By Christine Mouser
Christmas has recently passed and New Year’s Eve breezed right by. After January 1st, most people think the holidays are over. But that’s not true because January 23rd is right around the corner and if you’ve never celebrated the Chinese New Year, then there’s no better time than the present.
Since you probably spent New Year’s Eve out on the town or traveling to see family, bring the party to you by throwing a Chinese New Year house party. Check out this guide to see how you can put together a one-of-a-kind party that will have your friends and family talking all year.
Step 1: Plan your menu
Decide what kind of route you want to go with food. Takeout is always an option if your party is on the smaller side. Sesame Inn, Rose Tea Café, Wai Wai, and Taipei to name a few, can deliver what you’re looking for at decent prices with big menus.
If you’re hosting a huge shindig and don’t mind spending some extra money, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro may be the way to go for several reasons. First, this bistro is more of an Americanized version of Chinese, which is a good way to go with a large amount of people with different tastes. Second, P.F. Chang’s offers large party menus, using pans that serve 6-8 people. For example, the sweet & sour chicken with broccoli rings in at $67.95, while sides like rice and noodles are priced as low as $27.
If the price is out of range and you would rather customize you own dishes, creating your own Chinese feast isn’t as tough as it seems. Stick to a few signature Chinese dishes like the Jiaozi dumplings, cold sesame noodles, Kung Pao chicken and Sichuan shrimp. Jiaozi dumplings are traditionally crescent-shaped and filled with a meat or vegetable. For an extra surprise, stick a gold coin inside one of them to bring wealth to the lucky eater. Cold sesame noodles are a super simple dish to make and serve. There are tons of different variations of this dish, so check out some recipes online to find one that fits your taste. Shrimp and chicken are also found in Chinese dishes, so be sure not to leave out these staples. Serve the chicken in a Kung Pao or Sesame sauce and cook the shrimp Sichuan style (spicy!) for a well-rounded menu. If you’re still looking for another addition, spring rolls make great appetizers.
Dessert is also an integral part to your menu. Create some deliciously chewy walnut and date bars, a delicacy in China that represents unity. If you’re up for a bigger challenge, attempt to make some Chinese fortune cookies. You might want to try to create these cookies before the real deal. You can even personalize the little messages inside each one.
Step 2: Track down your ingredients
Traditional Chinese food requires ingredients you may not find in your local grocery store. The best place to get these ingredients is Lotus Foods, found in the Strip District. This Asian specialty store literally has everything you could think of. The labels are a little confusing and the language barrier is a tad tough, so plan on spending some time in there.
Check out our guide to Walking through The Strip District.
Step 3: Transforming your Home
Starting with the food, try to keep your dinnerware as simple as possible. Grab some white square dishes, chopsticks and anything else red-themed (be sure to ask your guests to wear red—it’s lucky!) You can create some fun drink concoctions as well—the Red Lotus (vodka, cranberry juice and lychee liqueur), ginger ale cocktails, an orange martini or Pina Coladas. These are perfect options, as all of these ingredients hold a special meaning to the celebration and Chinese culture.
Depending on your budget, decorations can easily take your party to the next level. Flowers or plants should be the focal point of the house. Bamboo plants in tall vases or plum blossoms are great additions. Azaleas and peonies are also pretty options if available. If flowers are out of the budget, get the kids involved—they can use tissue paper and crepe paper flowers to make some handmade decorations.
Chinese paper lanterns are also eye-catching decorations. If you’re looking to save money, be sure to check out party suppliers on the Internet. You can get some great items at discount prices.
And of course, a party wouldn’t be complete without some entertainment. And the most popular kind of game in China is Mahjong, a card game that is similar to rummy. You can easily pick up the game in a local toy store. For an adult twist, you can play with money, but it can easily be played recreationally when the kids are around.
While it may take a little work and creativity, hosting a Chinese New Year party is a unique experience, and it may just create another yearly tradition.
Christine Mouser is currently living in the Pittsburgh area, where she is an editorial intern for Pittsburgh Magazine. She has written for HappyValley.com, Town&Gown magazine and Penn State’s Valley magazine.