Valentine’s Day and the Year of the Tiger

As the Year of the Tiger arrives on Valentine’s Day on 14th February Chinese people will have a double celebration this year, Many countries in Asia are planning a tiger-themed Valentine’s Day with tiger-themed gifts with Tiger Lilies replacing roses and Tiger’s Eye stones being popular.

However unlike previous Valentine’s Days when couples marry in mass weddings, many Chinese are avoiding marriage this the coming Year of the Tiger. It seems to be an auspicious year for lovers and not for weddings due to the Tiger taking over from the Ox in the zodiac.

The Chinese do have their own Valentine’s Day which falls on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month in the Chinese calendar. This year it is on August 16th and the celebration is better known as Qi Xi – “The Night of Sevens”.

The old name is the “Daughter’s Festival” and this is because of the legend attached to it about a Cowherd and a Weaving Maid.

The story is that long ago a poor orphaned boy owned an old Ox. The Ox was actually an immortal from Heaven who had transgressed and had been punished by having to take the form of an Ox.

The Ox told the boy that if he wanted to marry he should go to the brook and that his wish would come true. The boy did as the ox had told him and saw all 7 pretty daughters of Emperor of Heaven bathing there.

Fascinated by the youngest and most beautiful one, he stole her clothes and told her that he would not return them unless she promised to be his wife. She agreed, they married and had two children. Later when the old Ox was dying he told the boy that he should keep his flayed hide in case of an emergency.

The Emperor of Heaven missed his 7th daughter as she was skilled at weaving and wove the clouds and rainbows to beautify the world.

He sent his daughter’s grandmother to bring her back. While the 7th princess was flying to the Heaven with her grandmother, the boy wore the ox hide, took his children in two bamboo baskets with his wife’s old fairy clothes and chased after his wife in the sky.

The grandmother made the Milky Way in the sky with her hairpin, which kept them separated. The 7th princess was banished to the star Vega and the boy with his two children to the star Altair.

The Magpies were moved by their true love and gathered together to form a bridge for the couple to meet in the evening of the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, which is the day the Emperor allowed them to meet once a year. If it rains on the night of Chinese Valentine’s Day, the rain are the tears of the Weaving Maid and the Cowherd.

I decided that a good recipe for the Chinese New Year would be one which contains oranges. Oranges and tangerines represent good luck, gold and wealth and are often given as gifts. They also reminded me of the Tiger’s coat! As for a wine to pair with the recipe Mathilde with its orange label would be a great choice as well as accompanying the sweet and sour flavours in the dish.

Orange Beef

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb steak, cut into thin strips on the diagonal
¼ cup orange peel, cut into slivers
1 clove garlic, minced
red chillies to taste
½ tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup beef broth
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup sherry
¼ cup orange marmalade
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Heat the oil in a wok and add the beef strips. Stir fry until brown, drain most of the oil from the wok and add the orange peel, garlic, chillies and ginger.

Stir fry for 1 minute. Combine the cornstarch, broth, soy sauce, sherry, marmalade, and red pepper in a bowl. Pour this mixture into the beef, stirring constantly.

Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 1 minute.

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