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being Chinese, being me (long post)

Recipe: rui tsai (lucky ten ingredient vegetable)

Chinese New Year fast approaches and it is time to prepare for the festivities which almost always revolve around food. When I was growing up in Southern Virginia, I hated being Chinese because I looked different from everyone else. We ate food that was completely foreign to my friends. My parents spoke to (yelled at) me in Chinese in front of my friends and I just wanted to disappear. I endured plenty of teasing and bullying because, well… kids are assholes. I did everything in my power to avoid being seen in public with my parents. I wanted so badly to be Not Me.

I won’t bore you with my path to accepting my identity, but once I was there and donned my status as an ABC (American Born Chinese) you couldn’t stop me. Happiness comes from within and baby, I got it. That’s not to say that living the balance between western and eastern cultures is easy, but I’ve come to embrace what I used to reject as a child. Okay, I could do without the constant *guilt* in the never-ending quest to be a Good Chinese Daughter, but otherwise I have to say my Chinese culture enriches my life and I’m glad for it.

Which leads me to the food and superstitions and traditions. There is a veritable boat load of foods you eat for the Lunar New Year and each one means something! I am probably familiar with a mere fraction of them. My family does a giant hot pot filled with ingredients that all signify good things: money, health, happiness, luck, promotion, success, more money… You get the idea. Dumplings, as I’ve mentioned before, are supposed to represent money and in some instances having sons, but let’s not go there. Tofu is luck. Rice cake means a “higher” (better) year. A whole fish means happy starts and endings (head and tail, get it?). Eat something sweet first thing on New Year’s Day so sweet things come out of your mouth all year (I can hear the guffaws of all of my friends…). And there is a lucky ten ingredient vegetable dish called rui tsai. Ten is the lucky number. Eat this dish and all good things will come to you in the new year.

My mom has been making her rui tsai for years. She would bag some up and mail it to me each year before Chinese New Year. Of course, she is Chinese so there is no way she’s going to pay to ship it express. She sent it each year via our crappy US Postal Service and it usually ended up arriving anywhere from 3 to 10 days later. I’m a scientist by training and I happen to understand a lot about food safety. Each year this little package arrived in my mailbox, I felt as if I was playing Russian Roulette. See, under normal circumstances I would toss it in the trash, but my mom put so much effort into making the dish and “mailing” it to me so that I would have “good luck” all year… I felt this strong obligation to have a nibble in spite of potential hospitalization. Jeremy would always stand there watching me with my internal struggle while my chopsticks were poised over the gaping maw of the Ziploc bag. The vegetables were lovely and smelled not toxic, but – I was afraid. Obviously, I have lived to tell the tale year after year.

After last year’s repeat of fearing for my life eating week-old “lucky” ten ingredient vegetable, I swore that I would make the damn dish myself and be done with this ridiculous ritual.

But first, there is another tradition in my family of eating long noodles (not broken) on your birthday for long life. My birthday was in September. In mid-September I found a little lump in my left breast. I have neither lumpy nor huge boobies, and so it was quite obvious. I waited a few weeks to see if it would go away or if I should see my doctor. In the meantime, I completely forgot to eat noodles on my birthday. I panicked the next day when I realized I had forgotten, but the logical part of my brain (90%) said it was okay – calm down. The 10% was saying, “You are so boned!” My doctors were sure I was fine, I’m 36 after all, healthy, no prior medical problems… “Sure, go ahead and sign up for your ski program.” And then one evening in November, my surgeon called to tell me that my results were positive for cancer. Thus began this curious road I find myself on today. I know it has nothing to do with those damned noodles, but you see what these ridiculous superstitions can do to a person, or to me.

