Gung Hay Fat Choy – Happy Chinese New Year everyone!
Although a great excuse to head down to your city’s Chinatown for some Dim Sum, Chinese New Year is also a celebration of the beginning of spring after a long dreary winter, and a time to get together with family and friends and then complain about the weather. Children are taught to be on their best behaviour, particularly on the first day of the new year, as they are told that what happens that first day, whether in action or in thought, will decide the course of the year. This is a nice and refreshing change from the typical North American tradition, where January 1st usually begins with a hangover and two Aspirin.
The great thing about the Chinese New Year is that it doesn’t carry with it the same burden or pressure for self improvement, with lists of resolutions and tiresome commitments. This means no new gym memberships. No vices to break. No need to stop swearing while I drive, to cease biting my nails, or to refrain from drinking directly from the milk carton. Already this is a holiday that I’m warming up to.
To celebrate the Year of the Rabbit, I cooked and ate my first rabbit ever. I also went snowboarding for the first time and stayed mostly on the bunny slopes, though admittedly the connection with the Chinese zodiac is a bit of a stretch. In attempt to recognize the tradition at home, I decided to create my own fortune, by inserting prophetic pearls of wisdom inside homemade fortune cookies that looked close enough to the ones brought out on the bill tray at Don Mees. To carry on the tradition that was always used in my family, don’t forget to use the words “in bed” after reading your fortune aloud.
May the Year of the Rabbit bring you good fortune, happiness…and no gym memberships.
Makes enough for 10 fortune cookies
Cooking and preparation time: 45 minutes
4 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
3 tbsp vegetable oil
8 tbsp flour
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp water
1/2 tsp salt
7 tbsp sugar
1. Write out 10 fortunes on a piece of paper, on 3 inch long strips.
2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
3. Beat the egg whites in a bowl using a whisk, then add the oil and vanilla and almond extract.
4. Pour in the dry ingredients and continue whisking together. Then add water and stir until of a smooth consistency.
5. On a greased baking sheet, place drops of batter (about 2 tbsp) onto the baking sheet, spaced 3 inches apart. Although you can probably fit 6 on each sheet, start off with only 2 at a time for the first few rounds until you get the hang of it. Tilt the baking sheet slowly back and forth and side to side until the batter spreads out a little bit more, keeping its circular shape though roughly 4 inches in diameter.
6. Bake for 15 minutes. Immediately after removing from the oven flip each round with a spatula and begin working fast before they begin to harden. You’ll have about a minute altogether before they start to crack when shaped. Place the paper fortune on the middle of the cookie round and fold the cookie in half. Then bend the folded part of the cookie over the rim of a glass or the tip of the spatula.
7. Place the folded cookie into a glass in order to keep its shape for 5 minutes or so while it cools and hardens. It can be tricky to get the shape just right, so don’t worry if you have to cheat and just fold the cookie into quarters, which does the trick and still tastes great.
**Note that the cookie will be very hot in your hands as you manipulate it. You may want to wear cooking gloves in order not to burn the fingerprints off of you – unless you’re planning a bank heist and have an ulterior motive.