The timing of the Chinese New Year is always based on a combination of solar and lunar movements. This year, the celebration begins with the new moon on February 18 and, in keeping with tradition, ends with the full moon 15 days later.
There are several foods that historically represent positive aspects of a Chinese New Year celebration. Lotus seeds imply the promise of male offspring; gingko nuts, silver ingots; and black moss seaweed, wealth. These foods can be difficult to find in American markets, so the stir-fry below includes other ingredients that are nonetheless popular in Chinese cooking. One warning, however: bean curd, or tofu, is never included in a Chinese New Year menu because white represents death and misfortune.
Pork tenderloin is an extremely lean cut of meat, and this recipe mirrors the proportions of the traditional Chinese diet, with lots of vegetables and just a little animal protein, around three ounces per serving. Ginger, so popular in Chinese cooking, contains health-protective phytochemicals and is also believed to help relieve nausea, motion sickness and certain digestive ailments.
There was a time not so long ago when “bell pepper” automatically meant green ones. The popularity and availability today of different colored bell peppers has boosted the eye appeal of dishes like this one. While this stir-fry is delicious with rice or pasta, if you serve it with noodles, you’ll be including one of the traditional Chinese New Year ingredients that symbolize a long life.
Apple and Pork Stir-Fry with Ginger - Makes 4 servings.
2 Tbsp. peach jam, (preferably fruit sweetened)
2 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp. water
1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp. dark toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. finely-minced fresh ginger root
8 oz. pork tenderloin, cut into very thin strips
1 1/2 tsp. canola oil
1/2 cup scallions, thinly sliced, diagonally
1 each red, green and yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 can (8 oz.) sliced water chestnuts, rinsed, drained and chopped
2 Fuji or Gala apples, cored and seeded but unpeeled, cut in bite-size pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, if desired
2 cups steamed brown rice, whole-wheat angel hair pasta, or Asian rice or egg noodles
In small bowl, combine jam, soy sauce, water and cornstarch. Set aside. In large skillet, heat sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add ginger and pork. Sauté, stirring constantly, until pork turns color, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
Add canola oil to skillet. Stir-fry peppers and scallions until peppers are crisp- tender, about 3 minutes. Add water chestnuts and apples, and return the pork back to skillet. Sauté 30 seconds. Re-stir jam mixture and blend into stir-fry. Reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce thickens, about 30 seconds.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve over brown rice, whole- wheat angel hair pasta, or noodles.
Per serving: 351 calories, 8 g. total fat (2 g. saturated fat), 54 g. carbohydrate, 17 g. protein, 10 g. dietary fiber, 349 mg. sodium.
“Something Different” is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.
AICR’s Nutrition Hotline is a free service that allows you to ask a registered dietitian questions about diet, nutrition and cancer. Access it online at www.aicr.org/hotline or by phone (1-800-843-8114) 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday-Friday. AICR is the only major cancer charity focused exclusively on the link between diet, nutrition and cancer. It provides education programs that help Americans learn to make changes for lower cancer risk. AICR also supports innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities, hospitals and research centers. It has provided more than $82 million for research in diet, nutrition and cancer. AICR’s Web address is www.aicr.org.