You may have thought you were finished celebrating the new year, but you’re not! This Saturday marks the new lunar year ushering in the Year of the Rooster in the Chinese calendar, and Austin has plenty of options to help you celebrate the Chinese New Year.
For many people, the Chinese New Year is a mysterious thing they only hear about on television news the day the calendar turns. But this year, Austin.com has all the information you need to prepare yourself to party. And you don’t have to spend a day or more traveling to Beijing. You can do it all right here in Austin.
While you may think celebrating with pyrotechnics and food are as American as the Super Bowl and childhood obesity, these two elements are essential to ringing in the Chinese New Year. After all, the Chinese did invent gunpowder. As for the firecrackers, tradition says the louder they are the more luck they’ll bring you in the new year. And for food, you can’t go wrong with fish, dumplings, spring rolls, glutinous rice cakes, sweet rice balls, and pineapple which all relate to some form of luck or good fortune.
Giving red envelopes filled with money is another Chinese New Year ritual that’s easy to get behind. Much like exchanging Christmas presents, those celebrating the Chinese New Year give each other gifts, and the most popular one is money in a red envelope. The red color symbolizes luck. Are you sensing a theme here? But traditionally, the red envelopes are reserved for children and retired adults, but bosses often give them to employees, as well. So instead of a Christmas bonus, you get a New Year’s bonus.
The red motif extends from the envelopes to Chinese New Year decorations. Typically, red decorations are put up the day before, so you probably won’t see places decked out until January 27 in preparation for January 28. This year, decorations feature rooster designs because we’re heading into the Chinese zodiac’s Year of the Rooster.
Maybe you’re a newbie at this whole Chinese New Year thing and you want more experienced revelers to set you up. Have no fear! Austin has restaurants ready to feed you and cultural events to inform and entertain you.
Snow Pea Asian Bistro has an all-day dinner special for $29.99 per person. The Omakashi Sushi Dinner (Omakashi means “Surprise Me!”) includes a variety of sushi from snapper, sea bass, ahi tuna, yellow tail, shrimp, scallops, and more. Plus, it is served with a small hot or cold sake and includes a two piece crab rangoon appetizer. And if you’re not a sushi lover, they’re also offering $2 off chicken entrees in honor of the Year of the Rooster.
Snow Pea has been a fixture of the Austin community for 20 years. “I met my husband Peter Lu here in Austin, and he is a special chef. He loves to cook and has been a chef all his life. His passion drove us both to start Snow Pea Asian Bistro off Jefferson and 35th,” co-owner Suk O’Brien told Austin.com.
Another option for your Chinese New Year dining is General Tso’Boy. As you can tell by the name, this place isn’t a classic Chinese restaurant. It started as a New York City pop-up restaurant, and now owners Gary and Jessica Wu say they serve up “the perfect marriage of American Chinese flavors sandwiched between the soft crunch of French bread.”
Their Chinese New Year special is a traditional pineapple cake soft serve sundae topped with pineapple caramel. The caramel is made by acclaimed pastry chef Janina O’Leary. Pineapple cakes are a traditional Chinese gift meant to bring prosperity. The General Tso’Boy take on the dish is a soft serve version with pineapple cake, soft serve, shortbread crumbs, and that Janina O’Leary caramel. They’ll also have spicy pork wonton soup and spicy pork chili wontons folded in a “prosperity” fold, as seen in classic Chinese New Year traditions.
So you have your meals locked down with Snow Pea and General Tso’Boy. Now, where are you going to party? The Asian American Cultural Center is holding a lunar new year celebration on Saturday, January 28, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., featuring Asian cultural dances, music, martial arts performances, lion dance, calligraphy, traditional foods, and children’s activities. Admission is free.
And if you can’t make it on Saturday, Chinatown Center is holding its event on Sunday, February 5, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. But why not go to both?
So now you know where to go and what to do for the Chinese New Year. Now, get ready to celebrate!
Feature photo by Flickr user NikiSublime, Creative Commons licensed