Chinese New Year – an opportunity to try something new

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FOODWISE COLUMN By Anne Marie Armstrong

Jan. 31 marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year for 2014. As the date of Chinese New Year is based on a lunar calendar, which is a calendar based on the phases on the moon, it varies each year.  

The Chinese are closely associated with agriculture and the celebration of Chinese New Year is to welcome the spring season, a time to harvest, begin new cultivation and signify the end of the winter season. 

To prepare for the celebrations, Chinese families will often thoroughly clean their home, purchase new clothing and even get a new haircut!  These traditions symbolize a fresh start. Of course food is part of most Chinese New Year celebrations. Today’s column will focus on a few produce items that can be enjoyed during Chinese New Year (and any time of year) that also offer some great nutrition. Perhaps you would like to celebrate Chinese New Year by experimenting with a ‘new to you’ produce item!

Bok Choy: All parts of the bok choy vegetable are edible (cut off the base). Use leaves and stalks in stir-fries and soups. Add raw stalks to vegetable platters, and use raw leaves in salads and sandwiches. Like most vegetables, they are low in calories, sodium and fat. Bok choy is good source of vitamin A and C.

Persimmon (hachiya variety): To eat fresh, halve lengthwise and spoon out the pulp, discarding any seeds. Eat as is or add to salads or yogurt. Use the pulp in puddings, custards, ice cream and baked goods. They are very high in fibre.

Pumelo: Use pumelos as you would use grapefruit. For sections, cut it in half lengthwise, and separate and peel the sections for salads and compotes. Like most fruit, pumelos are low in calories, sodium and fat. They are also a good source of fibre and an excellent source of vitamin C.

Shiitake mushrooms:  Brush lightly to remove any dirt. Trim the stems where they attach to the caps (the stems are tough but can be saved to use for stock). Although spongy, shiitakes hold up well to cooking. They can be braised, sautéed, added to sauces, stir-fries, soups and stews, or used as a pizza topping. They have no fat, cholesterol or sodium and provide riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and folate. Dried shiitake mushrooms are also available.

Napa cabbage: Shred or chop raw napa cabbage for salads and slaws. Use in soups, stir-fries and other dishes. It is an excellent source of vitamin K and a good source of folate.

Atlantic Superstore in New Glasgow also has an impressive assortment of packaged international foods, including T&T® brand and Rooster® brand Asian products, that make it easier than ever to celebrate Chinese New Year with authentic Asian foods. 

The recipe below uses dried shiitake mushrooms, which are rehydrated before cooking (soak for an hour in warm water) to enhance their texture and flavour). This recipe is quite straightforward but requires a bit of time as you have to add the broth one ladle at a time, waiting for each addition to be absorbed before adding the next.  Happy experimenting and Happy Chinese New Year!


Shiitake Mushroom and Brown Rice Risotto


3 tablespoons olive oil

12 to 16 ounces of rehydrated and sliced Rooster brand Dried Shiitake Mushroom (available at Atlantic Superstore)

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion - finely chopped

1 1/2 cups short grain brown rice

6 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup of finely shredded parmesan cheese


1. Sauté the Rooster brand Dried Shiitake Mushroom with olive oil and garlic and green onions and set aside

2. Pre-heat the chicken broth and set aside

3. Sauté the onion in a deep pan with olive oil until translucent

4. Add the rice to pan and lightly sauté with the cooked onion

5. Add the broth one ladle at a time until the broth is absorbed. Continue cooking in simmering heat. Stop when the rice is soft and cooked.

6. Turn off heat and add the parmesan cheese. To serve, top with sautéed mushroom mixture.


Anne Marie Armstrong, BscAHN, PDt is a registered dietitian with Atlantic Superstores in Nova Scotia. 

Have a nutrition question?  Contact me by calling 1-888-225-5295 ext. 632157 or through email at

Geographic location: Napa, New Glasgow, Nova Scotia

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