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

Sarah Jan 11, 2011 07:28 PM


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

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    yfunk3 Jan 12, 2011 04:30 AM

    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
      mamachef Jan 12, 2011 08:45 AM

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

      1. re: mamachef
        yfunk3 Jan 12, 2011 10:30 AM

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

        1. re: mamachef
          raytamsgv Jan 12, 2011 04:03 PM

          No moon cakes. Those are for the Autumn Festival.

      2. K K Jan 13, 2011 11:13 AM

        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 http://www.redblossomtea.com/ .... 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
          yfunk3 Jan 13, 2011 11:36 AM

          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
            K K Jan 13, 2011 11:50 AM

            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
              Sarah Jan 13, 2011 12:44 PM

              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
            buttertart Jan 14, 2011 10:56 AM

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

            1. re: buttertart
              K K Jan 14, 2011 11:05 AM

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

              1. re: K K
                buttertart Jan 14, 2011 11:07 AM

                Great! You made my day.

          3. z
            zenim Jan 19, 2011 06:53 PM

            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. PeterL Jan 19, 2011 09:07 PM

              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. e
                Erika L Jan 20, 2011 08:52 AM

                Flowers and in particular, branches with buds and blossoms.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Erika L
                  chefj Jan 20, 2011 03:42 PM

                  Especially Ornamental Quince.

                2. buttertart Jan 21, 2011 04:52 AM

                  Our new neighbors did us a huge favor (really quite astonishingly huge) recently. We only have very casual contact with them otherwise. What would be a nice gift for CNY for them?

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: buttertart
                    lilgi Jan 21, 2011 08:52 PM

                    Re Erika's post:
                    Love this! red peonies would be awesome on a manzanita centerpiece from a florist, no idea what something like that goes for though.

                    1. re: buttertart
                      yfunk3 Jan 24, 2011 05:28 AM

                      One of those candy samplers from a Chinese grocery store, or a basket of oranges? Floral arrangement of budding branches? I'm sure they'll appreciate most fruit and flowers, though no white flowers. Red and yellow/gold flowers would be a nice choice.

                      1. re: yfunk3
                        buttertart Jan 24, 2011 05:34 AM

                        Good suggestions, thanks. I know about the white issue (lived in Taipei).

                        1. re: buttertart
                          huiray Jan 24, 2011 09:31 AM

                          If you give oranges it's better to give those known as 'kum' (in Cantonese; rhymes with 'gold') rather than 'chang' and aim for even numbers of oranges - but probably not four ('four' in Chinese/Cantonese rhymes with 'die'/'death'). Six of 'em sounds good ('six' in Chinese/Cantonese rhymes with 'luk'=happiness, recognition) But I'm sure you knew all this.

                    2. j
                      jlafler Feb 2, 2011 03:21 PM

                      I believe the thing I'm craving is called luo bu gao (turnip cake). My Taiwanese roommate's mother used to send it to her at New Year, and I love it!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jlafler
                        zenim Feb 2, 2011 04:04 PM

                        I also love luo bu gao. You can get it at the Chinese supermarkets in Rockville and most likely any other Chinese supermarket. We always get it when we go for dim sum. I hope you get some over the Chinese new year celebration.

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