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Learn about Vietnamese food traditions.

Experiment with lively Asian flavors to perk up your cooking.

Try these lucky Lunar New Year recipes.


Lunar New Year—A Recipe for Good Fortune

If you're one of the many who have already defaulted on their New Year's resolutions, don't fret—you still have another chance! The Lunar, or Chinese New Year as it's often called, is just around the corner. The Lunar New Year is the most important celebration of the year in many Asian countries. The New Year falls on a different date each year depending on the Chinese calendar, which is based on Emperor Han Wu Di's almanac. The Chinese New Year is celebrated on the second new moon after the winter solstice and falls between January 21st and February 19th on the Gregorian calendar.

The Kitchen God

The Lunar New Year celebration centers on ushering in luck for the year to come. Much like large American holidays, people begin preparing for the New Year about a month in advance—buying presents, decorations, food and new clothing. Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and other Asian households begin cleaning their homes and preparing for the celebration; sweeping all potential bad luck from every corner of their homes. It is said that during this time the Kitchen God leaves the home to report on the family. In the absence of the Kitchen God, families plant a bamboo pole in front of the home and decorate it with red paper.

Once the home is prepared, the important traditional foods can be made. The New Year's dinner is a very special occasion for the family and usually includes various seafood and dumplings to bring good luck and prosperity into the home. Believed to protect against evil, the color red is ubiquitous during New Year festivities—tinting everything from clothing and food to the New Year's tree and special envelopes bearing money.

Recipe for Good Luck

What you don't do on the holiday is nearly important as what you do. Most people don't eat red meat and eating or serving food from a cracked or chipped plate is taboo. And arguing is avoided, as it would be a bad omen of things to come during the year. Giving gifts of money or food are always given in an even number—odd numbers are thought to bring bad luck.

Along with seafood, seasonal citrus fruits take center stage during the Lunar New Year. Symbolizing wealth and abundance, gifts of oranges, grapefruit and tangerines are often given as presents to family members and neighbors.

My friend Christina enjoys the Vietnamese food customs that her family follows every year. "The Lunar New Year is a celebration that brings family and friends together with food. My grandmother, Ma Le, spends the whole week beforehand preparing edible gifts and dishes for the three-day long banquet. Ma Le makes traditional gifts of edible parcels wrapped and steamed in banana leaves and filled with pork or sticky rice with a mung bean center." This year I hope I’m lucky enough for Christina to invite me to share these traditional treats with her!

Whether it's your custom to celebrate the Lunar New Year or you'd just like to have a second chance at your resolutions, ensure an auspicious start with our menu for good fortune.

— Frances Largeman

Menu for Good Fortune

Chicken and Asparagus Skewers with Lemongrass Dipping Sauce
or Skewered Chicken with Mango Dipping Sauce
Shao Mai Dumplings
Thai Style Tomato Soup with Shrimp and Rice Noodles
John Ash, Fetzer Vineyards, Napa Valley, CA

Main Course:
Tangerine Teriyaki Tuna
Steven Raichlen
Garlic Shrimp with Cucumbers and Shiitake Mushrooms

Orange Good Luck Cookies
Winter Fruit Salad

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