The upcoming Lunar New Year on February 1 will still be different—and distanced—yet again for many people of Asian descent across the world as COVID-19 cases rise with the infectious Omicron variant. Many of the traditional festivities like visiting family members and friends, going to temples and churches, and attending parades will probably be put on hold or go virtual for a second year in a row due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Here's a list of 10 craft and cookbooks to help with your own, at-home celebrations or digital gatherings. Make some paper decorations to brighten up the home or mail to loved ones as gifts. Try cooking a new Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, or Singaporean dish for the customary New Year's Eve dinner or New Year's Day meals. Create some sugary treats to start the new year on a sweet note. Or just admire the art and food photographs.
The upcoming Year of the Tiger will last until Jan. 21, 2023. The zodiac animal/sign is characterized as being brave, confident and energetic.
Whether you or your family celebrate the Spring Festival/ Chinese New Year, Seollal/Korean New Year, Tết / Vietnamese New Year, Tsagaan Sar / Mongolian New Year (February 2) or Losar/ Tibetan New Year (March 2), may the holiday bring good luck and good health.
Super Simple Chinese Art by Alex Kuskowski
Families can make a fun festive craft using a little bit of construction paper, scissors, glue, and other household items with this slim art book. Brighten up the holidays with a plum blossom tree, a paper lantern, dragon puppet and more projects.
Origami Activities: Asian Arts & Crafts for Creative Kids by Micheal G. LaFosse
Kids, teens, and adults who want to practice their origami skills can try their hands at 15 different projects. Crafts that would be relevant for the Lunar New Year include make a good luck box, a crane, a dollar-bill dragon, and a Chinese zodiac wheel.
Turn several pieces of origami paper into a beautiful, festive wreath with this craft guide book. Nagata’s unique creations are paired with various holidays throughout the year. The skill level required for these origami wreaths range from intermediate to advanced. Projects that would work well for the Lunar New Year include auspicious cranes, plum blossoms, and a flower bouquet.
Ambitious/experienced origami folders can create a rainbow of roses, cherry blossoms, and other flower buds to decorate your home. Step-by-step illustrations and photographs accompany each complex craft project.
Mister Jiu's in Chinatown: Recipes from the Birthplace of Chinese American Food by Brandon Jew and Tienlo Ho
“I had grown up speaking English but my culinary language was Chinese.” So goes the book introduction by Brandon Jew, executive chef and owner of Mr. Jiu’s, the Michelin-starred, award-winning San Francisco restaurant serving “high-end Chinese cuisine with a California accent.” This detailed cookbook is a primer on the “new” Chinatown pantry and the recipes offer modern, upscale takes on popular dishes as well as new culinary creations. Lunar New Year menu-ready selections include sizzling fish, four seas crispy chicken, whole Dungeness crab and baked nian gao (New Year’s cake).
Maangchi’s Big Book of Korean Cooking: From Everyday Meals to Celebration Cuisine by Maangchi (Emily Kim) with Martha Rose Shulman
This hefty compendium by Manhattan-based YouTube cooking instructor Maangchi (Emily Kim) is the ultimate guide to making a wide variety of Korean dishes. The simple instructions and bright photographs on every page go along with her popular food videos. Kim includes a brief passage on holiday foods and recipes for Lunar New Year specialties such as sagol-tteokguk (rice cake soup), bulgogi, and galbijim (barbecue beef), and sweets like injeolmi (rice cakes) and yakgwa (honey cakes). Vegetarian and vegan readers will be delighted by the chapters on vegetables and Korean Buddhist temple cuisine.
Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors by Andrea Quynhgiao Nguyen
Part memoir and culinary/history piece, California-based writer/chef Nguyen preserves her heritage through food as she shares family kitchen recipes that explore the breadth and depth of Vietnamese cuisine. There are plenty of recipes for everyday meals alongside more celebratory dishes for Tết, which include pork riblets, pickled shallots, and—most importantly—banh chung (sticky pork rice cakes). Nguyen includes short chapters explaining Tết holiday preparations and feast traditions.
Singapore Cooking: Fabulous Recipes from Asia's Food Capital by Terry Tan and Christopher Tan
Singaporean cuisine is a mixture of influences that include Chinese, Malay, Indian, Peranakan, and Western flavors and traditions. Broaden your culinary knowledge and palate with these two notable food writers/chefs. Sample the fragrant, savory dishes highlighted in this cookbook laden with luscious photographs on every page. Holiday-ready dishes include lo han chai Buddhist vegetarian feast, Ikan Panggang barbecue fish, Malay sambal fish, Singapore chili crab, and, to finish the meal off with dessert, Nyonya pineapple tart.
The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook by Helen You with Max Falkowitz
Dumplings are another traditional Chinese dish often served on Lunar New Year’s Eve. You— the owner of the notable Flushing, Queens-based restaurant—shares more than 40 different savory and sweet recipes for these delicious edible packets filled with meat, seafood and/or vegetables. Special recipes to try for the Lunar New Year include mixed shellfish dumplings and two types of tang yuan (sweet glutinous rice dumplings).
Baked goods aren’t common in traditional Chinese meals but these sweets have grown in popularity, especially around the holidays. This ode to Chinese bakeries includes recipes for long-time Lunar New Year treats fa gao and bai tang gao (steamed cupcakes and white sugar cake), as well as other festive desserts like black sesame souffle cake, mango mousse cake, and chocolate hazelnut Macau-style cookies. Cho’s book also profiles four beloved Chinese American bakeries, including New York City’s Fay Da.
For more Lunar New Year reading recommendations, check out these blog posts:
- Books and Virtual Library Events to Ring in the Year of the Ox/Bull/Cow by Michelle Lee
- Books and Library Events to Ring in the Year of the Mouse/Rat by Michelle Lee
- Happy Lunar New Year: Books and Events to Honor the Year of the Dog by Michelle Lee
For more information about the Lunar New Year holiday, check out these blog posts:
- The 15 Days of the Lunar New Year and What They Mean by Shirley Wong-Li
- Chinese New Year Memories by Sue Yee