I’m someone who approaches New Year’s Eve with realistic, but mostly optimistic expectations for the upcoming year. It would be fair to say that I expect a lot from life. Foremost, I expect a lot from myself. I feel assured that if I work hard, stay true to my ideals and faith, am kind to others, and try to make good choices, that life will return the favor most of the time. And when it doesn’t… well, at least I know I’m equipped to take on whatever challenge lies ahead!
That said, I’m not one to subscribe to the idea of luck, but I love tradition and the idea of having moments where symbols and memorials are used in my home to teach and inspire. Since I was a little girl, a seafood dish and a pork dish have been served between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, but I never understood the significance of this other than “it’s good luck.” Now that I’m all grown up and have a little boy of my own to raise, I spent some time reading about these dishes so that I can use them to pass down ideals to my son.
What to cook for New Year’s
Pretty much all of these items are related to luck, but I’m going to teach them to my family from the perspective of making good plans for the upcoming year while maintaining an optimistic outlook.
- Pork: A pig signifies progress as a pig pushes itself forward while rooting for food on the ground. It also signifies wealth and prosperity because of it’s high fat content (shhh… I use lean ground pork in this recipe).
- Fish: Historically, it was preserved with salt and could be enjoyed through the winter holidays. Fish scales are also thought to resemble coins.
- Legumes: are symbolic of money and financial reward.
- Cooked greens: are thought to resemble folding money and signify good financial fortune.
- Grapes: 12 grapes are consumed at midnight and each correspond with a month of the year. Sweet grapes foreshadow a good month, while sour grapes are indicative of poor fortune.
My favorite one from this list is the pork because it suggests that the pig is hard at work, but reaping reward. I also like the idea of the fish because it suggests planning for the winter. Both are great ideals to live by and pass on to the next generation.
What not to cook for New Year’s
Apparently, there are some things you’re not supposed to cook for New Year’s.
- Winged fowl: This is because your luck is likely to fly away.
- Lobster: These rather large crustaceans walk backwards and no one wants to go backwards in the New Year!
- Chicken: Once again, chickens scratch backwards, and backwards is bad.
Basically, if you’re throwing a New Year’s party, don’t serve anything that moves in a backwards motion or could fly away from your guests!
Now, on to my recipe. For today, I have have Baked (healthier) Pork and Napa Cabbage Egg Rolls. This recipe is inspired by my sister-in-law who hails from Indonesia, and who first taught me how to make egg rolls (she’s awesome). Throughout the year I typically make this recipe with ground chicken, but that won’t do for New Year’s! Feel free to substitute chicken come January 2nd. The only difference with the recipe is that with pork you’ll want to drain the excess fat, but this is not necessary with chicken.
I also used a napa cabbage in this recipe, which is my “cooked greens.” I’ve use regular cabbage in egg rolls before, but far prefer the leafy part of the napa cabbage because it has a lower water content and just works better in the recipe overall. I was fortunate enough to get a premium one from my CSA (crop share), but they can also be found at many grocery stores and most Asian markets. Between the pork and the napa, this is one festive recipe! I think it achieves what I’m going for; it’s a symbol that’s a nod to the past with an optimistic outlook for the the upcoming year.
I used to find making spring rolls intimidating, but my sister-in-law helped me get over this. It’s actually really easy. First you make a simple filling, and then bundle the filling up in a cute little egg roll wrapper. Check out the tutorial below.
I chose to bake this recipe instead of frying. Not only is it healthier, but it’s also less messy to cook and clean up. Before baking, lightly brush with vegetable oil and then pop the egg rolls into the oven.
These come out as golden brown, crunchy, pockets of flavor treasure!
To really send this dish over the edge and keep it all-natural, check out my recipe for Homemade Duck Sauce.
- 1 lb lean ground pork
- 1-2 tsp vegetable oil (as needed)
- 1½ C shredded carrots
- 1 C diced yellow onion
- 6 C shredded napa cabbage*
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp corn starch
- 12 egg roll wrappers
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- Preheat oven to 400º F. In a large pan (I prefer cast iron), over medium high heat, brown 1 lb of lean ground pork by breaking it apart into small pieces as it cooks. Add a little vegetable oil to the pan as needed to prevent sticking, depending on how lean the meat is. Once cooked through, transfer to a covered dish for keeping while the vegetables cook. Prep the vegetables while the meat is cooking to save time.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the diced onions and shredded carrots to the pan the pork was cooked in. Cook for 3 minutes. Add a little oil as needed to prevent sticking.
- Add 6 cups of shredded cabbage to the pan and cook for about 3 minutes, or until the cabbage is wilted.
- While the cabbage is cooking, whisk together the minced garlic, ground ginger, soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce and corn starch in a small bowl. Once the cabbage is wilted add it to the pan. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until all of the liquid is absorbed, and then remove the pan from the heat. Allow the mixture to cool for 10-15 minutes before filling the egg rolls.
- To fill the egg rolls add ¼ C of filling to the center of the roll, fold in one corner, lightly wet it by dipping your finger in water, and fold over a second and a third corner. Lightly wet the folded corners again, and then roll the egg roll towards the fourth corner to form a roll.**
- Place each spring roll on a lightly greased baking sheet and lightly brush each one with vegetable oil. Bake in a 400º F oven for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Best served immediately with duck sauce.
**For a photo slideshow on how stuff an egg roll, see this recipe's blog post at SimpleSeasonal.com
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