Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chinatown Walkabout - 1st Day of CNY

Is everybody having a good Chinese New Year so far? I know that we are! Of course, it's never the same when you have to spend Chinese New Year in a foreign country, away from all your family, friends and not to mention, yummy home cooked food! However, I'm really grateful that we live in a city that has a relatively large Asian population. That's right, celebrating Chinese New Year in Chinatown is kinda fun, actually. With loud Chinese New Year music playing in the background, red and gold decorations in almost every shop and the smell of Chinese New Year goodies whiffing thru the air....ahhh, for a moment, one would even forget that you are right in the heart of NYC.
Kevin took the day off (since he is now Chinese, he always takes the 1st day of CNY off :P) from work and we headed down to Chinatown for the Annual Firecracker Ceremony at Sara D Roosevelt Park. It was really cold that day, around 22F (-5C) degrees and the ground was all slippery and icy. That didn't stop us (and a whole bunch of other ppl) from heading out to enjoy the festivities. The firecracker ceremony was scheduled to start at 11am but I knew from experience that they NEVER start on time. So, I thought that I was being smart by showing up at around 11:45am. The timing should be just right (and we do not have to stand out the the cold for too long). Well, looks like I was wrong. At noon, they we STILL setting up! :P
After standing out in the cold for what seemed like forever, the firecracker ceremony finally began. There were a few lion dances followed by the singing of the Chinese as well as American national anthem. With that, the countdown began and the firecrackers were lit! We were standing really close to the firecrackers..so yeah, it was LOUD!! :P We even felt a few stray firecrackers being flung our way. A very good show, like always. By the time the ceremony ended, it was way past lunchtime. So, we join the rest of the crowd and headed out to the main part of Chinatown, in search of food and to do a little CNY shopping.
It was so cold out, we were literally frozen, from head to toe. Not only we were super cold, we were super hungry too. We needed something to warm ourselves up and we needed it quick! I remember reading some great reviews about a hot pot (steamboat) restaurant on Canal St, so I suggested that we head there for lunch. Best decision of the day! The hot pot at Grand Sichuan was really really yummy! The ingredients were fresh and the chicken soup was superb. It's so good, I'll have to write a whole separate post, just on that!
After lunch, we were feeling all recharged and warmed up, once again. So, it's time to bundle up and head out to do some CNY shopping. Our first stop was Malaysia Beef Jerky Inc on Elizabeth St. We wanted to buy some bak kwa (pork jerky) and the only place that sells Malaysian/Singaporean style bak kwa is Malaysia Beef Jerky. Kevin loves their bak kwa and I kinda like it too. Of course, it doesn't taste as good as the bak kwa that we can get back home in Malaysia, but in my honest opinion, I think it's as good as it can get. If it wasn't so expensive, I swear Kevin could even finish a 1lb packet in one sitting! :P We initially wanted to buy some CNY cookies from another shop but we saw that Malaysia Beef Jerky sells them too. So, we picked up a few boxes of bee pang siew (bee's nest), pineapple tarts as well as peanut cookies.
Since we have already bought our CNY cookies, we only have one more thing on our shopping list. Yee Sang! We wanted to eat some Yee Sang for dinner that night, so we figured we would buy some home. Since Yee Sang is a Malaysian/Singaporean dish, it's not widely available, even in Chinatown. As far as I know, you can only get it in Nyonya, Penang Restaurant, Jaya, Singapore Cafe and New Malaysia. We tried the Yee Sang from Penang Restaurant two years ago (since we were in Malaysia last CNY, we didnt get a chance to buy any) and it was rather good. We decided to try the Yee Sang from New Malaysia this year. The Yee Sang from New Malaysia is a little bit more expensive but it taste awesome! Will blog more about that later on.
After getting our Yee Sang, we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the narrow streets of Chinatown. As usual, there were a whole lot of lion dance troupes making their rounds to various shops and businesses. Also, the kids were having a whale of time shooting out confetti cannons as well as throwing those tiny snap rocks. The whole atmosphere around Chinatown was certainly festive. After a long day out in Chinatown, we headed back home to Jersey, with lots of CNY goodies in tow and a big smile plastered on our faces. We returned to Chinatown a couple of days later, for the Annual Lunar New Year Parade...but I will save it for the next post. Stay tuned.


mandy said...

Sounds exciting! I've only seen the firecracker ceremony once (when CNY was one a weekend). It wasn't pretty fun :D I wish I was able to go this year too but I didn't have the option of staying home from school :(

Happy Lunar/Chinese New Year! ^__^

Charlene n Kevin said...

Thanks for visiting our blog! Maybe you can catch the firecracker ceremony next year :D The pics that you took of the parade in Brooklyn looks cool. I'm thinking of maybe checking out the parade in Queens this weekend.

Happy Lunar New Year to you too!!