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Dog’s breakfast 

Wondering what to make for supper on Chinese New Year, we talked to Jai Tsu Thompson, president of the Mu Lan Chinese Cultural Centre on Lower Water Street. She filled us in on some tasty traditions.

Is there a traditional meal to celebrate Chinese New Year?There are two types of celebrations: a formal, public meal and a more casual, private meal. The public meal—like the Chinese New Year banquet that we hosted for 200 people last Friday at Pier 21—is a formal banquet with many courses. We served 10 courses, starting with cold appetizers, then hot appetizers, then moving on to main dishes. The appetizers would remind you of Italian antipasto: cured meats, BBQ pork, marinated eggs, jellyfish. For the main courses we had steamed halibut, Peking duck, vegetables, spring rolls, a real variety of foods. We also had Mu Lan special fried rice and duck bone consomme (made with bones left over from the Peking duck, of course) with noodles, spring onions and lots of ginger. Finally, for dessert, we had a special rice dish that would remind you of Christmas pudding, but made with steamed rice, fruit, nuts, and decorated with red bean paste. It’s very festive.

And the private celebration? What’s that like?The private celebration is a family affair, much more casual. It’s not served course-by-course, like the formal dinner; instead, the whole family works together to produce lots of different dishes, which are all served at once—the whole table is full of food! One typical dish that people make for a family New Year’s dinner is dumplings—one person rolls out the dough, another fills it, someone else wraps it, then they’re cooked. It’s a sociable time.

What are some other tasty treats that are associated with New Year celebrations?Typically, mothers make lots of treats for their children, lots of candy and little snacks. One of the most common treats is crispy fried dough. Strips of dough are coated in sesame seeds, twisted and deep-fried—they’re very tasty. Parents also give their children little red envelopes filled with money, so they can buy fireworks or more candy.

Do you have any special table traditions for New Year celebrations? We observe a Buddhist tradition of worshipping our ancestors before we eat. One by one, family members approach the table to pay their respects to their ancestors by offering them samples of the food they’ve prepared. We burn incense and also fake paper money, so that they’ll have money to spend in the next realm. That’s an important part of New Year celebrations.

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