Chinese New Year

chinesepackets.jpgChinese New Year or the spring festival celebration lasts for 15 days starting with a parade headed by a large size red dragon dancing its way through the streets and businesses of Chinatown. In Boston, the New Year started with a bang! Firecrackers were exploding loudly echoing on the narrow street, lettuce leaves and orange peels were littering the pavement in the wake of the dragon,tossed to symbolize prosperity and good fortune.

The date for the new year changes every year. It is based on a combination of the Chinese lunar/solar calendar. Chinese New Year is always celebrated on the second moon after the winter solstice. That is why the date is never the same. Chinatown is decorated with red lanterns (red for good luck). Bright red packets with gold writing hang from all the trees outside and plants in restaurants symbolizing lucky money and everyone has been sweeping and cleaning their houses, sweeping out any bad luck from the past year.

Families gather together to eat “good luck” food like dumplings(with one hidden coin per batch) long uncut noodles for longevity, chicken for prosperity, large round platters of nuts and fruit (for a sweet beginning to the new year), tangerines for wealth and good luck and whole fish is always served because the word for fish is “yu” which sounds like the word for abundance or wish in Chinese. The whole fish symbolizes good luck from the beginning to the end of the year, hence head to tail.

chinesefood.jpgMy sister and I haven’t missed spending the beginning of the new year in Boston's Chinatown in 30 years. We fight our way to find a parking place and we patiently wait in line at our favorite restaurant. Large families, from the oldest to the babies, are wrapped around the restaurant, laughing and eating the celebratory food from the steamer carts that circle the dining room. Some dishes are made only for this celebration and the cooks are cooking at their best so not to bring them bad fortune as budda watches them.

We eat tripe, chicken feet, salt roasted chicken, steamed dumplings, clams, ground beef meatballs, rice noodles, steamed whole fish, freshly made tofu with a ginger scented sweet syrup and tapioca pudding made with coconut milk. We eat until we almost burst knowing this only happens once a year and we don’t want to miss out on any good luck coming our way! When we were students in Boston many years ago, we went regularly to a tiny restaurant that is long gone where the owner would go into the kitchen on the first day of the new year and make us noodles with his specal sauce. We’d all sit down and eat together, he’d smile and we’d smile, because that was the only way we could communicate with him. The noodles spoke volumes...

Which one of the 12 chinese zodiac animals are you? ox, rabbit, goat, snake, rat, tiger, dragon, horse, monkey, rooster, dog or pig.

President Barack Obama was born in the year of the ox, and it is said that he will look back at this year with pride and a genuine sense of achievement and aren’t we all ready for that!

Chinese New Year Noodles

1 8oz. package chinese noodles
1 lb. ground pork
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
3/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tbsp. water
2 tablespoon sherry or rice wine
1/3 cup water or chicken stock
2 cups fresh, crisp bean sprouts (mung)

Put noodles into a pot of boiling water, cook until done.(4-6 minutes) Drain just as
the sauce you're making is almost done.

In a hot wok, saute garlic and ginger, tossing quickly for about 15 seconds. Add ground
pork and break apart. When the pork has changed color add the hoisin sauce with the 1/3
cup water or stock and stir to combine. When the pork is cooked and well combined add the
cornstarch/water mixture and turn off the heat. Add half the chopped scallions, the water
chestnuts and the sherry. Stir well one more time, pour the sauce over the drained
noodles, garnish with scallions and bean sprouts.


Brenda Athanus runs a small gourmet food shop in Belgrade Lakes, Maine with her sister Tanya called the Green Spot.

The Green Spot
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.