Put your new red pants on and forget sweet and sour chicken – we've got Chinese New Year covered
Chinese New Year is riding into town this year on 8 February. And we've got you covered. Forget sweet and sour chicken – here's our guide to how to celebrate. Gong xi fa cai!
First things first, get yourself a whole new outfit
Even your pants need to be brand spankin' new, and they have to be red. If you want it to be a lucky year, wear as much red as you can. Head to toe. Red is the happiest colour in the Chinese colour wheel – it symbolises joy and luck and it's everywhere at New Year.
Make a 'tray of togetherness'
Find an old fondue set, a lazy susan or one of those weird dip wheels from the 80s, and fill it with treats. See if your local Chinese restaurant does candied lotus pods, otherwise your favourite sweets will just have to do.
Get the mahjong set out and stay up late
The saying goes that the longer you stay up, the longer your parents will live, which frankly is quite a lot of pressure for a six-year-old.
Eat these dishes
Now you're ready to order. Pay with cash in a red envelope – there's nothing luckier to see in the New Year.
Cong you bing (spring onion pancakes)
For a crunchy, fried starter, try these pancakes: Chinese pancakes are made with dough insteasd of batter, so this is really a crispy fried flatbread with chopped spring onions.
Xiao long bao (soup dumplings)
These are Shanghai dumplings, usually filled with pork or crab and a rich broth. Apart from being delicious, dumplings are thought to bring prosperity because they look like the ingots once used as Chinese currency. You can buy frozen dumplings from any Chinese supermarket, but making them from scratch is something you should try at least once. You'll need a bamboo steamer and a bit of spare time, but trust us, it'll be worth it.
Yu xiang rou si (shredded pork in hot garlic sauce)
If you're looking for the traditional Chinese experience, stay away from beef and broccoli. Broccoli as we know it isn't really grown in China, and beef isn't that popular. Instead, try this Sichuan dish of spicy shredded pork, usually sauteed with mushrooms and peppers.
If you're hankering for a wonton soup, go for the more delicate and flavourful shrimp dumpling soup with fresh noodles. In keeping with Chinese tradition, attempt to eat at least one of your long noodles whole to bring you good luck.
Zha jiang mian (minced pork noodles)
This is a delicious and very traditional Chinese dish, containing stir-fried meat (usually pork), noodles, crisp fresh vegetables and zhajiang (fermented soybean sauce). You might be wrinkling your nose at 'fermented soybean', but the sauce will bring out all the flavour.
It's literally compulsory to have dessert in order to have a 'sweet life' in the coming year. These little desert balls are filled with sweet sesame or peanut paste. Their name is tang yuan, which sounds just like tuan yuan – 'gathering together' (Chinese New Year is all about the food puns).
Finish with oranges instead of fortune cookies
The word for tangerine in Chinese is very similar to the word for gold and the word for orange is very similar to the word for luck, so both fruits are abundant at New Year. Order oranges, instead of fortune cookies, to finish off your meal.