Chinese New Year is here! While January 1st is easy to remember, the specific date of Chinese New Year changes each year, as it falls on the first day of the lunar calendar. The New Year season is also called the Spring Festival as it begins at the start of the Spring term according to the Chinese calendar.
There are a number of festive Chinese foods that will help make any New Year's Eve celebration a success, whether you're throwing a large bash or simply enjoying a quiet dinner with a few close friends. Below are some recipe suggestions, from cocktails and appetizers to dessert.
Nothing starts a celebration quite like a beautiful, delicious, exotic beverage. From a lotus blossom to a Singapore sling, these Asian-inspired cocktails will delight and impress your guests. The lychee nut is one of Asia's fruits and adds elegance to the Litchini and sweetness to the crouching tiger shooter and red lotus. Put your blender to work with the Chi-Chi frozen cocktail, or set the stage for an upscale event with the Beijing Bellini.
Much of the appetizers served at a Chinese New Year celebration is not only traditional but representative of something in Chinese culture. Pearl balls (meat and rice balls), for example, signify reunion, and the Chinese New Year is a time that family comes together. Spring rolls represent wealth as they look a bit like gold bars. Other traditional favorites are Jiaozi dumplings, lettuce wraps filled with oysters, and Yuanxiao dumplings which are served at the lantern festival the last day of this lunar celebration.
Many of the main dishes (and their ingredients) chosen for this holiday are symbolic—white cut chicken symbolizes purity, and dishes using clams represent prosperity as the Chinese believe the mollusk resembles a Chinese coin. Other popular dishes are Peking duck, Kung Pao chicken, and sweet and sour pork.
You'll want to finish the celebration on a sweet note and these Chinese New Year desserts won't disappoint. One of the most traditional is Chinese sticky cake, or nian go, which is served to the "kitchen god" for good luck. Like most Chinese cakes, a sticky cake is steamed and it is made with rice and dried fruit. Sesame seed balls (zeen doy), sweet red bean soup, and almond cookies are all wonderful choices to round out the evening. And, although an American-Chinese treat, fortune cookies are always fun!
Quick and Easy
If you are short on time but still want to create a traditional Chinese New Year table, there are some fast and simple recipes that will make it look like you spent days preparing. Potstickers are the ideal appetizer since you can make a few fillings to create variety. Szechuan noodles are a family favorite, sure to please young and old alike. And moo shu chicken wraps will get everyone involved, stuffing and folding the tasty hand-held meal.