That is another reason why I decided to make rui tsai this year. My chemotherapy has rendered me immuno-compromised among many other things. Eating week-old rui tsai from my well-meaning mother is Out.Of.The.Question. She was so desperate that she even offered to FedEx the vegetables to me. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if after all of this, the thing that does me in is stir-fried “lucky” vegetables? I was worried though, because my first ten days after chemo were pretty narsty (for those who only report nausea – that’s great, have a lolly) and for a couple of days I couldn’t nibble a cracker without racking my insides. How could I possibly get the groceries and cook for the New Year? Luckily, I seem to have bounced back just in time for the Chinese New Year (and for my ski program!). At first I thought I was making the rui tsai because of that 10% of my brain, but really, I think the 90% agrees that the best thing to do is go on living life and kicking ass when you can.

count em, ten

It isn’t really ten vegetables, but ten vegetarian ingredients because tofu is one of my ingredients. I’m missing soybean sprouts, which are some of my favorites. No one in Boulder carries them and my best bet was to drive into Denver, but… the beauty of the ten ingredient dish is that you can substitute another vegetable. I asked my mom if green onions were okay as I had recalled seeing them listed in other versions and she said no. For some reason, according to my grandma, green onions are not okay. I should have known better than to ask why. She said it’s because green onions are hollow (kong) which is bad luck. So I countered that tiger lily buds are hollow. “No they’re not,” my mom replied. “Yes they are.” “Just don’t use green onions.” I bagged on driving into Denver for soybean sprouts and opted for some mediocre looking snow peas from Whole Paycheck Foods. My ten ingredients: Chinese mushrooms, tree ears, bamboo shoots, Chinese pickled cucumbers (slightly sweet and salty – not like dill pickles), dried tofu, tiger lily buds, shredded carrots, cabbage, snow peas, and pickled ginger (I used some Japanese gari – what you eat at sushi bars – unless you are Graeme).

dried tree ears

The tiny black square in the first picture is an amazingly compact package of dried tree ears. This photo is really for Christine’s benefit. Most of the time when you buy dried tree ears (wood ears, tree fungus, whatever you call it) they are loose in a bag and full of sand and tough woody segments. Pain in the butt to clean after rehydrating. But my grandma buys a certain brand (I think it may be Vietnamese?) that is not only incredibly compact, but when the tree ears are rehydrated, they blossom into lovely whole ears with nary a speck of dirt or woody undesirable parts. One day I will identify the brand.

beautiful tree ears

The first step is to rehydrate whatever dried ingredients you are using. In my case, I had Chinese black mushrooms, tree ears, and tiger lily buds. Once those are under hot water, you can address the carrots. Part of the time-consuming nature of this dish is my mom’s treatment of the carrots. She doesn’t like the shredded carrots to get soggy, so after shredding the carrots, she sprinkles about 1/2 teaspoon of salt over them and lets them sit for 5 minutes. Then she squeezes out as much juice as she can and sprinkles the carrot shreds onto a baking sheet. She told me to do this, so I did.

shredded, salted, squozen carrots

I baked the carrots in a 350F oven and stirred them about every 5 minutes. The first try of 15 minutes was too long and I got crispy carrot fries. The second try of 10 minutes worked just fine, preserving the lovely orange color. While you are waiting for drying carrots or rehydrating ingredients, you can start slicing the other items. Since everything is getting julienned I would recommend having a really good and sharp knife. Some good motor coordination helps too.

my sharpest knife makes lovely slices of the snow peas

This Kyocera ceramic knife was a gift from my parents. They called me three times to rave about it before they shipped it to me and requested a photo of it in use on a tomato. Turns out they got a big one for themselves and this mid-size for me. I love it. It is soooo sharp and works like a dream. Very dangerous. Also very fragile (brittle). Not to be used as a cleaver, ‘kay? When the dried ingredients are ready, wash them and squeeze them as dry as you can. The tiger lily buds have a woody end that should be cut off.

remove the woody end of the tiger lily buds

The dried tofu cakes can be found in most Asian markets. I like to slice them into thirds, like a layer cake, which requires a sharp knife. Then I stack them and slice them into strips.

dried tofu

My mom didn’t give me any measurements, but my general guideline was about 1/2 to 1 cup of everything. The pickled ginger and pickled Chinese cucumber were closer to 1/2 cup and the cabbage was almost 1 cup since it shrinks so much during cooking.

the mise en place takes the longest

When you are done slicing everything, each ingredient is supposed to be sautéed in a little vegetable oil and a shake of salt – separately. So I had a large bowl next to my sauté pan and stir-fried each ingredient and dumped it into the bowl until they were all done.


