There are a lot of reasons to love Lunar New Year. The first is its name. How can you not love something based on the moon and its cycles? Another is that it can seem like a second chance, especially if the new year observed around the world didn’t get off to such a great start.
By Lunar New Year, days are noticeably longer and we understand, viscerally, that spring is on its way. Then there are the colorful celebrations, with beautiful red lanterns, red envelopes, dragons and lion dances.
In 2019, the Year of the Pig begins on Feb.5, with celebrations continuing for most of the month. On Feb.23, the Redwood Empire Chinese Association hosts its annual celebration at the Veterans Memorial Building in Santa Rosa. The evening includes a buffet of traditional foods, a no-host bar, a raffle, a silent auction, hands-on activities for kids, music, martial arts demonstrations, dance demonstrations and, of course, an appearance by the dragon, which snakes through the room and across the stage.
The grand finale is the lion’s dance, in which trained dancers don lion costumes and bring the creatures alive.
Tickets, which are sold in advance only, are $25 for adults and $10 for children ages 3 to 10. They are available at Asia Mart (2481 Guerneville Road, Santa Rosa) and by calling Nancy Wang (707-576-0533) or Judy Cheung (707-528-0912).
You should be sure to clean your house — and especially your kitchen — before Lunar New Year begins. For the first day, hide your knives away — a drawer is fine — so that you don’t cut your good luck. Put your broom away, too, so that you don’t sweep your good luck out of the door. Enjoy oranges and tangerines, visit family and friends and eat well.
For Lunar New Year recipes from the Seasonal Pantry archives, visit “Eat This Now” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.
Traditional Chinese hot pot has a lot in common with fondue, especially the type that involves cooking various meats and vegetables in hot oil. In the Chinese version, meats and vegetables are cooked in hot, flavorful broth. In my Lunar New Year version, I use a whole chicken — considered good luck — and a rack of pork ribs to make a flavorful stock and then cook most of the ingredients in that stock. Condiments are stirred in at the table.
Be sure not to cut the noodles, as you risk cutting your luck. This is why I’ve used tiny carrots, too. Try to get your carrots at a farmers market to avoid those fake baby carrots that come in packages at supermarkets.
You can prepare the meat and stock a day before completing the dish.
Chinese-Inspired Hot Pot
Serve 6 to 8
For the meat and stock:
1 whole chicken, preferably local, rinsed under cool running water, patted dry
1 rack baby back ribs
6-8 slices (each about the size of a quarter) fresh ginger
2 bay leaves
1 star anise
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
— Several garlic cloves, trimmed but unpeeled
1 yellow onion, quartered