This year, look to the rat to make the dragon dance as we welcome in the Chinese New Year on February 7th. According to tradition, a different animal depicts each year in the cyclical twelve-year Chinese calendar, which is based on the cycles of the moon. If you were born in 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960, 1948 or 1936, you, like Shakespeare and Mozart, are a rat. People born under this sign of Chinese astrology are said to be ambitious and hard working.

Symbolism is an important part of Chinese culture, and especially so during New Year celebrations. Foods that symbolize gold are often featured and include spring rolls, which resemble gold bars, and dumplings that are meant to signify coins.

Oranges are also symbolic of gold due to their color and round shape. Citrus with leaves still attached are particularly favored as they represent wholeness and the family staying together. A fish served whole is another symbol of completeness. When presented at New Years' banquets, it encourages abundance.

I have attended some spectacular Chinese New Year dinners. At one, a whole flounder was cooked by spooning boiling hot oil over the fish, which was set on a rack so the oil drained away. This careful process, effectively poaching the fish, took about 10 minutes and produced the most delicate texture, virtually free of excess oil.

While I would not attempt to make this dish at home, it was accompanied by a scallion sauce flavored with ginger and orange zest that has since become one of my favorites. The sauce, which is simple to prepare, is great with any broiled, baked or grilled white fish.

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While this recipe calls for tilapia, other options include turbot, flounder, sole, cod or halibut. Prepare the sauce while the fish cooks for an easy, delectable and auspicious meal this New Year.

Fish with Ginger Scallion Sauce

Makes 4 servings.


  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced scallion, white and green parts
  • 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. grated orange zest
  • Freshly ground pepper, preferably white, to taste
  • 4 (4-oz.) pieces tilapia or other mild, flaky white fish.


  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Mix in scallions to coat them with oil. Add ginger, sugar and salt. Cook, stirring until sugar dissolves and scallions are tender but still bright green, 3-4 minutes. Off the heat, mix in the zest. Season sauce generously with pepper. Set skillet aside so it keeps warm while the fish cooks.
  3. Arrange fish on baking sheet and coat with cooking spray. Season fish lightly with salt and ground pepper. Broil until fish is opaque in the center at the thickest point, about 6 minutes. Divide fish among four dinner plates. Top each piece with one-fourth of the sauce. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
180 calories
9 g total fat
1 g saturated fat
3 g carbohydrate
23 g protein
1 g dietary fiber
210 mg sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 3 Lean Meat; 1 Fat