Q&A: Celebrating the Chinese New Year in New York City

By Annie Wu, Epoch Times
February 4, 2016 9:28 am Last Updated: February 9, 2016 5:37 pm

Here’s how these New York chef–owners are celebrating the Chinese New Year.

Erika Chou and Doron Wong of Yunnan BBQ. (Thomas Iannaccone)
Erika Chou and Doron Wong of Yunnan BBQ. (Thomas Iannaccone)

Owner Erika Chou and chef Doron Wong are behind Yunnan BBQ. Wong grew up in Boston; Chou was raised in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Epoch Times: What dishes does your family make for Chinese New Year?

Doron Wong: Dried oyster with fat choy, poached chicken with ginger and scallion, roast pork, nian gao.

Erika Chou: Steamed whole fish with lots of scallions, ginger, and cilantro on it. I always loved that sizzling sound when my mom poured hot oil on top to bring out the aromas of the ginger and scallion. For dessert, it would be black-sesame-filled tang yuan and traditional sweet nian gao that was lightly coated in egg, then pan-seared. As kids we would see who could flip the pieces over with our bare fingers.

Epoch Times: What other family holiday traditions did you have?

Mr. Wong: The end-of-the-year meal with the family is really important. The first meal of the new year is vegetarian. Don’t wash your hair on the first day!

Ms. Chou: We would always wrap dumplings on the first day and the elders would give out “hong bao” [red envelopes] after we bid them happy New Year and blessed their health or business or whatever we could think of. 

Epoch Times: If you were to dine out for Chinese New Year, where would you go?

Mr. Wong: Canton Gourmet in Flushing.

Ms. Chou: Hakkasan for something special.

Amelie Kang of MaLa Project. (Courtesy of Amelie Kang)
Amelie Kang of MaLa Project. (Courtesy of Amelie Kang)

Amelie Kang, the owner of MaLa Project, is from Tangshan, Hebei, two hours from Beijing. Most of the family dishes are from northeast China. Her father has a farm in Tangshan.

Epoch Times: What dishes does your family make for Chinese New Year?

Amelie Kang: For Chinese New Year, my grandma always makes a dish called “su rou.” The name pretty much means crispy and tender pork. Pork is marinated in wine and five-spice powder, battered and fried, then stewed with cabbage, ginger, and scallion. But I would always steal the just-fried pork before Grandma used it in her stew. So there are always two kinds of su rou on our New Year’s Eve dinner table—the unfinished fried, and the finished product, which is a pork stew. Other dishes like steamed whole fish with scallion, red-cooked pork, and pork feet stew are always expected on New Year’s Eve. 

Epoch Times: What other family holiday traditions did you have?

As for New Year traditions, besides the all-known red envelope tradition, my families gather on my dad’s farm, where we have a feast of swan meat stew and whole lamb barbecue. Everything is raised and prepared and cooked right there on the farm.

Epoch Times: If you were to dine out for Chinese New Year, where would you go?

Ms. Kang: Assuming that I can’t pick my own restaurant, haha, I’d probably go to Mission Chinese Food or La Chine, where you know it is not original Chinese by any means, but it’ll be a nice experience. We never go out to eat on New Year’s Eve back home. If we do go out, might as well have something different. 

(Hannah Cheng not pictured)

Hannah Cheng is co-owner of Mimi Cheng’s Dumplings.

Epoch Times: What dishes does your family make for Chinese New Year?

Hannah Cheng: Our mom Mimi’s chicken and zucchini pan-fried dumplings, sautéed rice cakes, hot pot—all the good stuff. 

Epoch Times: What other family holiday traditions did you have?

Ms. Cheng: We’d always clean the house to start the new year off with a fresh start. We would also call all our relatives around the world to wish them good health and prosperity. 

Epoch Times: If you were to dine out for Chinese New Year, where would you go?

Ms. Cheng: We usually cook a big feast at home. If we were to go out, Fung Tu and Nom Wah are great options.