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How chains and independents are celebrating Chinese New Year

3 min read


The Year of the Dragon begins today, and chains and independents nationwide are offering promotions and limited-time menus throughout the 15-day Chinese New Year celebration.

  • P.F. Chang’s China Bistro is presenting its restaurant guests and Facebook application users with red envelopes including secret offers into February. Red envelopes are traditional at Chinese New Year, and the color symbolizes good fortune. The chain also is partnering with China’s leading beer company, Tsingtao Beer, to create a limited-time specialty cocktail, Dragon Punch.
  • Limited-time menu items such as Asian sea bass, lucky noodles, char siu pork tenderloin and General Tso’s chicken are part of the “Feast of Fortune” celebration at Thaifoon — Taste of Asia in Salt Lake City. Chicken lettuce wraps, pork pot stickers, black bean beef and Mongolian pork with Chinese sausage are on another local menu, at the Mandarin, where a traditional lion dance will be performed, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
  • Panda Express is bringing back a customer favorite, the Firecracker Chicken Breast, in honor of the new year and less-caloric dishes. The item is on the chain’s Wok Smart menu, which includes dishes that are fewer than 250 calories.
  • The pace of a Pennsylvania restaurant always quickens this time of year. The owner of Tres Yan & Wu Restaurant & Sushi Bar discussed the hard work that goes into running a restaurant with the Burlington County Times, which gave a history of the holiday.
  • Chef Jonathan Chi of Chi Dynasty in Los Angeles shared his recipe for a sizzling rice soup.

Wok Star Eleanor Hoh, a cooking teacher, blogger and presenter, answered some of my questions about Chinese New Year. View Hoh’s website for more information.

What food and flavors are most traditional for Chinese New Year?

Chinese New Year is the most celebrated festival in the Chinese calendar, and traditionally, the best of everything would be served. Each dish either symbolizes good luck, prosperity and longevity or sounds like abundance. For example, pig is a symbol of abundance, noodles for longevity, and dumplings resemble an ingot. My mother used to serve one of everything so the whole table would be covered. New Year’s Eve dinner is traditionally eaten at home with family.

It’s a time to be with family and friends. How can restaurants create this special atmosphere?

Restaurants can create a cozy atmosphere with dimmer lighting, fresh flowers, red and gold decorations and not too much noise. The dragon dance with loud cymbals and performance artists are enough for one night.

It might be busier than usual for some Chinese restaurants. How can chefs and cooks be prepared for extra tickets?

Instead of ordering a la carte, it’s more efficient and practical to offer a variety of set menus. This is typical in Asia and:

  • Allows chefs to focus on quality rather than quantity.
  • Gives guests a special experience.
  • Ensures dinner is served in a timely manner.

Have you heard of any Chinese restaurants hosting cooking classes to help celebrate? What do you think of that idea?

No. I don’t think Chinese restaurants should teach restaurant-style cooking to home cooks because the techniques are totally different. The stoves have intense heat and would be dangerous for novice cooks. Chinese restaurant food is mostly deep fried, which is not a home-cooking technique.

Share your ideas in the comments on how to make Chinese New Year special for customers.

Photo credit: iStockphoto