Is New Year a distant memory? The Julian calendar is sooo last year, don’t you think? Let’s find our festive mojo all over again – to celebrate Chinese New Year.
Any occasion that requires the gathering of friends and family around a feasting table is sure to banish winter blues. It encourages us to look forward, anticipate the arrival of Spring, celebrate health and success and spend time with family and friends.
YEAR OF THE DOG
As with Easter, the dates of Chinese New Year are determined by the lunar cycle. This year, the biggest festive event of the Chinese calendar begins on Friday 16th February and continues for the following 15 days. It ushers in the Year of the Dog – the Chinese Zodiac sign most associated with ACTION. So, there’s just about enough time left to set a date, invite your friends and enjoy a typical Chinese feast!
Like fondue, Chinese hotpot is all about the convivial dining experience of eating together round a single, shared pot. And like the Alpine classic, it’s also incredibly easy to prepare. But first, you must have a suitable pot…
Thanks to their similarities, a fondue pot, with burner, will double up nicely as a hotpot for your Chinese feast. If you don’t already own one, seek out your nearest brocante where you might find one for a fraction of the cost of a new one. If you are feeling flush, Coop City and Manor stock many different sizes and versions.
Once you have sourced a suitable pot it’s time to familiarise yourself with one of the many Asian supermarkets just across the border, at the Mollesulaz end of the Tram 12 line. We visited Supermarché International at 70 rue de Geneve, but there are several within a short distance (for details see below). The range of fresh, frozen and store-cupboard ingredients is outstanding, and not only from China but also Korea, Japan, India, Thailand… and with jaded Geneva eyes looking at Euro prices, these places provide further reason to celebrate!
The essential ingredient for hotpot is simply a stock base and dipping condiment (see picture for examples). What you put in the hotpot after that is entirely up to you, with an almost limitless amount of possibilities, though it’s worth mentioning that while hot pot is enjoyed year round, lamb is traditionally included in a New Year version.
Chinese cabbage, sugar snaps, mange tout, boneless fish fillet such as cod or salmon, strips of beef or pork, mushrooms (any variety), glass noodles, tofu (soft or fried), prawns, peppers… if the item is suitable for poaching and you like it – throw it in!
If it’s poachable and you like it – throw it in!
With the stock simmering and the ingredients readily to hand, you and your guests simply add – and keep adding – whatever takes your fancy. Cooked ingredients* can be transferred with a slotted spoon to a serving plate and passed among diners to help themselves. Each diner has their own bowl with a small quantity of dipping sauce which they can use to further garnish their cooked ingredients, perhaps with a sprinkle of sliced spring onion or a few coriander leaves… and that’s it: eat, eat, EAT!
*Please take care to ensure any fish or meat is thoroughly cooked through before eating!
CELEBRATE CHINESE NEW YEAR IN STYLE
Colour is important – think about what you’re wearing and, if planning to give gifts, pay attention not only to the wrapping but the gift itself: red, gold and yellow are believed to bring success as they symbolise wealth and prosperity, and you must AVOID white – it is associated with funerals. (Blue and black have similarly mortal associations so best avoid those too.)
Numbers also have symbolic importance. Avoid four of anything (the pronunciation in Chinese is similar to the word for death). Eight, on the other hand, is considered a very lucky number – great news for 2018!
If giving gifts to multiple people, start with the oldest person first as a mark of respect. Equally, should you receive a gift, it is considered impolite to open it at once. Better to express your thanks and put the gift to one side to open later.
After all that cooking, does the kitchen floor need a sweep? Perhaps the recycling bin is overflowing with empty wine and beer bottles? Don’t be tempted to sweep or take out rubbish though: doing these tasks on the day you celebrate New Year may bring bad luck and will just have to wait until another day. Phew!
Asia Shop, 86 rue de Genève, 74240 Gaillard, France
Sunday to Saturday, 9am – 7pm; closed Mondays
Ho Wan Chinese Supermarket, 147 rue de Genève, 74240 Gaillard, France
Monday to Fridays, 10am – 1.30pm and 3pm – 8pm; Saturdays 9.30am – 730pm; Sundays 10am – 1pm and 4pm – 7pm
Supermarché International, 70 rue de Genève, 74240 Gaillard, France
Monday to Sunday, 9am-8pm
Wowo Chinese Supermarket, 366 rue du 18 Août 1944, 74100 Etrembières, France
Sunday to Saturday, midday – 2.30pm and 7pm – 10.30pm; closed Mondays
If you’re in the mood for an after-party – the Village du Soir is hosting a Chinese New Year’s party on Friday 16th February 2018.