coastal region, this area's specialty is soup. Make a simple chicken broth soup with any combination of sliced bamboo shoots, carrots, celery, water chestnuts, bean sprouts and shitake mushrooms. Set out wonton chips for garnish.
* Yue (Cantonese or Guangdong cuisine) comes from Hong Kong and is what most Americans think of when they think Chinese food. For an easy Cantonese sampler, set out an assortment of Chinese dumplings, rice rolls and dim sum. Asian Online Recipes has easy dim sum recipes. Serve with Chinese five-spice (cinnamon, anise, cloves, pepper and fennel seed).
* Xiang (Hunan cuisine): Like Szechuan, this food is spicy. It focuses on the "five elements": lytchee fruit, longan berries, red dates, lotus seeds, and medlar fruit. Lytchee aren't too difficult to find canned and can represent Hunan food.
* Jiangsu (Shanghai, Su cuisine): This cooking style uses many techniques and flavors. For a student Shanghai sampler, serve cubed tofu or dried tofu.
* Zhe (Zheijiang cuisine): Stir-fry is a common technique. Students may enjoy a cooking demonstration using a wok; cook a simple fish in oil with lemon. Serve with jasmine or oolong tea. This is perfect for Chinese New Year, as whole fish is one of the traditional foods. Sweet and sour pork is also popular.
Along with eggs and fish, Chinese New Year ceremonial foods include mandarin oranges, fat choy (algae), dumplings, noodles and dried fruit. To wish a h appy new year, say "Gung Hay Fat Choy!"