Gong Xi Fa Cai – it’s holiday time again! One of the largest holidays in the world is happening now – Chinese New Year! I feel lucky to have experienced this festive time in Asia for both Chinese New Year and Vietnam’s Tet in the past. It’s very eye opening to see another culture experience their festive seasons. There were so many new things to learn, but one of the things that fascinated me the most about Chinese New Year was the gifting of oranges.
Mandarin oranges are the most popular and most abundant fruit during Chinese New Year – jin ju – translation: golden tangerine/orange is a homophone of “luck” or “fortune” (吉 jí)
I was visiting my friend Ron, we were in the kitchen of his home talking about his garden and how many oranges he gets on his trees when it is in full ‘bloom’ and I mentioned that it reminds me of Chinese New Year. Ron thinks for a moment and out of the blue says, “ Didn’t you give me an orange challenge once?”
“Huh?” I respond struggling to follow his line of thought.
“Didn’t you write something once about oranges and recipes for oranges that I could come up with?” he continues.
I pause to think, “I sort of remember writing about how in Asia you receive oranges for Chinese New Year but I don’t remember anything to do with you.” I reply perplexed as I try to search my memory for some glimmer of ‘orange challenges’.
Below, from a post I wrote in the past about Chinese New Year:
“You will see oranges everywhere – always in groups of 2 – never alone – you always see them with a ‘buddy’. When you hand them to someone – you always hand them over with two hands and normally say Happy New Year at the same time. Why oranges??? It’s not that they are crazy about orange juice, it’s simply the word for orange sounds similar to the word for wealth…therefore you are wishing prosperity for someone when handing them two oranges. Cyndi and Frank have collected a huge bowl of oranges at this time of year…you really get so many that you can’t even use them all. If there was some way to make pie or brownies out of oranges – maybe we could use them up – but oranges are tough…orange pie is just not popular. Maybe my friend Ron (pastry chef) could whip something up and come to Asia and make it big! I think I just came up with an idea for the Food Network…they should do a special on how to use all of your oranges from Chinese New Year…I’m sure it would be a hit! “
I’m astonished that Ron remembered this post from 6 years ago in which I mention him in a sentence. However there’s a good explanation for this – Ron is not only a good friend, but he’s one of my biggest supporters/fans – next to my mother. If the two of them ever got together there might be an Ottsworld supernova. Plus I get the pleasure of talking to Ron weekly as he’s been organizing my life recently and acting as my administrative assistant to help me run my little travel blogging business. He’s a friend of epic proportions who makes me laugh and smile – and keeps me well fed with his immense kitchen talent!
So – the challenge was back on.
Oranges – what do you do when you have a whole bunch of oranges left over from Chinese New Year? Or in Ron’s case, you have an orange tree in your back yard?
Since Chinese New Year is currently happening and I can imagine that many people are looking at their bowl of oranges that they can’t re-gift and wondering what they will do with them all. Ron has come up with a solution – a complete meal based on the core ingredient of oranges! I knew that if there was anyone who could solve this problem it would be Ron.
For the next month as his orange tree left him a bountiful supply to experiment with, Ron would work on various recipes and email me with updates of things that worked and things that didn’t. My three requirements were that the recipes had to be easy enough for the average person to make, you had to be able to find the ingredients easily, and preferably there should be minimal need for an oven since in Asia few people actually have ovens.
Ron’s Special Post Chinese New Year Orange Menu:
- Ginger Orange Glazed Duck and Spiced Opah
- Carrot Orange Soup
- Orange Cranberry Tapioca Dessert