It is Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year for the PC 😉 ) in 5 days, and there are probably a bunch of posts about ‘traditional Chinese New Year foods’.  My family has never really followed any traditions, and I don’t remember a set menu of dishes we ate every year for New Year. The closest thing to traditional is probably my grandma’s ba bao fan (8 treasure sticky rice). You can almost always count on PoPo to make her KILLER ba bao fan for any large food gathering :d Eep, thinking about makes me want to make it, too…

Anyway, I believe that tradition has it that you should make a whole fish (or is it two?) to eat in celebration for Chinese New Year, because it is supposed to symbolize surplus or prosperity (年年有餘) – nian nian you yu, which more or less means ‘may every year have surplus’. Yu for surplus and yu for fish are homophones, so I think that’s where the fish comes from!

I think that you are supposed to cook a whole fish, so if you are looking for that, might I suggest some lovely steamed fish? But, this braised fish dish is one of my absolute favorites, so maybe you should buck tradition and cut your fish up this year =O Hopefully I don’t get my Chinese card taken away for saying that.

This is one of my favorite everyday dishes my mom used to make (I know, I know- they’re all favorites, aren’t they), and I have fond memories of picking out all the soft pieces of garlic and mixing them up rice, fish, and more sauce.  My mom made a lot of variations of hong shao  when we were growing up, and this hong shao yu is a way to get hong shao on the table relatively fast. This may not be the prettiest dish out there, but it is proof that it’s what’s on the inside that counts!

I realize that southern California is not like most of the rest of the US, and realize it more and more as I am NOT in southern California, where Chinese supermarkets are indeed, SUPER markets. Anyway, if you have the luxury to be near Chinese/Asian SUPERmarkets and they happen to sell bone-in catfish  or other firm white fish pieces, get them! I believe they are the remnants leftover after the fishmongers have butchered (?) the fish into filets and such. They are a great candidate for this dish, because the fish needs to be cut up anyway.

hong shao yu Continue reading