Why You Should Celebrate Chinese New Year At San Francisco’s Epicurean Destination China Live

This year, Chinese New Year falls on Jan. 25, and will last through Feb. 8th. If you haven’t yet figured out where to celebrate, China Live, the 30k square-foot Chinese food and retail emporium in Chinatown, is a good place to start. China Live is throwing a slew of CNY celebrations, workshops and events to highlight the year of the rat.

“Chinese New Year is the most exciting and celebratory time in Chinese culture and as a pioneer in introducing modern Chinese cuisine we wanted to do something really special,” said George Chen, founder and executive chef of China Live. Chen hopes that from these celebrations guests take away great joy and harmony.

The big celebration takes place on Jan. 24th with a Shanghai in the 1920’s theme. Music, specialty cocktails, a dim sum feast, fortune tellers, photo booth and more will be at their biggest annual party of the year. In addition to the big bash (tickets here), China Live will have a selection of Chinese New Year menu specials served daily from Jan. 24-Feb. 4 that will include red seafood dumplings, steamed whole fish, nian gao and red bean mochi.

At Cold Drinks Bar located discretely on the second floor of China Live, guests can partake in Chinese New Year cinema and music with a movie night show on Jan. 27 and a holiday special “Rat” cocktail.

Also on the calendar are free workshops, pop-up lion dance performances and tastings special to this time of year. “We will present many Chinese traditions, like how to toast Chinese wine (Baijiu), make dumplings, and of course, fortune telling, as Chinese are quite superstitious in their manners and behavior,” explains Chen.

We chatted with Chen on the significance of CNY, what guests can expect at China Live during the holiday and more. Here’s what he had to say.

For someone who doesn’t know the significance of Chinese New Year, what would you tell them?

This is Christmas and New Year’s wrapped into one big, two-week plus holiday. It’s Christmas because families and friends invite each other for meals, from simple to extravagant. They also exchange gifts with family, friends and business relationships, so it’s by far the biggest shopping period on the Chinese Lunar Calendar. Note Chinese Lunar Calendar changes every year so this year it falls on Jan. 25.

It is also called the Spring Holiday as this is when families get together in China and beyond. It’s like our Thanksgiving. In China today, this is the biggest mass migration as many workers in urban areas go home to each kinfolks and it is estimated to exceed three billion persons! Even factories are shut down and shops are closed for most of the period.

It’s the year of the rat. What does that mean in Chinese culture and for those that are born in that year?

The year of the rat is significant, just like any other of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. The rat is the first animal to arrive at Buddha on the nose of the cow. The rat, like all animals in the Chinese zodiac, represents traits that are like a rat (or dragon or dog… etc.), they are gregarious, hardworking and shrewd as they can find their ways around. They are frugal so deemed wealthy by not wasting resources. They are also timid and not courageous as you might detect from a rat’s behavior.

China Live is celebrating Chinese New Year’s big-time. Talk about some of the menu specials that will be served during the 15-day celebration and the inspiration behind these signature dishes.

China Live always serves seasonal Chinese dishes during the year and we change some menu items each week. So it is easily in our repertoire to do so. This year we will have Rice Cakes (Niangao) cooked with Lap Cheong Sausage and Garlic Chives; Whole Steamed Fish or Sichuan Chili Style, as fish is the sign of abundance. We always try to present a fish at a family gathering.

As well dumpling, dumplings and more dumplings… we say at China Live, “the family that eats dumplings together, stays together”. Eight Tables will be adding some Chinese New Year ingredients to the omakase menu and you’ll see some rare luxury ingredients such as fish maw, Bird’s nest, etc. added to our creations.

What do you look forward to most during this time of the year and how do you hope to share that excitement with your guests?

It’s a new beginning so on New Year’s Day people wear new clothes and feel refreshed to do better this year by sharing this renewed vigor with a bowl of rice or noodles as a way to commemorate togetherness. – Forbes (01.23.20)