I am a unicorn, an American child that lived in Hong Kong as a kid. I only know of one other person who had this opportunity and he is from the UK so we bonded over this unique, shared experience.
Because of my background, I tend to make a big of a fuss over Chinese New Year. This year is Year of the Ox which I take as a good sign because in Chinese culture the ox is a valued animal, calm and hard working, trust worthy and gentle. These are all attributes we could use right about now.
We don’t go out to eat during Chinese New year but I do like to try my hand at making a real Chinese meal, especially during Chinese New Year. This is because my local Chinese take out restaurant is slam packed during this time and frankly, take out isn’t very inexpensive or frugal as food goes. This I find ironic given that most ingredients to making Chinese food are very frugal indeed. Rice, bits of leftover meat and vegetables…these are all frugal ingredients if ever there were. Thus, I try and make a fuss and pull out the culinary stops which means more effort and less money spent. I save a couple of chicken thighs from another meal project and cut them up along with some chunks of pork and freeze both until the day comes. They make the perfect protein for orange chicken and sweet and sour pork. I try and sideline a slice of ham because while I prefer white rice, my partner likes fried rice which relies on diced onion, ham, bits of colorful peppers and a single egg. Either way, rice costs mere pennies to make. For a side dish, I pull whatever veggies I have in the crisper and stir fry them up, usually broccoli and carrots which I always seem to have on hand. My only cheat are the frozen spring rolls or pot stickers that I buy on sale and keep in handy in the freezer. This makes for a frugal yet festive celebration and no spending a fortune for local take out. I have yet to master honey walnut prawns so that they taste the way my local Chinese restaurant makes the dish but I am working on it.
In the meantime, a little celebration and a New Year, The Year of the Ox, seems like a really good thing. And frugal too.