Happy year of the monkey! Chinese New Year officially started yesterday but the good news is the celebration goes on for several days, through the weekend, so you can join in on the fun. I remember going to New Year’s parties in Chinatown in Boston when I was a kid – I loved all of the colorful decorations, the exotic dragons and of course the food! Even if you aren’t Chinese no one can argue with getting a second crack at celebrating New Years and this holiday comes with so many fun traditions. Before throwing my party I did quite a bit of research but don’t get hung up on authenticity (and apologies in advance from any liberties I may have taken!). The main purpose of Chinese New Year is to honor one’s ancestors so it’s all about being surrounded by friends and family and celebrating life.
Decorating for this party is half the fun. I got a bunch of paper lanterns and fans and hung them all over – even better, if you are careful when you take them down you can reuse them plenty of times and they store flat. I knew I definitely wanted to get lots and lots of fortune cookies so they could double as decorations and dessert.
Lucky Money Bags are a traditional Chinese New Year element where usually kids get these red envelopes with either real money or candy coins. As thrilled as I am sure my friends would have been to get cash, I opted for the chocolate coins instead. They were the perfect take home favor (though I think people started cracking into them early!).
I tried to keep the menu fun and sort of bite sized so everyone could mix and mingle with food in hand or chopstick. This is a great excuse to head to your local Asian market (my favorite in the DC area is H Mart) and grab things you usually don’t cook with. You can also grab take out containers, steaming baskets and chopsticks while you are there. I cheated a bit and bought some frozen shrimp shu mai which helped round out the spread.
Since I bought the shrimp dumplings that freed me up to make my own pork ones. These delicious Sichuan pork wontons also called Chao Shou were actually really easy to make since you can buy the wonton wrappers in advance and just fill and boil them. Dressed in black vinegar and chili oil they pack a nice kick.
In addition to the dumplings and of course a nice selection of wine and beer (we tried to find Tsingtao but no luck) we had individual containers of cold sesame noodles. I used a classic New York Times recipe (sans the cucumber, ick!) and doubled it up. I thought it would be fun if everyone had their own little take out container so grabbed these mini ones from Webstaurant Store, an awesome online restaurant supply place.
To try and get some veggies in I made a nice crunchy asian slaw and put it in little wonton cups. I made them myself (easy to do) with these green wonton wrappers I got at the asian market for a pop of color.
Last but not least I wanted to make sure to have a substantial meat dish and what is better than meat on a stick? Chicken satay was a great choice because it was easy to eat and also really good room temperature.
I hope everyone has a delicious and happy Chinese New Year!