Hey everyone! Happy (belated) Chinese/Lunar New Year!
Last week, I was invited to an exclusive Lunar New Year Celebration at the MOFAD’s “CHOW” exhibit, which was curated to discuss the history of Chinese food in America.
The exhibit aims to answer simple questions like, “How are fortune cookies made?” or even more complicated questions like “Is take-out authentic Chinese popularized by gentrification? Or is the cuisine assimilated to fit in with American values?”
When I arrived, I opened the door and was instantly greeted by the aggressive scent of Sichuan peppers. I could hear a wok sizzling and a low mumble of a crowded room on the other side of the cascading take-out box wall (consisting of 1500 boxes to be exact).
The event was honestly much cooler than I expected. Each food station represented a value characteristic to Lunar New Year Celebrations (i.e. prosperity for the Honey Walnut Chicken display). There was an in-house fortune cookie machine across from a wall of old restaurant menus. Everyone was so excited to meet each other and the abundance of good food only helped grow that fellowship.
And the best part? Chef Jimmy Wang, representing food franchise Panda Express, was cooking up Firecracker Chicken live on camera. He explained every ingredient’s importance to the dish, flavor-wise and in cultural context. As someone who strives to cook more at home, I took some mental notes and can’t wait to delve more into Chinese cuisine as my next challenge.
I was lucky enough to bump into a colleague and fellow writer/Pinxy Power advocate, Kristina Bustos. I also met Paolo, an alumni of MAFA (the Midwest Association of Filipino Americans) and MasterChef Junior contestant Josh Reisner. I’m always humbled in the presence of passion-driven individuals, and these three were no exception.
As I was leaving, I got a goodie bag as a parting gift from the event organizers.
I am thankful to AAJA for this opportunity to network and experience culture in a setting like this. However, these celebrations were only the beginning! Lunar New Year is not exactly a quiet holiday, and it doesn’t necessarily end overnight.
Keep checking back for more on how my Lunar New Year is going. In the next few posts, I’ll talk about the history of the holiday, my cultural heritage, and what it’s like to celebrate CNY/LNY in New York City.