It is Chinese New Year today and all around the Islands you can hear and see people wishing each other a Happy New Year with the greeting, "Kung Hee Fat Choy!"
I sometimes I think my mom secretly wanted to be born Chinese, she even told us that she wanted to marry a Chinese chef (in front of my Dad even!)...when we were younger, she used to make baked manapua (char siu bao) for us and for Chinese New Year, she makes gau. Gau is the Chinese version of mochi (rice cake), except that it is made with mochiko(sweet rice flour), dark brown sugar, water and a little oil. (well, that is how she makes it anyway)
First she melted the brown sugar sticks.
Then with all the ingredients mixed together, she steamed them in a steamer. When we were younger, I remember she used to make it in a pressure cooker and you could hear the cooker making that "shucka-shucka-shoo" noise as it cooked.
When it comes out it is still watery, so don't cover it with foil or plastic wrap, instead just put it into a brown paper bag to "dry". If you don't do this, you'll see mold form on it faster than you can say "kung hee fat choy".
Then top each one with a red date (I think she said it is called a hung jo) and some sesame seeds. (When I was still working, one of my Chinese-American friends once told my mom that she makes gau better than some Chinese ladies...he got gau from her every year after that.)
Usually, you can't eat the gau right away because it is too soft. After about two days, the gau firms up and is just the right texture to cut and eat. Some people use grated yam and some people coconut. All the variations are delicious!
We had some dim sum the other day for lunch from Chun Wah Kam. A huge steamed char siu bao or manapua as we call it in Hawaii, pork hash and Hong Kong noodles. Delicious and filling.
I really miss manapua, the Japanese have something called nikuman, but it just doesn't taste the same. I think it is because our char siu is sweeter than the Japanese char siu.
The year of the Rat is the beginning of the Lunar cycle. Let's hope this year will be a good one all around!
Kung Hee Fat Choy!