mix the ingredients together

It’s a really refreshing and crunchy vegetable dish regardless of the implications for the Lunar New Year. Slightly gingery and tangy, it is satisfying to eat. I do prefer the soybean sprouts over the snow peas, although the snow peas lend a lovely bright green color to the dish. Maybe I could trade out the cabbage for the sprouts. In any case, it’s done and so I’m hoping I have my bases covered for the year of Rat!

rui tsai : everything your heart desires

Rui Tsai (Lucky Ten Ingredient Vegetables)
[print recipe]

1/2 cup Chinese black mushrooms, stems removed and julienned
1/2 cup tree ears, julienned
1/2 cup tiger lily buds, cut into 2-inch strips with woody stem removed
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, julienned
1/2 cup dried tofu, julienned
1 cup carrots, shredded
1/2 cup snow peas, julienned
1/2 cup pickled ginger, squeezed dry and julienned
1/2 cup pickled cucumber (Chinese style), squeezed dry and julienned
1 cup cabbage, shredded (although I prefer soybean sprouts)

Preheat oven to 350F. If your mushrooms, tree ears, and lily buds are not fresh, then place the dried ingredients in separate bowls and cover with boiling water and let sit until soft (about 30 minutes). Wash them of any sand and squeeze the water out. Trim stems as needed and slice into strips. While waiting for the dried ingredients to rehydrate, shred two carrots. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of salt over the shredded carrots and let sit for 5 minutes. Squeeze the liquid out of the carrots and the sprinkle them over a baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, stir the carrots around, and then bake another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. When all of the vegetables are sliced, heat a teaspoon of vegetable oil in a sauté pan and stir-fry one of the ingredients with a dash of salt. When it is cooked, remove it to a large bowl. Repeat for each ingredient, adding each to the bowl. When all cooking is done, toss the vegetables together and serve at room temperature.

43 nibbles at “being Chinese, being me (long post)”

  1. Tian says:

    i like this long post ( :

    after moving from Malaysia to be an Aussie expat, I find myself embracing my Chinese traditions more? It kinda sucks to be away from my family this CNY, but I’m determined to at least visit a Chinese temple, not clean the hse tomorrow (that’s easy), get a new top to wear and some flowers for the hse, be vegetarian on the first day and start it off by munching some sweet & round.

    here’s to good health and plenty of happiness! gong xi gong xi

  2. manggy says:

    Happy Chinese New Year Jen! I would try to say it in Chinese but I won’t out of fear of appearing stupid. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: yeah, kids are stupid :) I love them but they are, heh.
    That knife looks gorge, but I think I’ll be too distressed sharpening it and watching it whittle away, haha!
    Very colorful dish! One ingredient really stands out– the tiger lily buds. I had no idea they were edible. :)

  3. peabody says:

    Well I have crazy hockey superstitions so I totally understand!
    Let me start off by saying that I am a rat…so this is my year. And since this is my year nothing bad can happen to me or my friends and family. And since you are my friend, nothing more bad is going to happen to you!!! It’s my year(my husband is already tired of hearing this).
    As a fellow immuno-compromised person, I think your choice to skip your mom’s mailed 10 ingredient was a wise choice.
    Happy New Year Jen!

  4. linda says:

    Happy New Year! Loved the long post, especially the part about your mum requesting a picture of the knife in use lol!

  5. Nicisme says:

    You got me howling with laughter at your mum sending you her rui tsai by (slow) post!
    And there’s not many kids that want to be seen with their parents in public – my teenagers walk at least 8ft behind me when we are out.
    Happy New Year!

  6. Christine says:

    Jen – I think I could read this post over and over – especially the part about embracing what we once rejected as children; nothing could be more true. What a cool dish this is! My friend Bing makes a similar one using bean curd sheets, it’s healthy and so delicious. And thank you for the tree ear photo! I will be on the lookout for it – I’ve actually never seen it compacted like that.

    Aside from your beautiful photos (that I greatly covet and lust after), I come to your blog because of ya wicked sense of humor :) – in good and difficult times. Happy New Year to you both!

  7. Amy says:

    I read your blog every week, and I have to say you are my hero! You have such a wonderful outlook on life. Not to mention a kick ass chef and photographer. You deserve only the best. 2008 promises to a great year, and I wish you heath and happiness!!

  8. Bridget says:

    Wow those are a whole bunch of beautiful pictures. I especially love the julienned snow peas. I love how you julienne all of your food (same with the moo shu); unfortunately, my knives aren’t that sharp and it’s a huge pain in the ass for me to do.

