Today we are celebrating Lunar New Year, and the Year of the Monkey with a delicious belly stuffed rainbow trout. Lunar New Year, often called Chinese New Year is celebrated all over Asia, and all over the world via the Asian diaspora. It is a time for families to get to together, for the exchanging of gifts and of course food.
I read this article in Serious Eats recently and as soon as I read that whole fish was a common item at Lunar New Year dinners I knew exactly what I wanted to cook. I have been waiting for an occasion to make Sabrina Ghayour’s Belly Stuffed Rainbow Trout for AGES and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. Fish is considered lucky for New Year, particularly at the Reunion (New Year’s Eve) Feast because the word for carp sounds like the words for good luck and gift.
Now I know some of you might be a bit freaked out by cooking / serving a whole fish. And believe me, I used to be right there with you. If you do not like the idea of a whole fish, you could certainly pan fry or bake fillets of rainbow trout and serve with the stuffing mixture. However, in Chinese symbolism a whole fish represents togetherness and abundance.
But first, let’s talk Chinese Astrology. We are about to enter the Year of The Monkey. Famous people born in Monkey years include Leonardo Da Vinci, Elizabeth Taylor, George Lucas, Charles Dickens, and Lord Byron. Gillian Anderson is also a Monkey. Dragging that list down a notch or two from the great and the good, other monkeys are Miley Cyrus and me!
What can you expect in the Year of The Monkey?
It is a year to act, to innovate and to take your destiny into your own hands. However, the recklessness of the monkey also cautions us to think before we act so do not be too hasty in making decisions. Setting clear goals is important this year. The monkey is also a sociable creature so this is a good year to nurture and expand your relationships with those around you.
Belly Stuffed Rainbow Trout
I guess I should have made something a bit more Asian to celebrate however Sabrina Ghayour’s recipe for belly stuffed rainbow trout is delicious at any time of the year! Incidentally a rainbow trout is the only fish I have ever actually caught for myself.
The fussiest eater in the world is a keen fisherman (yet curiously cannot eat anything he catches; he just throws them back). A few years ago we rented a holiday house in the mountains and one afternoon set out to go berry picking. Well the berry farm was closed but the trout farm was open. He went to the most difficult area and started catching fish left, right and centre. I was content to read my book but, seeing how easy it looked said that I would have a go. Well. We slowly moved from the most difficult to the next most difficult to the next most difficult, ending up in what was basically a wading pool. The four year olds (who were the only other people using this pond) and I eventually caught our fish. Then I cried because I felt bad about killing something. But my rationale was “If I’m going to kill something then I ‘m damn well going to eat it” so we stopped on the way home and bought some almonds and I made us a lovely Trout Almandine for dinner.
He refused to eat it. Which resulted in a blazing row where the phrase “I killed a fish for you. How can you not eat it?” and variations there of were thrown around the room. Miraculously his piece of trout stayed in the pan and not over his head!
Lesson learned. This time, we bought a trout.
The stuffing is a very tasty and gorgeously colourful mix of spring onions, pine nuts, garlic, chilli, coriander and preserved lemons.
Sabrina’s recipe for Belly Stuffed Rainbow Trout can be found here.
My notes on this recipe were that even though I halved the stuffing ingredients because I was only cooking one trout I still had a lot of it left over.
This is not really an issue as it is totally delicious and I had the following ideas for the remainder:
- Scatter over cooked vegetables
- Add a little olive oil and toss through pasta, maybe with some crispy breadcrumbs
- Serve on flatbread crisps with a dob of hummus as an appetizer
- Stir through rice for a pilaf effect
- Sprinkle onto mushrooms and grill.
Or you could just do what I did and just eat it by the spoonful while waiting for the fish to cook!
Orange & Arugula Salad
To serve with my Belly Stuffed Rainbow Trout, I made a very simple orange, black olive and rocket (arugula) salad. Citrus fruits are a symbol of prosperity, good luck and abundance and lettuce symbolises spring. So, despite not having Asian flavours my salad has come celebratory significance.
It’s almost too easy to call a recipe but here we go:
- 100g rocket / arugula
- 1 orange
- handful of black olives
- 1 tbsp orange juice
- 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Place the rocket in a salad bowl.
- Segment the orange removing all peel and pith. Do this over a bowl so you catch the juice - this can be used for the dressing
- Toss in a handful of black olives
- Mix the orange juice, lemon juice, olive oil and seasoning to taste.
- When ready to serve pour over the salad
- Chopped toasted walnuts or pistachios
- Toasted pinenuts
- Pomegranate seeds
- Thinly sliced fennel
- Thinly sliced red onion
- A smattering of feta
- Some tarragon leaves
Some other lucky foods to serve at Lunar New Year include:
- Spring rolls represent gold bars
- Celery for wisdom
- Plums for mental acuity
- Dumplings for wealth
- Long Noodles for a long life.
My work is celebrating tomorrow with a yum-cha lunch. Bring on the dumplings!
Lunar New Festivals will continue until 22 February so you have plenty of time to join in the celebrations.
Just for fun, I took some fortune cookies to a family dinner and we all chose one to pick our fortune for lunar new year. This was mine:
If you are celebrating Lunar New Year, or even if you are not, you are all my garden of roses and I wish you all a year of joy and abundance!
Have a wonderful week. I’m off to eat my weight in dumplings!