The Booth Epicurean Club, in celebration of the Lunar New Year, organized a 10-course feast at Sun Wah Restaurant in the Argyle area of Chicago. Sun Wah is a long standing Chicago food destination originally established in 1987 on Argyle Street. The owner, Eric Cheng, a Chinese immigrant who specialized in Hong Kong style Barbecue, uprooted his family in the 80’s to seek opportunity. After attracting numerous food lovers and local admirers over the years, Sun Wah passed hands in management as Cheng’s 4 adult children took over. His children pride themselves in keeping their father’s culinary traditions alive.
Over two dozen Boothies got the chance to taste Sun Wah’s carved tableside whole Peking style duck, along with an assortment of other scrumptious duck inspired dishes including duck soup, made from the carved carcass, and duck fried rice. Peking Duck is a dish from Beijing that dates back as far as the imperial era. The meat tends to be thin, crisp skin, with authentic versions of the dish serving mostly the skin and little meat, sliced in front of diners by the chef. The traditional way to enjoy the duck is to spread the sweet bean or hoisin sauce over the pancake and then wrap it around the meat with scallions and cucumbers. Most people eat this by hand. The remaining fat, meat and bones can be turned into broth or chopped up and stir fried. The traditional method for preparing the dish, called Menlu, involves using a closed oven, but in the 1860s a new method, Gualu, where the birds are hung inside an open oven, became popular. There is still a debate to this day about which method is best.
In China and in ethnic communities around the world, the lunar new year is the most festive holiday of the year. Beginning on January 28th, the colorful celebrations to welcome in the year of the rooster will continue for around two weeks, ending on February 2nd. Chinese Near Year is the longest national holiday in China and New Year's day is the most important date in the Chinese calendar. Although China has used the Gregorian calendar since 1912, Lunar New Year is based on the ancient Chinese lunar calendar, falling on the second new moon after winter solstice, which means it changes each year. Nearly a sixth of the world will observe Lunar New Years, with celebrations in Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia, along with other countries with significant Chinese populations. The Year of the Fire Rooster was also celebrated at Booth during Friday’s LPF sponsored by CAP, GCC, KBG and GBC. Hundreds of Boothies in a festively decked out Winter Garden, experienced a number of Asian inspired dishes including apchae, Sweet and Sour Fish, Kungpao Chicken, Garlic Pea Sprouts, Korean Spicy and Sweet Fried Chicken.
The holiday falls on a Saturday this year and although Lunar New Year is rooted in folklore, in recent decades the holiday has become a largely secular, cultural celebration. It’s a great opportunity for many Chinese to reunite with their families, enjoy a plentiful meal, and celebrate good luck in the new year.