    That does not seem like the kind of dish that would ship well. Yikes.

    You certainly deserve a better year. I’m glad you’re feeling better, and I hope you have a great time skiing.

  9. Jenn says:

    Jen – Happy New Year to you!

    I have been reading your blog for a while now and just wanted to say that I am so inspired by your passion for life (and food!). Your photos are gorgeous and I really enjoyed reading about how you are embracing your heritage while making your own, new traditions!

    Best wishes for a year filled with luck, love, health and happiness!

    Jenn – Richmond, VA

  10. Amanda says:

    Happy Chinese New year to you too! I am also an ABC (American Born Chinese) and I agree with ya, it’s a bit of a struggle. Guilt about trying hard to be the perfect chinese daughter is constant, but I think that I am finding my way. Hopefully your year is filled with health and happiness. I can’t wait to dig into all the great food coming up.

  11. Shell says:

    Jen- I am so glad that you are feeling well enough to cook. I am wishing you a wonderful Year of the Rat – filled with Health, Happiness, Love and Luck!
    I think I may try to make this soon!

  12. Chuck says:

    Happy New Year Jen! Thanks for sharing your food, life and wit with us. I completely understand your childhood angst about being Chinese in American culture. I had similar feelings growing up Vietnamese in Allentown, PA. But once you accept who you are, a whole new world is available to enjoy and explore. I wish I would have done it sooner.

    Anyway, thanks for the pictures of the wood ears. We always buy the loose bag of dried mushrooms with woody sections… no more!

  13. Stickygooeycreamychewy says:

    Happy New Year Jen! I know that this one will be a great one for you. You will beat the beast! I am just so sorry that you are having to suffer.

    I loved this post, and I can relate. When I was 11, my family moved us from our protective ethnic cocoon in NYC to Florida Cracker country. I’ll never forget feeling so lost as the only black-haired, brown-eyed, “Eyetalian” girl in a sea of blue-eyed blondes! You’re right. Kids are assholes. It took me a long time to not give a crap and embrace who I was. It’s an ongoing process.

    I am just swooning over your photos! They are beyond gorgeous. If I lived near you, I’d be on you like white on rice trying to learn how you do it!

    Take care.

  14. Sindy says:

    I am so glad to hear you are feeling a bit better! I don’t know if you have ever seen Gilmore Girls.But when you talk about growing up and your culture I always think about it. The interactions between Lane and her Mother were always one of my favorite parts. Her Mother at first glance always seemed such a tyrant and her constant forcing of her culture and traditions on her daughter boderline cruel (but very funny) . But in the end the teaching and practice of their culture was so much a profession of love for her daughter and how she wanted her life to be “right”. I believe it is a parents job to “force” our beliefs,morals, traditions on our children and it is the child’s job to fight it tooth and nail. But when the chips are down we revert back to those things and take comfort realizing how rich our lives are because of it.

  15. ashley says:

    i updated with a post on my blog about chinese new year as well! i completely understand where you come from. my mother is chinese and my dad is american. for the most part i look far more white than i do chinese. but i didn’t look like all the blonde headed blue eyed kids in elementary school, and nobody was called ‘jie jieh’ in public. now that i’ve grown up, i love the fact that i have a chinese heritage.

    and the guilt of being a good daughter… that’s never going to go away is it? :-) actually it seems to get worse! anyway, best wishes for the new year!

  16. jen says:

    hey Jen, I am a relatively new reader and am de-lurking to heap you with compliments on your beautiful site. I love your attitude toward food, I share your love of sandwiches and agree that life’s problems can generally be solved by a steaming bowl of hot noodle soup. thank you for sharing your amazing photography and delicious-sounding recipes – I am completely hooked! it’s so funny, now that I live by myself and a plane ride away from my mom’s home-cooked Korean food I find myself wishing that I’d paid more attention growing up… I think part of the reason I’m so lost now is that cooking was always something she did out of love for us, meaning that our roles in the cooking were pretty minimal.

    anyway, glad you are feeling better – keep writing and keep cooking!

