'Abundance' the key to creating Chinese New Year feast

  • Ying Stoller of Gurnee will be preparing dishes such as egg rolls, pot stickers and fried rice during the Chinese New Year.

    Ying Stoller of Gurnee will be preparing dishes such as egg rolls, pot stickers and fried rice during the Chinese New Year. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Ying Stoller of Gurnee will be preparing dishes such as egg rolls, pot stickers and fried rice during the Chinese New Year.

    Ying Stoller of Gurnee will be preparing dishes such as egg rolls, pot stickers and fried rice during the Chinese New Year. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Ying Stoller's pot stickers are stuffed with ground chicken and pan fried.

    Ying Stoller's pot stickers are stuffed with ground chicken and pan fried. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • You can tinker with vegetables or add shrimp when making your own egg rolls.

    You can tinker with vegetables or add shrimp when making your own egg rolls. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
By Amy Fuller
afuller@dailyherald.com
Updated 1/25/2017 6:37 AM

Chinese New Year is a time for celebration, tradition and -- of course -- an abundance of food.

The Year of the Rooster kicks off Jan. 28. To celebrate, you can head out for Chinese food or cook up some of your own.

 

Chinese cooking can be complicated, but it doesn't have to be, says Ying Stoller, who takes a casual and simple approach to meal instruction. The Gurnee resident, who has been teaching Asian cooking locally for the last decade, has heard often that stir-fry and other traditional Chinese dishes can be hard "to get right," she says.

"That's why my recipes are simple," she says. "They aren't complicated, and they're easy for people to learn, so they can do it at home."

Stoller was born and raised in northeastern mainland China, where she learned to cook by watching and helping her father.

She recalls the family's annual reunion dinner, the most important meal of Chinese New Year. One fun tradition is to stuff one or two dumplings with a coin. Whoever gets that dumpling is considered to be the lucky person in the New Year, she says.

Ying Stoller of Gurnee will be preparing dishes such as egg rolls, pot stickers and fried rice during the Chinese New Year.
Ying Stoller of Gurnee will be preparing dishes such as egg rolls, pot stickers and fried rice during the Chinese New Year. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer
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Typical Chinese New Year fare includes dumplings, similar to pot stickers, except they are boiled instead of pan fried. Other than that, anything -- and everything -- goes, Stoller says.

"The key is to show abundance," she says. "Normally, dishes with fish, chicken and pork are served."

After she graduated from college, Stoller traveled around China, allowing her to experience each region's tastes, which vary widely. When she arrived in America in 1988, one of the biggest things she missed was the food. "I tried to learn to re-create the dishes -- and that's how I started to experiment and cook a lot," she says.

Ying Stoller's pot stickers are stuffed with ground chicken and pan fried.
Ying Stoller's pot stickers are stuffed with ground chicken and pan fried. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Gradually, her neighbors and church friends took notice of her meals and began asking for recipes. This interest led to her teaching classes at the local community college and at libraries. She also sells her own sauces and batter mix at yingskitchen.com.

It's easy to get intimidated if you haven't tried Chinese cooking, Stoller says. The best way to learn is to just dive right in with a simple fried rice or a platter of pot stickers.

"Just try one recipe, then try another," she says. "You'll learn by doing."

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