Monday, January 26, 2009

Chinese New Year Dinner Party - Gong Hei Fat Choi!

Happy New Year!
Gong Hei Fat Choi!

It's The Year Of The Ox
The Lincolnshire Ox, by George Stubbs

For many years I have hosted a Chinese New Year party. Sometimes a big sprawling one for 50 people. But most times a sit-down dinner. I started doing this when I was in New York.

My ex was a Jewish guy who studied Kung Fu. He's a Master now with a school and training facility and the new wife. Because of his avocation, we had a few Chinese friends. In fact we were married in a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. I wore a red taffeta strapless bubble dress (cocktail length). It was the 80's and this was quite cute then. And guess what, the look is back again now! Anyhoo, I learned to order at a Chinatown restaurant in Cantonese, and cook Cantonese style cuisine.

Lots of preparation rituals are involved with the new year. You must clean your house before the new year starts. You must not sweep your floors once the new year starts lest you sweep out good luck. There are so many quaint superstitions, most dealing with luck and evil spirits.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

This year I decided to have a recession pot luck dinner party. I've been wanting to have a dinner party for months, but frankly, we just don't have the several hundred dollars it always seems to take to entertain well. You may think I'm exaggerating, but between groceries, wine and cocktails, fresh flowers for the house, etc., well it all adds up pretty fast.

So I sent out and SOS to a few friends broaching the subject of a pot luck recession dinner party. We would provide a main course and beaucoup ambiance, and they would each bring a dish or beverage. I never got back such quick RSVPs in the enthusiastic affirmative!

I chose Friday January 30, not realizing I was having my dinner party right in the middle of Chinese New Year! I was so happy to discover this, so I'm making it a Chinese New Year dinner party. I'm making Chinese Braised Ox Tails.
I 've asked everyone to bring any style Asian dish, home made or take-out, and put a call out for someone to make Sake-tinis!
Saketinis! Yum!

The shopping in New York's Chinatown is fantastic. I loved to get all the things I needed for my party there. I often got a whole roasted baby big for the center of the table. Noodles are a must too, the longer the better, to signify long life.
Shopping in Chinatown

Our local Asian market in New Orleans

Two little girls in the check out line in New Orleans

I'll be picking up red and pink flowers, and some quince branches for the house.

We're going to set up long boards on saw horses in our large kitchen. I want all of us to sit at one table.

Typical dinner party at our house

I have a 60 inch round folding table that seats ten that I usually put in the dance parlor.

But the group got larger so the hubs came up with the idea of the chef's table like they do in a fancy restaurant. People pay good money to sit in the kitchen ha ha. We've never done a sit down in the kitchen before, and I'm excited! Since we're not really cooking the entire dinner, I think this will work out great. I'll post pictures of it when it all happens.

The streets in Chinatown are packed day and night. And of course the parades with the lion dancers are fantastic. The firecrackers are everywhere, and it's loud. The smell of gunpowder is overwhelming. No one ever seems to get hurt, but I was always a little nervous in the crowd with firecrackers exploding at my feet.

There's nothing like this happening in New Orleans ha ha. They only shoot guns into the air on regular New Years Eve.

I'll be picking up some red envelopes to give to everyone as a party favor. They'll each get some token money inside the envelope to bring prosperity for the coming year. The superstition is to not give odd numbers lest more bad luck. A Satusma orange, is another good luck token.

All the restaurants really decorate. I did a couple of parties in restaurants in Chinatown, both as hostess, and also for clients. It's quite usual to have a banquet style dinner with several courses of extra special dishes in a restaurant. There are several days of celebrating the new year.

Valorie Hart Designs
Chinatown restaurant New York City

China rings in the Lunar New Year in a big way. The festivities begin on the first full moon of the new year and last for 15 days. Chinese New Year is the single most important holiday in the country. It's a time for renewal, family gatherings, eating rich foods and paying respect to your ancestors and elders. Also, what you do and how you act during the period is crucial in determining how the rest of your year will go. So, eating the right foods is a must.

These customs are widely known by most mainstream Westerners, but in many parts of Asia, New Year celebrations take on a different and richly diverse flavor.