  17. tom says:

    i found your website after looking for info on chinese grocery stores in denver and quickly added you to my RSS feeder. you should be able to find bean sprouts in boulder without any problems: i’ve bought them here at both safeway and whole foods. thanks for sharing such a great looking site.


  18. Annemarie says:

    Gung hay fat choy (how’s my accent?). Wishing you all the best for the new year and for it to bring a surge of healthiness and happiness. You’re knife is, indeed, one sexy beast – you can tell your mom that I’m jealous and wish she’d send me one. :)

  19. Kevin says:

    Rui tsai looks nice and tasty though it sounds like a bit of work. Happy New Year.

  20. Kalyn says:

    I do hope the lucky vegetables will bring you luck as you face your health challenges right now. I find it very inspiring to see how you’re honoring your family traditions, even though you may not be feeling the best right now. Great post.

  21. Susan says:

    Shen Nian Kwai Le! I love CNY and the feast that goes with it new year’s eve. We celebrated a few days ago and we had long life (noodles), laughter (shrimp), abundance for the year (fish), prosperity (“hairy” vegetable dish), and more things than I can explain. It was delish! Tomorrow, we’ll start the day with a vegetarian meal and some sweets. My 6-year old will actually get to enjoy her red envelopes this year – I don’t know if she understood the significance in year’s past. The other 2 still have a few years yet. As always, thank you. The year of the Rat is the first of the zodiac – new cycle, new beginning! The BEST for a healthy and happy new year as you deserve!

  22. jen! says:

    Kung Hei Fat Choi! I’m also an ABC (and minored in Asian American Studies), so I am on the same page as you re: bridging the cultural gap. That’s why I love Chinese New Year! It’s an opportunity for everyone to get together, and for some of us to tell others about our traditions and customs. (Some people have no idea how MUCH superstition means to us!)

    Keep happy and healthy Jen! You rock so hard!

  23. kelley says:

    Oh, this dish looks beautiful.

    How do you sharpen your ceramic knife? I have two that I loved when I first got them, but now they’re terribly dull.

    Wishing you all good things for the New Year!

  24. Rosa says:

    Happy Chinese New Year! That dish looks very colorful and wonderful!



  25. Food Rockz Man says:

    Happy New Year, Jen. I loved the post. Your rui tsai looks delicious. I have a very dear ABC friend (ex-gf) . . . and I nearly wet myself reading about your conversation with your mother about the green onions . . . but only after I was moved in another direction by your recounting of your relationship with your ethnicity in your younger years . . . both of which reminded me instantly of my friend, who grew up in very White upstate NY. Thanks for sharing. I wish you nothing but health and happiness in the new year!

  26. Cakespy says:

    Gosh, what a lovely and well thought out post. About Chinese New Year and food…It was wonderful to get some of the meaning and see the process, and the rui tsai looks wonderful!

  27. michelle says:

    the post and the pictures were both beautiful; that mis-en-place was incredible.

    i’m not ABC, but i am ABI (american-born-italian), which has its own whole set of issues and childhood embarrassments. your lovely post makes me want to skip tonight’s smackdownand go home to cook something my mom would have made.

    i drank a lot of green tea and took shark cartilage pills to get through chemo, at my mom’s insistence. i don’t know if it did anything, but i was one of those easy-chemo folks.

    also, happy new year!

  28. Jonathan Chu says:

    I don’t know which dialect you speak so i’ll just Happy Chinese New Year!

    Wow! I found your site looking for petits flour to make for my wife for valentine’s day. Not only did i find your recipe but i also have been sucked into your site for the past hour now. We have multiple things in common (i.e. Nikonians, bloggers, lovers of cooking and food – my wife knits and is not chinese, i love labs but can’t afford one right now, love the outdoors, passion for Macs but same boat as lab…could keep going), but you’ve done a much better way of presenting your loves to the world than i have. I’ve been reluctantly holding back on starting my own site but this might have been the push i needed to start it.

    This was a great post on this traditional Chinese dish. I will definitely have to attempt it someday along with a book full of other Chinese recipes that i’ve been meaning to try. I have a plethora of those food memories tucked away in the back of my brain, waiting to be unleashed to whatever unsuspecting soul may be near me so that others may share in the way of insanity we ABC’s endured growing up.

    Thank you for your work and your passion for your arts. Keep us updated on the cancer. Will be back to peruse the rest of your recipes and your photos!

