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Jan 11, 2011 07:28 PM

Chinese New Year -- any updates on foods to bring?

Wondering if there are any new ideas, thoughts, hints, etc.

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  1. The Wikipedia entry covers the essential foods fairly well: dumplings, whole fish, nian gao, candies, seafood of any kind really, chicken. It really depends on how "all out" you're going to go.

    3 Replies
    1. re: yfunk3

      I would quickly get my butt to a good reputable Chinatown bakery and buy those wonderful egg tarts. Or Moon cakes.

      1. re: mamachef

        Those aren't traditionally eaten during New Year's, though.

        1. re: mamachef

          No moon cakes. Those are for the Autumn Festival.

      2. Part of the question is, how traditional is the family you are visiting?

        Some other ideas.

        Head to Chinatown and look for one of those shops that sell dried herbs and specifically dried seafood. Some great (although some may be a bit pricey) gift ideas can include dried mushrooms, dried abalone, bird's nest, dried scallops, "snow ear" funghi (great for soups), dried fish maw (a very healing ingredient and delicious too when cooked right). You may need to consult with either other shoppers or people in the know, because there are so many varying grades of dried seafood (especially abalaone), or check resources online on how to select, so you are not paying top dollar for low to mid tier stuff.

        Also since you are in SF, if you make it to Chinatown there are tons of other ideas too. Check to see what the bakeries are selling (e.g. Golden Gate Bakery, assuming they are not just churning out egg tarts).

        Red Blossom Tea Company is probably the best place for high end Chinese teas .... yes even better choices than Ten Ren nearby. Look into some nice greens, like Dragonwell or Biluchun/Pi Lo Chun, or even white teas. They will likely let you taste or sample before you buy. The good stuff is not cheap but is definitely a wonderful gift gesture. Don't go to Aroma, Vital or whatever those other side shops are in the area...those are tourist rip off joints.

        6 Replies
        1. re: K K

          Probably not a good idea to give dried herbs or bird's nest or gingseng as a "present" of any kind during the two week lunar new year celebration. It might symbolize that you'll need to take such medicine for the rest of the year because you'll be sickly for the rest of the year. Just like you don't sweep or do any major cleaning of your house for fear of "sweeping away" the good luck/spirits inside your house. Candy or sugary treats of any kind (no matter how traditional) are good since that symbolizes your wishes for a "sweet" year.

          Also, on the 1st and 7th day, it's traditional to go vegetarian for lots of Buddhists, so I was thinking Buddha's Delight.

          Basically, a CNY feast has foods that you normally wouldn't eat during the rest of the year except maybe on other special occasions.

          1. re: yfunk3

            Well again, that also boils down to how traditional or superstitious the family Sarah is going to be visiting. Just like how some believe in feng shui, mirror breaking, or such symbolisms. But yes you have a point about no birds nest or herbs or ginseng. Dried seafood and even See's Candies, Ferro Rocher etc, is perfectly fine. Lots of other ideas in Chinese supermarkets and grocery shops in Chinatown for sure.

            How about a whole roast suckling pig? Although that's going to be very expensive and hard to carry.

            1. re: K K

              This traditional family has many health issues which would preclude the whole pig (great thought though!) -- maybe a couple of symbolic ribs? Maybe a whole white-cut chicken, an order of jai -- probably duplicating what they'll have on hand -- hope this stuff keeps...
              And some sweets, of course from a Chinese store.
              Thanks to all for your input!

          2. re: K K

            K K: I didn't know that the great Suzhou tea Biluochun was available in the US. Hurray!

            1. re: buttertart

              Looks like Red Blossom does mail order too :-).

          3. How about Chinese New Year Rice Cake. You always need something sweet and sticky for the Kitchen God. You can get these at any Chinese grocery store. Enjoy and the Kitchen God will only say good things about the family!

            1. If you are talking about what food items to bring for a visit, it's a different question from what's traditionally eaten during new years. A favorite item would be citrus fruit, esp. with the leaves attached. You see those sold during new years at Chinese markets. You wouldn't be brining chicken or fish or whole roast pigs to visit someone.

              1. Flowers and in particular, branches with buds and blossoms.

                1 Reply