Best friends Peiran Gong and Tongtong Ren run Chinese Laundry restaurant on north London's Upper Street. The dining room feels like you're sitting in a home – the pair want to give you a glimpse of 1980's Chinese family life. The northern Chinese home-style cooking is the food they grew up eating in different parts of China. Recipes and ingredients are made from scratch (pickles, sauces), with dishes on the dinner menu simmered all day 'just like grandma does'.
Chinese New Year is a huge family celebration, and Peiran and Tongtong share their top tips for hosting a memorable Chinese New Year feast!
1. Give your house a deep clean
This is an important part of the Chinese New year - the cleaning symbolises removing all of the bad luck from the year before and creating a fresh new start..
2. Prepare and distribute your red envelopes.
Traditionally at a Chinese New Year celebration an elder will give out red envelopes with money to the younger ones in the family. You can also fill the envelopes up with chocolate or a Chinese phrase with good wishes.
3. Prepare candy boxes for your party
In North China we will prepare candy boxes around a month before the party and then put these out for guests on the day. The boxes should include candied fruit, roasted sunflower seeds, coin shaped chocolates - all sorts of candies!
4. Plan your outfit for the day
Red should be the dress code for your Chinese New Year party. Traditionally, we wear red from top to bottom - even socks and belts!
5. Decorate your house.
This means red everywhere!
6. Plan entertainment for your guests.
Any good Chinese New Year celebration will include a set of Mahjongg!
7. Learn to say two sentences in Chinese
- Xin Nian Kwai Le - Happy New Year
- Gong Si Fa Cai - May Prosperity Be With You
Greet your guests with these two sentences.
8. Create your table plan
Chinese New Year dinner will traditionally be served on a round table, and every Chinese family will have a foldable round table to host their New Year dinner.
A table at the Chinese Laundry
There should be a small plate, a pair of chopsticks, a spoon for everyone, Father Chopstick and Mother spoon (Serving chopsticks and serving spoon). Dipping sauce, light soy sauce, rice vinegar and chilli oil are all a must. Baijiu glasses should be separated from the water glasses. Don't forget to put out your candy box as well as some nuts, prawn crackers, five spice sunflower seeds for guests to eat before dinner starts.
9. Finally FOOD
Dumplings are a key part of a Chinese New Year dinner. In the North, the whole family makes dumplings in the morning and we eat rounds of dumplings throughout the day - the last round is after midnight! On Chinese New Year we usually play a dumpling game - we will stuff the dumplings with a variety of unusual fillings, for example, candy If you get candy it means you are going to have a sweet, sweet year. Rice cakes mean progress. Dates mean things will happen on time in the new year. Coins (you need to clean and disinfect first) mean good fortune.
Learn to greet your guests in Chinese: Gong Si Fa Cai and Xin Nian Kwai Le
Just make sure to remind your guests to be careful with their teeth when eating the dumplings if you are going to play this game. As well as dumplings, your Chinese New Year dinner should start with prawn crackers, cold loumei, or you can follow our recipe for chicken carcass (to be posted here next week). For the main dishes, you should always have at least one meat dish, one fish dish, and a variety of vegetable dishes, as well as steamed or stewed dishes and a small selection of wok dishes too.
You can find out more about Chinese Laundry at www.chineselaundryroom.co.uk