Monday, January 31, 2011

Happy (chinese) New Year!

Just when you thought you were done celebrating the arrival of a new year, February 3rd rolls around and out walks the lion, in hops the hare...and the festivities begin once more.

That's right. The Chinese New Years begins on February 3rd this year. Just a few days away!

If you're lucky enough to live in a big city with a Chinatown during the Chinese New Year you're in for a treat. There is plenty of food, festivities, firecrackers and dancing dragons.

People hang food outside of their doors as an offering to a mythical beast called Nien, who legend says would destroy livestock and crops, in hopes that he would enjoy the food offered and leave the crops and such be. Colorful red lanterns and firecrackers are also hung and lit in doorways to scare off the new year beast.

The "dragon" dances up and down the Chinatown streets, all the while firecrackers are set off and dancers fight against the dragon. It's a wonderful sight to behold.

And each new year brings influence of a different animal. Last year was the tiger...this year it's the hare (what is your Chinese zodiac sign?).

There is so, so, so much more to the history and tradition of the Chinese New year that I'm not familiar with. There is, however, one part of the celebration and tradition that I'm all about...that's right...the food!!!

Cakes filled with lotus bean paste. Long noodles. Spring rolls. Whole fish. Tangerines. All are considered good luck or are symbolic of wealth, long life and good fortune for the coming new year.

Long noodles represent long life. Spring rolls resemble gold bouillon. The word for fish sounds like the words for wish and abundance. And if served whole, head and tail attached, a fish for dinner symbolizes a good beginning and end of the coming year.

Even if you're firecrackers and red lanterns are in storage. Even if your dragon costume is at the dry cleaners. Even if you don't participate in any other festivities to ring in the Chinese New can always eat your way into the year of the hare...and here's how to do it............

Visit Viet Hoa Food Market right here in Louisville. This place has everything you need for your Chinese New Year feast...and much, much more.

If you're not confident in your cooking skills they have aisle after aisle of traditional Chinese pre-made frozen goods...many of which you would find on a dim sum menu. Be adventurous! Grab a cart and fill it up! All you'll have to do is re-heat it all when you get home.

Try a new noodle...they have dozens of varieties. Be brave and roast a whole fish for dinner...they have plenty.

And don't forget dessert! If you can't find anything with lotus paste, red bean paste filled treats are always yummy.

Nick and I visited Viet Hoa a few weeks ago and filled our cart with dozens of our favorite things...Chinese sausage, fish balls, our favorite type of red chili paste, dried mushrooms of every variety, noodles, sauces...the list goes on.

And don't worry about the language barrier. Viet Hoa marks just about every item with an English description. If it isn't in English on the package simply look at the shelf tag for an idea of what it is.

So ring in the Chinese New Year with traditional Chinese fare. Leave the General Tso Chicken for another time and partake in some truly delicious (and perhaps lucky) food.

Viet Hoa Food Market
7100 Preston Hwy #107
Louisville, KY 40219

P.S. They don't JUST have Chinese goods. They carry food from all across Asia...if not all across the globe.

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