This Christmas, make your own Chinese feast

I’m not sure how this tradition started, but American Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas. This is a documented fact, with about 135,000 Google hits for “jews christmas chinese food”! The tradition seems to becoming more formalized, with the advent of organized comedy shows in Chinese restaurants as well as synagogues that bring in Chinese food and show a film.

“It gives you something to do that’s festive and special,” says Congregation Emanu-El cantorial soloist Marsha Attie.

Sonoma County’s Jewish Community Free Clinic has been holding its annual fundraiser on Christmas for the past five years with a delicious family-style Chinese banquet and Jewish-themed film. This year’s selections are “The Imported Bridegroom” and “The Power of Good.”

“My 12-year-old twins, Koby and Elsa, as well as my husband, Steve, and I look forward to our ‘Christmas’ celebration each year with our Jewish community,” says Karen Newbrun Einstein of Sebastopol. Email [email protected] or call (707) 585-7780. Or , if you prefer staying in, try these recipes.

Chinese Chicken Tacos

Serves 4

2 chicken breasts, skinned, boned and chopped

1 egg yolk

1 tsp. water

1/2 tsp. cornstarch

pinch of salt

1 Tbs. vegetable oil

1/2 cup chopped mushrooms

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbs. dark soy sauce

1 Tbs. sherry

1 tsp. chicken stock

pinch of sugar

4 Tbs. chopped chives

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

12 iceberg lettuce leaves, washed, dried and crisped

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

1/4 cup pickled ginger, finely minced

Place the chopped chicken in a bowl and add the egg yolk, water, cornstarch and salt. Let marinate 15 minutes.

Heat a wok until very hot, then add the canola oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and stir-fry, separating the pieces with a spatula until the chicken is cooked.

Add the chopped mushrooms and garlic, stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the dark soy sauce, sherry, chicken stock and sugar and mix well. Add the golden chives and the pine nuts, stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Present on a platter coverwith lettuce leaves. Place the hoisin sauce and the pickled ginger in dishes on the side.

To serve: Using a lettuce leaf as the “taco shell,” spread a little hoisin sauce and ginger on the leaf. Place 1 or 2 spoonfuls of the chicken mixture on the shell and wrap the lettuce leaf around the stuffing.

Chinese Broccoli

Serves 6

2 bunches broccoli, cleaned and cut into 2-inch pieces

1 tsp. peanut oil

1 tsp. minced ginger

1 tsp. soy sauce

1/2 tsp. sugar

Blanch the broccoli with a dash of soy sauce and a dash of peanut oil for 1 minute. Set aside.

Heat the peanut oil in a wok and add the broccoli, minced ginger, soy sauce and sugar for 1 minute. Arrange the broccoli on a platter.

Perfect Steamed Rice

Serves 4

2 cups long grain white rice

3 3/4 cups water

Place the rice in a heavy sauce pan, cover with water and drain. Repeat this twice more. This removes extra starch that is added to the rice.

Place the rinsed rice in the pan, add the 3 3/4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Let boil uncovered until the water just barely covers the rice. Reduce heat to very low, cover and allow to steam gently for 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a certified culinary professional. Visit her Web site at She can be reached at [email protected].