Phoenix Celebrates Chinese New Year 2012: A Chow Bella Guide

Monday the 23rd of January kicks off an entire week of festivities for Chinese New Year. According to the Chinese lunar calender, this year is 4710 and the auspicious Year of the Dragon. How auspicious? According to Phoenix Chinese Week, Chinese wedding planners were booked up in 2011 with happy couples trying to get a kid out during the Year of the Dragon. Phoenix Chinese Week is hosting a crowded weekend of activities at the Chinese Cultural Center from Friday the 27th to Sunday the 29th. They'll be running everything from a go tournament to a dragon boat display.

Do you want to sample traditional Chinese New Year treats? Of course you do. Phoenix Chinese Week will have a food pavilion open Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Chinese New Year food recommendations after the jump!

Yesterday, we spoke with Phoenix Chinese Week president Tony Tang and vendor coordinator Jenny Hom about what we can expect. They explained that Super L Ranch Market will be preparing an array of traditional New Year foods:

Doufuhua: Sweet tofu dessert. No wait! Come back! This is probably not the tofu you're thinking of. This dessert is made with flan-soft fresh tofu, before the water is squeezed out and it turns into a brick. The custard-like tofu is served with a light syrup of rock sugar and ginger. Tang said, "[This is] my favorite. Nobody in town makes it homemade."

Nian Gao: Nian gao translates to "sticky cake" but its pronunciation is identical to "higher year." By eating nian gao you'll be moving up in the world in the coming year. Chinese language lesson aside, nian gao are made from sweetened sticky rice that is steamed into a truly tasty cake.

Zongzi: Hom described zongzi as "Chinese tamales" and her description is not too far from the truth. Like nian gao, this dish involves sticky rice but unlike nian gao this rice is filled with meat and the whole thing is steamed in a banana leaf. The slight sweetness of the rice contrasts nicely the salty flavor of the meat filling.

Gok Jau: These deep fried dumplings are filled with a sweet mixture of peanuts, cashews, coconut and sugar. Tang said this dish is as traditional to Chinese New Year as turkey is to Thanksgiving.

Super L Ranch Market will also be selling fresh pastries from their bakery and other favorites such as fresh shrimp chips and bao.

If you're swinging by the Chinese Cultural Center around lunchtime you'll want to check out the Golden Buddha for dim sum. Hom said that they should be serving some special Chinese New Years dishes in addition to their regular dim sum menu.

Still hungry? If you have never experienced a 10-course Chinese banquet, clear you schedule Sunday night because Great Wall Hong Kong Cuisine (3446 W. Camelback Rd.) will be serving one up for $40 a person. You only have until the 23rd to make reservations, so don't dawdle.

And if that isn't enough you can always check out P.F. Chang's red envelope promotion. Eating Americanized Chinese food while trying not to stare at a stone horse's rear has never been so enticing.

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