Ring in the Chinese New Year with Traditional Treats

26 Jan
January 26, 2012

This week marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year, one of the most important holidays in Chinese culture. The Year of the Dragon officially began last Monday on their New Year’s Day. But unlike the Western New Year, the celebration doesn’t end the day after the clock strikes twelve. No, the Chinese New Year is a two-week long festival that’s still going on.

This year is an extremely important one in the Chinese calendar, which runs on a 12-year cycle, known as the Zodiac. Each year of the cycle corresponds to an animal, real or fictitious. This year is the Year of the Dragon, which is considered the luckiest year in the cycle. It’s one of the most powerful signs in the Zodiac, signifying dominance as well as ambition.

Which means there’s reason to celebrate, even if you don’t follow the Zodiac.

The best place for festivities will of course be Chinatown, in the heart of downtown D.C., Northwest of the Verizon Center.

There will be plenty of festivities held there this year, but the biggest will be the Chinese New Year’s Day Parade. From 2-5 p.m., this Saturday the 28th, a four-block square, from 6th to 8th Street and G to I Street will be shut down to make room for the raucous parade. During the day, you’ll see dragons marching, hear traditional Chinese musical entertainment and can even catch a Kung Fu demonstration.

If you really want to have a totally authentic celebration on Saturday, go to Chinatown earlier in the day and experience the traditional Chinese brunch, known as Dim Sum.

Dim Sum, which means heart’s delight, is a different style of eating. Instead of the typical menu and ordering process, servers instead push carts around filled with small, appetizer-sized portions. The ordering options encompass the commonplace, like steamed buns and dumplings, and the far out, like fried chicken feet and turnip cakes. At the restaurant, diners can simply see something they like being carted around and ask for a serving.

In Chinatown, there are plenty of excellent Dim Sum spots, and the best way to find one is to walk around and look to see which restaurants are buzzing. Or you could head to the spot that’s considered one of the better in the city, which is just north of the Chinatown arch, Ping Pong Dim Sum.

Ping Pong Dim Sum is one of the most popular Dim Sum spots in D.C., so much so that they just opened a second location in Dupont Circle. The Chinatown location, on 7th just South of K Street, is actually an offshoot of a London chain.

The restaurant starts serving Dim Sum at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, and has some of the tastiest bites around, with nearly 50 choices to choose from. Plates are inexpensive, running from just $3 up to $7. But, since the sizes are small, it is easy to accidentally run up a tab.

If you can’t make it to Ping Pong on Saturday, before the parade, then Sunday is another great time to go. Not only will fewer people be around, but in honor of the Chinese holiday, the restaurant is hosting a “Green Dragon Party Brunch,” where diners who arrive with green in their outfit will receive 15% off their checks.

So with the Year of the Dragon expected to be the luckiest of a 12-year cycle, start yours of with “sum”-thing a little different.
- David

 

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