    Jonathan Chu
    Memphis, TN

  29. Steph F. says:

    Happy Chinese New Year! I hope you have a wonderful year. Your attitude toward life and adversity is amazing. The only downside to reading this post was now I’m craving Chinese food! :)

  30. Lynn says:

    Happy Chinese New Year! May you find health, happiness, and peace. I really enjoy you blog and the beautiful pictures!

  31. Aimei says:


    First time visiting your blog. Thanks for all the sharing of your experiences, thoughts and of course not to mention the well described dishes. Photos says it all. Wish you a Happy Lunar New Year!

  32. felecia says:

    Happy Chinese New Year!

    Oh my Gosh- reading this post, made me cry because I was laughing at the same memories of my parents they also spoke to (yelled at) me but it was in Spanish and English. I am American Born Mexican and Filipino – I always thought I had a hearing problem! lol
    Sending you and Jeremy Happy Thoughts:)

  33. jenyu says:

    Tian – gong xi gong xi to you too!

    Mark – gong xi fa tsai! You never have to worry about appearing stupid in front of me since my Chinese isn’t perfect ;) Tiger lily buds… that’s the translation – I don’t know what they actually are, so please don’t go looking for tiger lilies and harvesting the buds just in case they make you sick or something – hee hee.

    Peabody – ohhhh, you are the best, lady. Thanks for the blanket immunity this year. I hope it’s a good year for all of us. Happy New Year! xxoo

    Linda – thanks and happy new year to you too :) Parents are funny, aren’t they?

    Nicisme – Happy new year! I can’t believe your kids wouldn’t want to be seen with such a cool mom as you!

    Christine – One day I will find the box that those little packets come in (it’s green) and then you’ll know what to look for :) Gong xi fa tsai to you and Pierre! xxoo

    Amy – you are so sweet, hon. Thanks for the kind wishes and I hope you have a terrific year filled with health, happiness and all of the good things in life. xxoo

    Bridget – thanks so much and happy new year.

    Jenn – you’re from around my neck of the woods! That’s so nice of you – thank you :) I wish you the best for the coming year too.

    Amanda – I hope you got to chow down on some gooooood stuff! Wishing you everything your heart desires in the new year :)

    Shell – thank you, you’re very kind. I hope your year is awesome and full of Good Things!

    Chuck – I hear ya and it’s true, it’s so much better once you accept and embrace the cultures. Happy new year! xxoo

    SGCC – you are the best, you know? Thanks for your wonderful words of encouragement – it means a lot. I think everyone feels like an outsider at some point in their lives, until we just stop caring and learn to love what we’ve got. If you lived near me, we’d be cooking together every day! :) xxoo Happy new year, sweetie.

    Sindy – thanks! I’ve never seen it (no tv), but I hear a lot of folks love it. It’s true, those things we fought so hard against are what bring us comfort more or less.

    Ashley – happy new year! I called my sister jieh jieh :) I wish I could call her that today, I would give almost anything to have her back. Anyway, jieh jieh is very special to me. And you’re right – guilt – here to stay ;)

    Jen – thanks for your very sweet comment! Folks are welcome to lurk, but isn’t it way more fun when they comment? Great to have you. When I left home for college, I suddenly felt this need to learn to make the foods my mom and grandma made when I was a kid. Sort of panic when I realized that I had no record, no way to maintain the tradition. I think it has brought me closer to my parents and grandmother (well, she and I have always been extremely close).

    Tom – thanks, but you can’t find soybean sprouts (I verified this with the shouting lady who runs the local Asian store in Boulder) because I checked King Soopers, Safeway, and Whole Foods. You are probably talking about mung bean sprouts, which are ubiquitous, but not what I wanted. They do carry soybean sprouts (with the big yellow bean) in Denver at Super H Mart though. Thanks and I’m glad you like the site.

    Annemarie – ha ha, you’re accent is Cantonese! :) Thanks and happy new year to you (gong xi fa tsai)! It really is a sweet knife. I’m guessing it’s my reward for having to endure “you won’t get into MIT with SAT scores like those” for several years ;) (and I *did* get in, damn it!) ha ha ha!

    Kevin – it’s an ass ton of work, man. Save yourself the trouble and just come to my house next Chinese New Year and I’ll save a plate for ya ;) Happy New Year!

