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Happy (Chinese) New Year! Time for Some Chinese Goodies

Painted Dragon

Today is Chinese New Year 2011, as the moon slides across from old to new and starts a new lunar month. Often called Spring Festival, there are more people in the world who celebrate this particular annual beginning than any other. There are other lunar New Year events, including Islamic New Year, Rosh Hashana, a day in April when many in Indochina and India celebrate their New Year, and a few others. Indeed, only a small portion of humanity actually observes New Year’s using the Gregorian date of January 1.

I’ve been privileged to see New Year’s festivities in China, Taiwan and Malaysia, and I must say, they do this whole scene a heckuva lot better than we do over here! Their fireworks are better, for one thing. Their events seem more like our Fourth of July than anything else: Parades, feasts and more. (They’ve had 5,000 years of practice.) And the food is plentiful, varied and awesome tasting.


The Chinese always celebrate their Holidays with special food. In that respect, they’re a lot like us over here. Their Spring Festival feasts are often family reunion affairs, and culturally meaningful dishes are served. There’s nian gao, a sticky, slightly sweet rice cake that assures prosperity in the coming year. Of course jiao zi are served. You know these as dumplings or potstickers. Many other items predict good business (seaweed with oysters), lotus roots (increasing abundance) and pig’s tongue (profit). The main dish is often a whole carp, and the fish is never consumed completely; this is said to assure a great year ahead for the whole clan.

Which brings me to what I’m having for lunch today: Wonton soup. The easy way! No, it’s not a harbinger of longevity or prosperity; I just happen to like Asian-style soups.

Chinese Girl

You can easily make great wonton soup too. Here’s the secret: Get some frozen mini-wontons from your local specialty grocer’s case (I bought my most recent set at Sprouts), and boil up some broth. Not just any broth, either. See if you can’t score a small tin of some Dragonfly Brand Won Ton Instant Soup Mix (or their Soup Bún Bò Huê̕ ) from you friendly, neighborhood Asian market. I also use Harvest Brand Gia Vi Phỏ Bò, Vietnamese Pho Beef Broth Mix. Anways, you make a batch of the broth according to the can instructions, plop in some wontons and simmer until the meaty bits are warmed through. Toss in some julienned carrots (they cook really fast) and garnish with scallion greens and you’re good to go.

If you can’t find any of the Asian soup broths, then canned beef broth works just fine.

Whatever you have planned for the day, consider a meal in celebration of Chinese New Year’s. Especially if you can go out to a nice Chinese food place in your area. They’ll likely be holding a great feast! These events shouldn’t be missed, these fancy Chinese reunion meals…

Enjoy the (Lunar New Year Fireworks) Heat!


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