Happy New Year!! Tomorrow marks the beginning of the Year of the Ox, a sign that embodies prosperity through hard work and determination. The Chinese New Year falls on the first day of the first lunar month in the Chinese calendar. It is the biggest Chinese holiday and is celebrated over the course of 15 days. Typically, on the evening of New Year’s Eve, you gather with family and friends and feast on a big dinner full of “good luck” foods.
Foodbuzz does a fun little promotion where they choose 24 meal ideas submitted by 24 food bloggers, all set to take place on one designated day. Each event is then blogged about over the course of 24 hours. I was thrilled when Foodbuzz accepted my 24,24,24 proposal for this dinner because the timing of it was just perfect for my Chinese New Year celebration .
As a first-generation Chinese-American, I grew up eating lots of delicious, traditional, homemade Chinese food – especially on special holidays, like Chinese New Year. The head chef in my family has always been my grandfather, who worked as a cook in a Chinese restaurant for years. I never learned the tricks of the trade growing up since my own parents were more than happy buying the labor-intensive dishes from the local Asian market, or letting Chef Grandpa do his thing. We always just showed up on New Year’s Eve, and the feast was ready.
Now that I’m older, and have moved to the opposite side of the country, I realized that I would need to learn to make these dishes for myself if I wanted the traditions to continue. This New Year’s, Hua and I were determined to push the envelope, stay true to our tradition, and create a celebration to remember for our friends.
We originally thought it would be an intimate dinner…but our penchant for excess could not be contained, and we ended up partying with 33 of San Francisco’s coolest cats. After some trials, tribulations, a little guesswork at the Chinatown grocers, and many calls to our moms, I think we pulled it off .
Made with canned Lychee Nuts and Prosecco, this was the perfect elegant cocktail for our Chinese New Year celebration. I separated the fruit from the syrup it was soaking in and froze them for any extra icy touch. To assemble the cocktail, blend half of the frozen lychee with some of the saved syrup to make a fragrant puree. Spoon some of it into your glass, pour in the prosecco and top with a whole lychee nut.
2) Jiao Zi (dumplings = prosperity)
I made homemade dumplings for the first time! A Hua family recipe, the filling is made with ground pork, shrimp, mushrooms and cabbage. Jiao Zi are a popular New Year dish because they are said to bring prosperity.
This recipe was a little involved, so check out this full post dedicated to just dumplings for the details!
3) Scallion Pancakes (not sure if there is a symbolic significance here…they are just delicious!)
I quadrupled my normal recipe to make a dozen large pancakes. Crispy, flaky, and full of flavor, these made the perfect hors d’oeuvres. Added bonus, I could make them in advance and just pan fry them the day of the party.
4) Mini BBQ Spare Ribs (red for good luck!)
I took my mom’s marinade for BBQ Spare Ribs and used them on strips of baby back ribs, cut lengthwise, and then butchered into bite-sized pieces. The pork was marinated overnight, slow cooked for over 2 hours, and then finished with a honey glaze.
5) My Mom’s Lo Mein (noodles = a long life)
My mom’s famous Lo Mein was a must. The secret is to first slow cook the mushrooms, barbecue pork, and sauce, which is then added to the noodles when they’re stir fried. I added a handful of Goji berries too for an extra splash of color and some sweetness.
6) Whole White Chicken with Ginger & Scallion (white chicken = happiness & purity, and family as well if it’s served whole)
The hit of the evening! We poached the whole chicken in salted water infused with ginger. After it was done with its Jacuzzi bath, the bird was rubbed with sesame oil and allowed to cool. The dipping sauce of minced ginger, scallion, and oil is the finishing touch. Clean, fresh, and comforting.
7) Mushrooms and Black Moss Seaweed (Moss Seaweed = prosperity)
Black Moss Seaweed is called fat choy in Chinese, which are also the words for good fortune. It is braised with Chinese mushrooms in a mixture of oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sugar for a full, savory flavor.
8 ) Ginger and Scallion Steamed Whole Fish (whole fish = an abundance of good luck)
We steamed two whole fish, with soy sauce, julienned ginger and scallion. After it comes out of the steamer, the fish is finished off with some hot oil poured over some more fresh scallions. The Chinese word for fish sounds like the word for abundance. The fish is served whole, with the head and tail intact to ensure a good start and finish in the New Year.
9) Caramel Oranges (oranges = wealth)
The Chinese words for gold and orange sound alike, so oranges were the perfect dessert. I made a caramel syrup with a touch of almond extract and poured them over the orange slices.
The rinds had a special purpose all their own…
10) Orange Jello Shot Slices (err…not a “traditional” dish per se, but could very well be the makings of a new classic!)
I saw this brilliant idea on Adventures in Amateur Baking and Cooking. Thanks, Ruth! I made mine with orange flavored vodka for some extra fanciness. They were gorgeous, fun, boozy and so festive!
11) Tray of Togetherness (sweets = good luck)
It is customary to start the New Year with something sweet. This tray is full of eight (a traditional lucky number) different treats like candied dried fruits and coconut.
12) Cheeky Fortune Cookies
Fortunes from Fu Ling Yu will have you cracking up. Or not happy at all.