Chinese New Year 2006

by Miriam Marcus
January 2006

Recipe

Kung Hei Fat Choy! It's the Year of the Dog!

The Chinese New Year, called bingxu in 2006, begins on January 29th and marks the start of the year 4703 on the Chinese calendar. The three-week long Chinese New Year Festival can be traced back thousands of years, and is accompanied by a multitude of customs, traditions - and flavorful foods!

One of the most famous myths about the origins of the Chinese New Year Festival surrounds the fierce beast, Nien. The Chinese believe Nien eats people on the eve of the New Year, and so they protect themselves and their families by pasting red paper around entrances and doorways, lighting torches, and setting off firecrackers throughout the night; loud noise, fire light and the color red are supposedly feared by Nien. According to legend, the New Year then begins on the day when the gods report on the affairs of mankind and pay their respects to the Jade Emperor, the supreme Taoist deity.

Welcoming the new year, nian or as it is called in Chinese, is a jubilant occasion which brings together family and friends who will travel great distances to reunite and dine together on this special holiday. The tremendous array of dishes prepared for the occasion serve to symbolize abundance and wealth for the celebrating household. Folklore and superstition even attribute various ingredients to specific blessings for the family. For example, consumption of seaweed signifies exceeding wealth in the year to come, as does eating oranges and whole fish. Munching on peanuts will ensure long life, and nibbling lotus seeds may promise the arrival of numerous male offspring.

Chef Richard Chen of Wing Lei at the Wynn Las Vegas offers his blend of Cantonese, Shanghai and Szechwan style of cuisine to both inspire and promote the fulfillment of wealth and happiness in the New Year, with recipes for a Peking Duck Salad, Short Ribs, and Deep Fried Shrimp with Chili Sauce.