Happy Year of the Dragon. Or, Chinese New Year’s Resolution.

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I avoid making New Year’s resolutions on Jan. 1. But, having not blogged since Dec. 12, I’m making a Chinese New Year’s resolution: Today, I will blog.

We celebrated Chinese New Year early this weekend and what a fabulous celebration it was. The Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute hosted the Eighth Annual Chinese New Year Dumpling-Making Dinner. For two and a half hours, we made dumplings, learned about Chinese New Year traditions, ate course after course of great Chinese food by Chinatown restaurant Hing Kee, watched a lion dance and mixed and mingled with some fine Chinese folks (who seemed intrigued that we’d heard about the event from Crain’s, of all places.)

Some observations:

– No two dumplings are created equal. After washing our hands with wipes (thank you for supplying those!) we got to choose between pork + shrimp or veggie fillings, and then wet, fill, fold and seal the dumplings. We, along with about 30 others, then put them on plates and they were boiled in back. That means there was mixing and mingling of dumplings, and the odds of eating the ones you made were minimal. I had three dumplings and only one was made with solid precision. I love the idea of learning to make dumplings, but if I’m going to eat one, I’d rather have it from a pro (or one that I made).

– Chinese food is far more innovative and delicious that I credit it. And that must be because most Chinese restaurants stick with the lowest common denominators of food, like General Tso’s chicken and sweet and sour pork, which, while delicious, would never entice me to eat at a Chinese restaurant in this day and age. However, after this meal, I would totally reconsider that and put more time into exploring Chinatown. We started out with some incredible pumpkin and seafood soup, then moved on to an appetizer platter of phenomenal fried eggplant, fried wontons, marinated cucumbers and seaweed, followed by giant meatballs, crab fried rice, fried whole fish, beef with garlic, lemon chicken, abalone mushrooms with bok choy and braised tofu. It was fantastic.

– I have still not met a Chinese dessert I would eat by choice. Sticky rice ball soup and water chestnut cake? My philistine palate just doesn’t understand.

– Dancing lions are impressive (and difficult to photograph)! I’ve always taken them for granted from afar. But one found its way into our banquet room, and the two men working it flexed some impressive acrobatics.

– The Chinese like money. Money and wealth came up over and over again when talking about symbolism and gifts on New Year’s Day. I guess I don’t blame them.

Thanks to the Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute for a truly enlightening day. May the adventurous tone be set for the rest of the Year of the Dragon.

And may I blog again sometime before March.

 

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