Are you Zooming for the holidays? Maybe you can’t invite Auntie and Uncle this year. Don’t despair. You can still celebrate to your heart’s content and freeze leftovers for next year. Traditional treats for the season are heavy and fattening. Wing Hop Fung can help you to keep the celebration light, lively and healthy.
If you live in an interfaith family you’re doubly lucky: Celebrate the eight days of Hanukkah which begin at sundown December 10th then Christmas Eve on December 24 and Christmas Day on the 25th.
Hanukkah is the Jewish celebration bringing the light of clarity into the world and freedom from servitude under harsh rule. It reaffirms the ideals of Judaism and commemorates in particular the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem in the Second Century B.C., and the victory of the Maccabees overcoming the powerful Greek-Syrian army. Rejecting the Hellenistic life, which worshiped Greek gods, a small band of Jews fought to keep their traditions and culture alive.
Hanukkah celebrates a miracle with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games and gifts. Eight candles are lit one each night of the festival because in ancient times the oil from one lamp lasted eight nights while the Maccabees purified and rededicated the Holy Temple. Though not strictly speaking a religious holiday, Hanukkah in America has taken a place similar to Christmas. Kids and adults are given gifts and candies.
Jews live all over the world, from Columbia to India to Ethiopia. You can find Bunuelos (Sephardic sweet fritters) Gulab Jamun (South Indian doughnuts) Polish Apple Cake. Keftes de Prasa (Spanish Leek Fritters) Frittelle di Chanukah (Italian honey and fruit fritters) and heavy Polish-Israeli filled doughnuts.
Most traditional Hanukkah foods are fried to honor the oil that lasted eight days. Unfortunately, they are not always easy to digest and they add extra weight.
We suggest a great Chinese digestive tea: Pu’er. It helps digest fat foods and protects against heart disease.
Wing Hop Fung has many selections and prices for pu’er. You might even give an attractive pu’er tea cake as a gift: Pu'er tea cake .
If you don’t care a fig for tradition, a younger generation has come to your aid. Try this, an outstanding single malt Scotch Whiskey matured in American white oak ex-bourbon casks and finessed in rare and aged oloroso sherry casks. Volume: 70cl ABV: 40% The Flavor Profile: The Aroma: Citrus fruits, chocolate and aromatic spices. On the Palate: Seville oranges.
Speaking of holiday drinks, there is Christmas Wassail. Remember the 12 Century English Christmas carol that begins, “Here we come a Wassailing. . . ?” Though the exact origins of wassail is unknown, in England it was an Anglo-Saxon greeting (“waes hail”) meaning “be in good health.” This simple greeting gradually evolved into a toast. And finally the punch beverage of mulled cider, wine and spice became known as wassail and it was served in a huge bowl known as the wassail bowl.
Though many Christians celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Christ the Savior, hopefully online this year, the holiday has also long been a feasting time. Most people don’t bother to make Wassail and Plum Pudding, which are famously featured in “The Christmas Carol,” but we can enjoy the following simplified versions.
Wassail is enjoyed alone or pared with sweet fruit and nuts snacks and with dessert-type sweet fruit-based baked items like apple pie, cherry tarts and even beignets. Here is one made with red wine:
Red Wine Wassail
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup honey
- 4 whole cloves
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 2 lemons, thinly sliced
- 1 bottle (750-ml size) red wine
Boil the water, honey, cloves, and cinnamon for five minutes. Remove from the heat, add the lemons, and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Add the wine, a full bodied, ripe and spicy Cabernet, and heat slowly until just below the boiling point. Serve hot.
Tiny Tim would jump for joy seeing this. Don’t be intimidated by Plum Pudding (AKA Steamed Christmas pudding) just because it comes from the Merry Old England. A simplified version is basically a steamed carrot cake with added canned plums. The fancy part is the lovely shaped baking pan and Christmas decorations placed around the pudding serving dish.
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 cans (15 ounces each) plums, drained, pitted and chopped
- 1-3/4 cups chopped dates
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1/2 cup dried currants
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 3 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1/4 cup dark rum or orange juice
Generously grease an 8-cup pudding mold, metal gelatin mold or ovenproof bowl; set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients: bread crumbs, flour, orange zest, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, salt and cloves; gradually add this to the creamed mixture. Fold in the drained plums, dates, raisins, carrots and currants.
Transfer it to the prepared pudding mold. Cover tightly with heavy-duty foil; tie the foil with kitchen string to secure.
Place it on a rack in a large stockpot on the stove; add 3 inches hot water to the pot. Bring the water to a gentle boil; steam the cake, covered, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. That takes 2 to 2-1/2 hours, adding more water to the pot as needed.
To remove the pudding from pot, let it stand at least 5 minutes before unmolding.
The Hard Sauce
In a bowl, beat the hard sauce ingredients until smooth and creamy. Unmold pudding onto a serving plate; serve it warm with the sauce.
After you have gone to the trouble of making the plum pudding, you will want to serve it with France’s very best LOUIS XIII COGNAC .
This has been an incredible year of tough challenges. End it with sweet foods and hopes for a brighter future, a new beginning.
Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a-wand'ring
So fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.