    Kalyn – thanks hon! gong xi fa tsai.

    Susan – Mmm, sounds great! It’s awesome that you are teaching these traditions to the little ones. It really is such a fun holiday! All the best to you and your family for the new year. Gong xi gong xi!

    Jen – tell me about it! :) I do soooo many stupid things *just* because of some random superstition! Have a great new year and all the best to you.

    Kelley – hello love! I hope you guys have a great year of the Rat too (especially Armite *wink*). I read in the care instructions that the knife cannot be sharpened. I may read up on that though…

    Rosa – Happy New Year to you too, hon!

    FRM – isn’t it interesting how many ABCs out there are wandering around with their assorted neuroses because of this navigation of our cultures? Thanks for your kind wishes and I hope you have a great new year too. gong xi fa tsai!

    Cakespy – thank you! happy new year!

    Michelle – ah well, I’m glad it wasn’t worse for you, sweetie. My treatment is about as aggressive as it can get and apparently my reaction is on the “bad” end as my oncologist just emailed me a few days ago that he was sorry. I can’t do green tea, it makes me absolutely spastic ;) ha ha ha. Happy new year to you too!!

    Jonathan – mandarin! Gong xi fa tsai! :) Thanks and I hope you will start documenting those recipes someday – they aren’t going to write themselves :)

    Steph – thanks so much :) Happy Chinese New Year to you too.

    Lynn – that’s very sweet and thank you. Gong xi fa tsai! I hope your year is filled with everything your heart desires.

    Aimei – thank you! Gong xi gong xi!!

    Felicia – Happy new year to you too. It’s hilarious how we’re probably all hard of hearing now after being yelled at (with affection, of course) for our childhoods ;) All the best.

  34. Rasa Malaysia says:

    Gong Xi Fa Cai, have a great a healthy and prosperous year of the rat. :)

  35. SallyBR says:

    Xin nian kuai le!

    well, more than anything else, I wanted to say I loved your post, and of course have been following your website for quite some time, not leaving comments that often, as I am not a blogger and… believe it or not, non-bloggers can feel pretty intimidated to announce their presence..

    still, I have all my positive vibes tuned into your New Year

    keep those fires burning!

  36. White On Rice Couple says:

    What a great , personal post. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your childhood and your life. Happy New Year to you and your family!

  37. jenyu says:

    Bea – thank you, hon! You too!!

    Sally – well I for one am really glad that you commented. I sincerely hope you don’t feel intimidated about commenting anymore because bloggers and non-bloggers alike happen to be really great people (well most of them – some are jerks and freaks!) You are always welcome here. Thanks for commenting and for your good vibes. I wish you the very best for the new year and always :)

    White on Rice – thanks and I love your blog! I just discovered you from HolyBasil’s blog – where have you been all my life?!!? :) Happy new year to you guys too. xxoo

  38. Kate says:

    Jen, this stranger in California will include you in her health prayers. My sister and I are both long recovered from cancer — hers was breast — and we know it can be beaten. I have ignited a vitual candle for you on It will burn for 48 hours. :)

  39. jenyu says:

    Kate – that’s very nice of you. Thanks.

  40. Anca Niculin says:

    I am not Chinese but after living i China for 1/2 year I got to liking to cook Chinese and found this blog when looking for the English name of the tree mushrooms I used to like so much: the tree ears. Thanks for the info!

    What I found interesting in your blog, though, is the fact that the Chinese eat something sweet (and something round if I get it right from one of the replies?). That is what we must eat for the Jewish New Year: to have the year sweet and round in the sense of “full/accomplished/without-rough-edges”. If two such far-away cultures have the same superstitions I wonder if this is a more universal belief. Do other cultures have this sweet and round necessity for good luck in life?

    Good luck to you!

  41. jenyu says:

    Anca – well, that’s a good question. I’m not really sure of the answer!

  42. 8 rabbity vegetables for Chinese New Year « the lemurs are hungry says:

    […] in Vietnamese food, and researching CNY, I came upon Jen from Use Real Butter‘s recipe for rui tsai, a ten lucky ingredient salad her mother made her every year. The dish looked wonderful and it […]

  43. Calogero says:

    It must be very Asian!

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