With traditional lion dancers, festive floats, firecrackers, shopping discounts, arts and craft vendors, and Chinese folk music symphonies, New York City is a great place to be for Chinese New Year. Chinatown is a bustle of activity for the Lunar New Year. Behind all the pomp and circumstance, local Chinese families celebrate privately with their relatives, sharing the most important meal of the year. Whether near or far, reunions are a symbolic gesture to be thankful for the past year and hopeful in the new.
New Year’s Eve dinners vary by region, but typically include chicken, fish, or pork in the south of China and homemade dumplings in the north. Every Chinese New Year dish signifies something, whether it’s to wish for a year of completeness with a whole chicken, abundance with two whole fish, happiness and longevity with noodles, family togetherness with sweet rice balls, or wealth with dumplings.
A family recipe from Long Island Food Blogger Jessica Lee Binder, courtesy of NY Daily News
Fish represents an increase in prosperity and good luck. This recipe uses white fish like striped bass, which has a lighter flavor likely to appease kids. The sauce – made from seasoned soy sauce, thin-sliced fresh ginger, scallions, vegetable oil, and a pinch of sugar (the only other ingredients you’ll need) – is savory enough to make kids forget they’re eating from the sea. The food is ready in just 15 minutes, and goes great with sticky rice. You can get additional tips for steaming a whole fish from The Woks of Life if you’ve never done it before.
Rice Chicken Casserole
From Kei Lum Chan, co-author of China: The Cookbook, courtesy of MyDomaine.com
We can all appreciate the simplicity of a one-pot main course. Chicken is the heart of this dish, which signifies prosperity. Until recent times, the Chinese people only served chicken on festival days or birthdays. Chicken thighs – considered the best part of the bird – were reserved for the elders. This quick recipe requires 20 minutes of marinating and 20 minutes of cooking in a dutch oven. Chinese sausage is the one tricky ingredient that may require a separate trip to a Chinatown butcher shop. Trust us, it’s worth it! Lap Cheong is made from pork or liver, marinated, and smoked for a smoky, sweet, salty taste as sumptuous as candied bacon. Like many Asian dishes, additional flavors in this dish come from ginger, soy, garlic, and scallions.
Fast Pot Stickers
From Mark Bittman, NY Times Food Columnist
Pot stickers are sometimes called “Little Purses.” Fittingly, they symbolize prosperity and riches in the year to come. You can do them with homemade dough, but it can be tedious even with a food processor, as you’re kneading and rolling out dozens of two-inch circles before filling and cooking. One easy alternative is to use pre-made wrappers widely available in any supermarket. Folding is intuitive and sealing requires a little beaten egg. The dumplings are browned in oil, simmered in water, and browned again. You can fill the dumplings with whatever you prefer – ground pork, beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, shrimp, even shiitake mushrooms and tofu for a vegetarian twist. You can also freeze uncooked dumplings on a baking sheet, seal in a plastic bag, and keep them for up to two weeks to save time.
From Chef Mireille, Courtesy of The Schizo Chef
Niángāo is a steamed rice cake with a history dating back at least 1,000 years ago to the Liao Dynasty. The word loosely translates to “year rise,” symbolizing increased prosperity and higher status for adults, physical growth and better academic success for children. The round shape symbolizes family togetherness and completeness. If you love someone, you give them niángāo to wish them the best. This popular New Year dessert is popular at NYC bakeries like Wok Wok, Lung Moon Bakery, Shanghai Café, Tygershark, and Fay Da Bakery – but why not make it yourself in just 10 minutes? Traditionally, the cake — made of rice flour, brown sugar, coconut milk, almond extract and chopped nuts — is steamed in banana leaves, and then later cut up, coated in raw egg, and fried. This simplified recipe comes from Chef Florence Lin, the author of five Chinese cookbooks who is in her nineties, but still spry and cooking with her niece.
We hope you enjoy cooking with your children to celebrate Chinese New Year in 2018. Other fun activities include: making DIY Chinese drums, giving red envelopes containing money, creating DIY paper lanterns, and crafting soda bottle cherry blossoms to symbolize the beginning of spring. Be sure to check out the big parade and other local festivities. Also, don’t forget Shine offers additional party entertainment, workshops, classes, and cultural experiences to inspire young minds. Contact us to learn more!
By Jenn Fusion for Shine