Who doesn’t like a reason to celebrate? That’s right folks. Hold on to your chopsticks because it’s Chinese New Year!!
New Year’s Eve may have past a couple months ago but I can never pass up another opportunity to gather with friends and ring in another year together. A few trips to the Asian market and my first Chinese New Year Dinner Party was born.
Planning any dinner party does not need to be a huge ordeal or a painstaking process that consumes the week leading up to the event. From my experience, I can say it is all about the guests. My friends and I like to say, “We bring the fun!” And it couldn’t be more true. When you get a great group of people together, you are bound to have a fabulous time no matter what happens.
Once you have figured out the guest list, you can start planning the rest of the night. For me, this is the food. I want my guests leaving stuffed to the brim and with sore cheeks from laughing so hard. I wanted this menu to be delicious and simple so I turned to one of my favorites for convenience and ease – Rachel Ray. In her February issue of Rachel Ray magazine, she did an entire spread on throwing a Chines New Year party; complete with printables, favors, and zodiac wheels. SOLD!
|Pancetta Fried Rice|
I added one or two family favorites (like Damn Delicious’ Pancetta Fried Rice and Julia’s Crunchy Asian Salad with Peanut Dressing) and decided on a few appetizers. The tricky thing for this dinner party were the dietary restrictions for some of the guests. We had vegetarians and gluten free guests that needed to be taken into consideration. With a few tweaks to the menu, we were all set.
This Crab Rangoon dip was a huge hit. I opted for the dip over the rolls since it not only is easier to make but is also gluten free. I baked up some wantons to serve with the dip, along with some cut up veggies. In addition, I made some gluten free vegetarian spring rolls that were amazing. How can you not love mint, basil, and cilantro all wrapped up? I also made a few with shrimp for those of us that enjoy the extra protein.
Most of the main dishes could be made or at least started ahead of time. This makes things run a lot more smoothly on the day of your party! We made Rachel Ray’s pork scallion dumplings with her edamame dumplings as a vegetarian alternative. Some lettuce wraps, spicy sesame noodles, and pork spare ribs really brought the meal together. Our local Asian market sells the most delicious beef noodle soup I have ever had so I knew I had to share this with my friends. I bought two orders of it and served them in small rice bowls I picked up from the market for $0.99 each! You seriously have to check out your local market because you can really stretch your money and get some great finds.
I kept dessert simple with just some almond cookies and fortune cookies for all. I wanted the main event to be the meal itself. I served everything family style at the table which made everyone interact right from the beginning. My absolute favorite detail from the entire party is my husband’s brain child. When I
told asked him about having a Chinese New Year dinner party, the only thing he said was, “Well, then I need to build a giant lazy susan.” You see my husband travels to China and Japan quite frequently for business and he loves how every table has a giant lazy susan or conveyer belt to distribute the food. So he made a quick trip to the hardware store and with 30 minutes had transformed an old table into a giant lazy susan! I bought a yard or so of Chinese fabric and there you have it. The most fun you could have with 13 people around a dining table!
I knew I wanted to have a simple favor at each place setting to add to the fun of the evening. So I purchased a pack of Chinese Red Envelopes from World Market the weekend before the party and got them drastically on sale. Instead of putting money into each envelope, I put a scratch-off lottery ticket and an old Chinese currency coin in each. I couldn’t believe how excited everyone when they realized what was instead their envelopes!
I kept the décor simple since I thought the money would be better spent on some Asian beer and cocktails. A few flowers, tangerines for good luck, red candles, and a Chinese fan were all I did to set the mood.
Once we all got seated around the table, I pulled out a few fun games. First, I had everyone grab and then read their fortune from the Chinese Fortune Sticks from World Market. Then we played a game where each guest pulls a slip of red paper out of a bowl and reads it to the table. They then have to answer it in front of everyone no matter how hilariously inappropriate! If you are interested, comment below and I would be happy to share the questions I came up with!!!
I love all these reasons for parties and socializing with friends and family. What is your favorite reason to celebrate or throw a party?