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January Holidays – Celebrated with Food: Chinese New Year – ‘The Year of the Dragon’

Year of The Dragon

The Lunar New Year or ‘Chinese New Year’ as it is known in many cultures, usually occurs in January and/or February.  This year, 2012, Chinese New Year’ falls in January and is ‘The Year of the Dragon’.   The date on Western Calendars is January 23rd.   The Dragon is the Chinese Zodiac symbol for the years 1904 – 1916 – 1928 – 1940 – 1952 – 1964 – 1976 – 1988 – 2000 – 2012, so if you were born in any of these years, the Dragon would be your zodiac symbol.

This is a wonderful holiday to enrich your children’s lives with by exposing them to some of the events that may be taking place in your area and by making the preparation of some Chinese Food a Family Event.  Chinese New Year is one of those Holidays where food is important and there are many things that are symbolically served during this celebration.

The Chinese New Year is celebrated with parades, dancing and food.  Families get together and enjoy the time with each other.  If you live near a China Town, visit it when the New Year parade is scheduled.  There will be colorful clothing and floats which will most likely include a Dragon Float.  One of the colors that is used during these celebrations is red, so that you will see many of the participants clothed in red.

Tea Eggs, Bean Cakes, Fish Salad, and whole Chicken to name a few.

Eggs for good reason are a symbol of fertility in most cultures around the world and therefore the Tea Eggs represent fertility and life.

Cracked Hard-cooked Eggs are soaked in a Tea Leave/Soy Sauce Mixture until they absorb the pigment from both. These Eggs will pick up the flavor of the Anise and the Cinnamon, making for an interesting dish.  They make really good Egg Salad Sandwiches.

Yu Sheng, the Chinese Fish Salad is important because the raw ingredients symbolize the renewal of life and what is the New Year all about if not that? Yu Sheng is often made with fresh melon, sesame seeds and raw fish which is dressed with Lime Juice, Olive Oil and White Pepper.

The whole Chicken represents the bond of family and is usually prepared by simmering with vegetables.  Chicken in a pot would be representative of this dish.

Bean Cakes are favored for their sweetness which symbolizes a rich, sweet life. while the round shape signifies family reunion.

In addition, Noise Poppers and other related items are employed during the celebrations.

To make Tea Eggs follow the directions below:


6 eggs

Cold Water

1 teaspoon Salt

2 Tbsps. Soy Sauce

1/2 cup brewed Black Tea

2 Star Anise, broken up

1 Cinnamon Stick


  1. Place the Eggs in a saucepan and cover with Cold Water;  there should be at least 1/2-inch of water above the eggs.
  2. Cover and bring to a rolling boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the Eggs stand in the hot water for 15 – 20 minutes covered with a lid. Remove the Eggs and run them under cold running water to cool. (Reserve the water in the pan).
  3. Tap the hard-boiled eggs gently with the back of a spoon, to make a series of cracks all over the Eggshells, while making sure the shell remains intact.
  4. Bring the water in the pan back to a boil;  add the Salt, Soy Sauce, brewed Black Tea, Star Anise pieces, and the Cinnamon Stick.
  5. Add the eggs. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours. Turn off the heat and let the eggs sit in the hot liquid until ready to serve.

You can make up your recipe for the Fish Salad and if raw fish doesn’t sit well with you, you can always substitute smoked or canned fish.  Shredded Napa Cabbage would be a good balance for the sweetness of the fruit in the dish.

To make a whole chicken, pull out a pot large enough to hold the Chicken along with Vegetables, Cilantro (coriander or Chinese Parsley) a Bay Leaf or two and other herbs of your choice and enough water to cover all the ingredients.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and then simmer until the Chicken is tender.  (At least 1 ½ hours or longer)  Taste for seasoning and add Salt and Pepper or Soy Sauce, if desired.  Cut the Chicken up into serving portions and serve in individual bowls along with the Vegetables and Rice on the side.

Bean Cakes can be purchased at an Asian Market or Bakery.

For additional recipes please see the Appetizer Section under recipes on this blog.

Happy and Healthy Chinese New Year everyone!


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