Contrary to a popular belief, the ubiquitous Chinese fortune cat is actually Japanese. There are several legends about it, but most agree that it first made its friendly appearance around 17th – 18th century, when Tokyo was called Edo. A samurai was once caught in a rainstorm. Finding shelter under a huge tree, he glanced around and saw a cat frantically beckoning to him from an entrance to a nearby temple. He had the good sense to follow the cat, entered the temple, and watched the tree being struck by lightning. Grateful to the cat for saving his life in the nick of time, he generously endowed the temple. His generosity made the temple, now known as Gotokuji, prosperous, and when he passed away, a statue was erected in his honor – not of him, but of Menaki Neko, the Beckoning Cat.
The temple prospered even more when myriads of copies of this original statue started being manufactured and sold as a talisman that brings good luck. You have undoubtedly seen them made of all materials and in all sizes, from key rings to sushi plates, and certainly at the entrances of most Oriental stores, especially Chinese. That’s the reason behind calling it Chinese Fortune cat!
Another legend, infinitely more humble then the first, places the cat at an entrance to a store whose poor owner could not make ends meet. One day, he shared his meager meal with a hungry stray cat, who was so grateful that it positioned itself at the door, beckoning customers. In a very short time, the shopkeeper became prosperous. The cat, or the statue of it, seems to bring prosperity to the place where it stands. However, lest you think that the size of it is directly proportional to the amount of fortune it attracts, think again! If the left paw is raised, it attracts customers; the right paw attracts money.
Last year, to celebrate Earth Day, I made the trip to Fort Lauderdale to buy my produce at the the Frenly Farms Market, the largest black-owned grocery store in South Florida. Let me tell you, Beautiful People, had this store been located closer to where I live, I’d have run in there every day!
Besides the fact that we, as members of that Global Village called Humanity, have an indisputable obligation to support minority initiatives and efforts, I fell in love with this store, with its friendly, truly family atmosphere, with fragrant fresh herbs and luscious organic veggies, with fresh locally sourced fish at ridiculously low prices (of course, I made Ukha!), and the brightly orange giant pumpkins outside. My $14 haul was a full carload! Unfortunately, it is closed now due to Covid 19, but I truly hope that, once the pandemic is over, it will re-open in its full glory.
I thought that a bursting with freshness head of Napa cabbage – AKA Chinese cabbage – and a huge bag of bean sprouts, each under $1, combined with ginger and turmeric., would start the Earth Day off properly.
First, I stir-fried roughly sliced half of a large onion, then added minced ginger and turmeric. Bean sprouts went in next.
At this point, I added a splash of soy sauce and a pinch of Garam Masala – why not? So what if Garam Masala is Indian, rather than Oriental; we are one Global Village, after all!
While all this was tossing and turning, I cut my beautiful Napa cabbage into large bites, and, once the bean sprouts softened, added this green goodness to the pan.
A few more minutes of stir-frying and a sprinkle of sesame seeds for a little crunch, and a cute one-minute video:
This is not my cat, Beautiful People! My Barmalei is completely black, without white socks and shirtfront.
Here you have it, a beautiful, delicious, and so very healthy side dish, salad, appetizer, or even main dish, if you so desire. My Maneki Neko, gifted by a student, raises both paws. I join it in wishing the Frenly Farms Market and all similar endeavors lots of customers and good fortune! And for those of you, Beautiful People, who do not live in South Florida, you can always find minority enterprises in need of your support. Happy Earth Day from Miami Dade College and the campus where I have been teaching for more than 30 years!
- I head Napa cabbage, cut into large bite size pieces
- 3 – 4 loose cups bean sprouts
- 1 inch ginger,minced
- 1 inch yellow turmeric, minced
- 1/2 large yellow onion, roughly sliced
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- Garam Masala to taste (hot pepper can be substituted)
- Sesame seeds to garnish
- Stir fry onion for a few minutes, until soft and translucent.
- Add minced ginger and turmeric, stir fry together for 1 – 2 minutes.
- Add bean sprouts, soy sauce, Garam Masala, toss, stir fry until bean sprouts soften.
- Add Napa cabbage, toss, stir fry until soft. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- Serve hot, warm, or cold.