Saturday, 8 February 2014

[Happy Chinese New Year!] Chinese Peanut Cookies

Chinese new year is the most important festival of the year. This celebration traditionally lasts for 15 days. Each day has its own meaning and designated activities. During new year's eve, families usually gather to have the reunion dinner 团圆饭. On new year's day, everybody dresses up in red, the auspicious colour. Everybody wishes each other good luck, health and fortune. Some households follow a vegetarian diet on this day as abstaining from meat is believed to ensure good health and luck for the rest of the year. For my household, my grandmother always makes rendang curry, served with bamboo glutinous coconut rice called pulut. Friends and families will visit and be served this dish. 

The second day of new year is when the chinese pray to their ancestors and gods. The chinese people emphasises a lot on remembering and respecting our roots. After all, without them, there will not be us. Without their enormous wisdom and hard work, we will not live such prosperous lives. On the third, fourth and sixth to tenth days, the chinese visits their relatives and friends. As chinese tradition goes, we usually visit the father's side of the family first, then the mother's side of the family. Though tradition dictates that on the fifth day of new year we should stay home to welcome the God of Wealth and restrain from visiting anyone as it will bring bad luck, due to constraints with time, our family does not follow this tradition. Furthermore, many young people of the working class usually has to resume work, therefore this tradition has been more or less neglected. 

On the seventh day of new year, everyone is being wished happy birthday, as it is the birthday of human beings! On the eighth day, we pray to the God of Heaven, 天公; and on the ninth to the Jade Emperor, 玉王大帝. As chinese believe in the importance of give and take, the tenth to twelfth days we invite relatives and friends over for meals. On the thirteenth day, after the enormous feasts we cleanse our systems by eating congee and choy sum. Then on the fourteenth day, preparations for the Lantern Festival, which falls on the fifteenth day are made. 

Since migrating to New Zealand, many of these traditions have been neglected. This year, the year of the horse, my year of birth, I've been lucky enough to spend it in my home country, Malaysia! It certainly is a welcomed change to the quietness in New Zealand. As there are so much visiting and entertaining of guests, naturally there must also be lots of food. In Malaysia, the culture is to bring along mandarins, good luck due to their sweetness and vibrant colour, as well as some form of new year snack. At each household, there will also be a huge array of cookies and snacks to offer to the guests. Eating sweets symbolizes a sweet welcome to the new year. This crunchy, nutty, yet short peanut cookie with perfectly balanced sweet and saltiness is my favourite new year snack, along with pineapple tarts. In chinese culture, peanuts represent bloom, growth, prosperity and wealth, due to its name (花生). Beware though, these peanut cookies are really addictive! Be sure to drink some chrysanthemum tea to counter the heatiness of these morsels. 

Chinese Peanut Cookies

Makes 2 trays

300g peanuts
150g raw sugar, blended
250g flour
1 tsp salt
200ml olive oil
1 egg

Lightly roast the peanuts until fragrant and light golden. Let it cool, then remove the skin and grind until fine. Preheat the oven to 200C. Mix the ground peanuts with sugar, flour and salt. Add in the oil and mix well to form a dough. Roll into teaspoon sized balls, place on paper lined tray and press down to flatten slightly. Glaze with the beaten egg. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and let the cookies cool on the tray for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. 

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