Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Chinese New Year of the Wood Dragon

For 2024, the lunar cycles have brought the Chinese New Year to fall on Saturday, February 10th.  In China, this is a special public holiday, so workers will be given off from February 9th to the 15th.  There will be colorful festivals, mind blowing fireworks displays, lion and dragon dancers winding their way throughout the throngs of celebrators, and food delicacies as far as the eye can see, and the stomach can fill.

Of the twelve animals of the zodiac, this is the year of the dragon who represents health, strength, and good fortune.  If one is born in a dragon year (1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024), it is believed the individual will have the innate qualities of the dragon (leadership, charisma, and boundless enthusiasm).  If conceived and born within the same year, the chances double, in other words, the child is doubly blessed by the zodiac animal.

Besides the zodiac animals, one of the five elements (earth, wood, fire, metal, and water) is assigned to a year.  2024 is the year of the wood dragon and symbolizes humanity’s aspiration to achieve, progress, grow, and expand.  Perhaps the wood dragon can get the world’s nations to finally grow up, stop acting like spoiled brats, and work together for a united/beneficial-to-all world.  We can only hope.  Also, on this note, I would highly recommend making the effort to read the ancient stories and poetry of China.  While many can explain the basis of a warrior nation (and whose nation was not like that at some point in history?), others tell tales of deep emotions full of love, hope and dreams.

During the feasts, red envelopes, called hongbao, are given out as tokens of good wishes.  The red color symbolizes luck, life and happiness.  These are also given out at weddings, and typically, depending on the occasion, there are designated amounts expected to be given.

Now here comes the menu for this year:

§  Fish and seafood: favorite treats of a fire-breathing Dragon.

§  Red meat (pork, beef): for a rich New Year's table.

§  Poultry (turkey, duck, goose): for wealth and luxury.

§  Spices of garlic, hot red pepper, ginger, cloves, and anise to fire up a dragon’s tongue.

§  Fresh fruits which must include tangerines and oranges.

So, to honor the wood dragon, and appease his appetite, here is my offering of a roasted pork rice bowl.


Roasted Pork Rice Bowl


2 lb. boneless pork roast, or pork tenderloin, trimmed of excess fat

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. cracked black pepper

1 Tbsp. smoky paprika

¼ cup sesame oil

¼ cup soy sauce

2 cups bell pepper strips (mixture of red, yellow and green)

2 cups onion strips

Fried Rice or Jasmine Rice


Score top and bottom of pork with diagonal cuts to create diamond pattern.  Mix together salt, pepper and paprika and rub on all sides of pork.  Mix together oil and soy sauce, again rubbing into all sides of pork.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for six hours.

Preheat oven to 425F; set wire rack into small roasting pan. 

Heat medium sized skillet, on high, and sear all sides and edges of the pork.  Place onto wire rack, and roast pork for 50 to 60 minutes; until internal temperature reaches 145F.  Remove from oven and let pork rest 10 minutes before slicing.




For the bell pepper and onion strips, heat stir-fry oil in large skillet, or Wok, on high heat.  Sauté vegetables until softened, but do not brown or burn; about 20 minutes.






In bowl, place one cup cooked rice, 4-5 thinly cut slices of pork and 2 heaping tablespoons of pepper/onion mixture.


Fried Rice

Makes 8 servings.


While jasmine rice can be store bought, I have discovered that creating my own version, using jasmine green tea, gives deeper flavoring and scent to the rice.

Jasmine Green Tea Infused Rice

To make rice, in a 3-quart pan, place 8 cups of cold water, ½ tsp. salt, 2 teabags of jasmine green tea.  Set heat to high and bring to a boil.  Remove tea bags and add 4 cups uncooked, medium grain, white rice; stir, reduce heat to low, cover and let cook for 20 minutes.  Remove lid, let rice rest for 5 minutes before fluffing up with a fork.

Makes 8 servings.

Happy Chinese New Year, and may the year of the Wood Dragon bring us all much good luck, health and fortune.

Mary Cokenour