Stepping Out

Lunar New Year feasting

Host a celebration to welcome the Year of the Dragon


Super Sunday weekend is upon us. And with it, the start of the Year of the Dragon, which arrives Feb. 10. Before everyone’s attention turns to the Big Game, why not partake of some more New Year’s revelry with an Asian twist? So take out the broom and sweep away the winter doldrums with a Lunar New Year gathering.

The dragon is the sixth year of the Chinese zodiac, which consists of 12 years (and 12 different animals) total.

A majestic and lucky creature in Chinese folklore, the dragon symbolizes bravery, creativity and innovation. According to the Chinese horoscope, 2024 is a year full of potential and opportunities for personal growth, professional success and social impact. The dragon is also associated with one of the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal or water. Each element gives the dragon a different personality and destiny.

Actually the Year of the Wood Dragon, 2024 is also known as Yang Wood on Dragon, or Jia Chen. The fixed element of the dragon (chen) is Earth (Wu), which represents stability, honesty and loyalty. The variable element of the dragon in 2024 is yang wood, or jia, further representing growth, creativity and flexibility. The wood dragon, according to the lore, is the most creative and visionary of the dragons. They are optimistic, ambitious and adventurous — ready to explore new ideas and challenge themselves. They are also generous, compassionate, and loyal to their friends.

Therefore, the Year of the Dragon in 2024 is expected to be a time of visionary leaders, innovators and problem solvers. It’s also predicted to be a great year to start new projects, explore new opportunities, and create value for yourself and others.

Lunar New Year is all about spectacle, from those ubiquitous fireworks and dancing dragons, to an assortment of delectable food. That’s why it’s a holiday anyone can enjoy — and a great time to host a party.

From the décor and color scheme, to the food, Lunar New Year is rich in beautiful symbols. If you’ve got a round table, this is the time to use it, because it is a sign of wholeness. Decorate it with red and gold accents to represent good luck and prosperity.

During Lunar New Year, the color red is everywhere. People wear red, decorate with poems on red paper, and give children “hong bao” (or “lucky money”) in red envelopes. That’s because red symbolizes happiness, abundance and good fortune. It also symbolizes fire, which according to legend, can drive away bad luck.

There are all sorts of symbolic foods, each associated with specific blessings or good luck. Noodles — in dishes such as Snake Alley Noodles — stand for longevity. Pork symbolizes wealth. A whole chicken? Completeness and prosperity.

Supplement the meal with other symbolic foods, such as pot stickers or spring rolls (said to bring prosperity because they resemble gold ingots); a bowl of tangerines or oranges (their Chinese names sound like the words for “luck” and “wealth”); fortune cookies to go with dessert — you can even insert your own customized fortunes for the year ahead. For the ultimate in a customized fortune, make homemade fortune cookies and write creative fortunes to delight and amuse your guests.

And at the stroke of midnight, open your doors and windows to release the stresses of the old year.

Lucky Day Stir Fry
• 1/3 cup stir-fry Sauce
• 1 large clove garlic, pressed
• 1/2 pound fresh asparagus
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1 medium onion, sliced
• 1/2 pound fresh snow peas, trimmed
• 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch strips
• 10 to 12 ears canned whole baby corn, rinsed (optional)
Combine stir-fry sauce and garlic. Cut asparagus crosswise into 2-inch pieces.

Heat oil in hot wok or large skillet over high heat. Add asparagus and onion; stir-fry 2 minutes. Add snow peas; stir-fry 2 minutes. Add red bell pepper; stir-fry 2 minutes. Add corn; stir-fry 1 minute.
Pour in stir-fry sauce mixture and cook, stirring, until vegetables are coated with sauce. Serve immediately.

Classic Fried Rice
• 6 strips bacon, cut 1/2-inch pieces
• 1 egg, beaten
• 8 green onions and tops, sliced
• 4 cups cold, cooked rice
• 1 tablespoon minced garlic
• 3 tablespoons soy sauce

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Move bacon to the side of the pan; add egg and scramble. Move egg over and add green onions to the skillet; saute for about a minute. Stir in the rice, add garlic and soy sauce. Toss until mixture is well blended and heated through.

Snake Alley Noodles
• 3/4 pound uncooked spaghetti
• 1/4 cup soy sauce
• 2 tablespoons dry sherry
• 4 teaspoons cornstarch
• 1 pound ground pork
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
• 3/4 cup chopped green onions and tops
• 1/2 pound cooked baby shrimp, rinsed and drained

Cook spaghetti according to package directions, omitting salt; drain and keep warm. Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, sherry, cornstarch and 1 cup water.

Stir-fry pork with ginger, garlic and red pepper in hot wok or large skillet over medium heat, until pork is cooked.

Add green onions; stir-fry 1 minute. Add soy sauce mixture; cook and stir until mixture boils and thickens slightly. Stir in shrimp and heat through.

Pour over noodles and toss to combine. Enjoy!