In Korea, the Lunar New Year celebration is barely a blip on the party radar while New Year is a month-long vacation and matchmaking fest among the Hmong. And in Thailand, New Year festivities include a splashy good time with a water sprinkling ritual. Also, because many countries interpret the lunar calendar differently or use the solar system, the dates of celebrations vary as well. The Indian holiday of Diwali falls in late October or early November, the Cambodians enter their Chaul Chnam Thmey in mid-April and modern Japan celebrates New Year, oddly enough, on January 1st. The Vietnamese celebrate at the same time as the Chinese.

Despite a number of differences, there's one common theme that takes center stage for all Asian New Year celebrations: family. No matter what the country, religion or race, New Year's Day is a time for family reunions, gatherings and reflection and reaffirming bonds.

So why don't you think about having your own Chinese New Year party? Get some take out and put it on your best dishes. Wear red. Pop some champagne, or stir up a pitcher of Saketinis. Beer is good too. It doesn't have to cost alot, and it might start a fun tradition to help banish the winter doldrums.

The Ox is a steady beloved creature, and perhaps it bodes well for all of us that this is the Year of The Ox.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
Laozi on an Ox, mid 1500s, by Zhang Lu (approx. 1490–1563)
China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644),
Hanging scroll, ink on paper,
National Palace Museum, Taipei

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
Peasant with Ox - circa 1810
By Kawamura Bumpo (1779–1821)
Scroll painting,ink and color on paper
Pacific Asia Museum Collection


bayou contessa said...

I can't wait for Friday night! I'm bringing dessert! Oh girl, you have such fabulous ideas and a sly way with the details. I know this will be a blast!

Anonymous said...

Such a wonderful post, my friend! I was very superstitious last night, even trying to open my window to let the evil spirits which I read online. Too bad when I opened the window, I broke the pot which holds my lucky midnight. I hope that doesn't mean my luck will run out? ;)

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Gracious, this looks like so much fun!!!

Anonymous said...

A rich post. I need to take it all in again. In the meantime, here is this:


Nightfall. Clouds scatter and vanish.
The sky is pure and cold.
Silently the River of Heaven turns in the Jade Vault.
If tonight I do not enjoy life to the full,
Next month, next year, who knows where I will be?

su tung p'o

Mary Kay said...

Love this colorful post! I did a Chinese gourmet dinner for 11 Saturday night. Cooked for 3 days and I'm still exhausted. We have to travel a min. 45 minutes for half-way decent Chinese food around here, so the guest were appreciative. Have a great dinner!

Jan said...

Great photos - great post !
love satsumas but they seem to be outnumbered by clementines over here, which is I guess is not so lucky happy new year, enjoy your party :)

Linda at Lime in the Coconut! said...

What a great post! And what a fun party it sounds like!

Lucky, lucky friends!

Sake-tinis? Do tell???!

Velvet and Linen said...

One of my dreams is to attend one of your beautiful events, Valorie!
When I was a child, I had a friend who would always invite me to her family's Chinese New Year's parties.
Your post brought back so many wonderful memories.
May we all have a steady year this Year of the Ox!


Visual Vamp said...

Hello Everyone,
Wish you could all join us!
Jan - All oranges are good luck!
Dolce - Your luck will never run out!
Linda - Just get the sake and vodka and shake it ha ha!
MK - I'll be supine on Sat., Sun., Mon., ha ha
Carey - I love the poem!
Brooke - Glad to bring back happy memories.
Contessa - See you Friday night!

Ta-ta! Off to continue the preparations...
xo xo

Anonymous said...

It's winter, and my eyes are craving those reds and golds glowing in the night. Everything looks festive Ms. Valorie, and I surely to envy all the fortunate Friday-Nighters who will grace your table. I've never celebrated the Chinese New Year before. My exposure to the culture growing up in 1960's Bakersfield consisted of delivery from "Bill Lee's Bamboo Chopsticks."

Love the story of your first wedding! And you're right, that dress is back again. I sew, and I've been poking around on the Burda Style site. All those teens & twenty-somethings are sewing up bubble dresses!

Linda Merrill said...

Happy New Year VV! I wish I was there to crash your fantastic sounding soiree!

pve design said...

I have the perfect dress and shoes and I'd love to be there and illustrate your perfect pot-luck to celebrate the chines new year.
Such a lively post.

Visual Vamp said...

Oh Patricia, I can just see you in your party frock and shoes!
I wish I could wiggle my nose, and wisk you over here pronto!
xo xo