2020 year of the mouse: how and where to celebrate the Chinese New Year in Milan – Italian Cuisine


The year of the mouse begins on January 24th. How and where to celebrate, between Chinatown and the other Milanese restaurants

It is better to start looking at the fact that the Chinese New Year is not a minor holiday, given that as it was for Halloween and Christmas, it is expected to become a global holiday soon. In Milan, it is already a classic, thanks to the oldest Chinese community in Italy and the annual celebrations that animate via Paolo Sarpi and the surrounding area just on New Year's Eve. "In China, the New Year is the most anticipated event of the year and one of the most heartfelt holidays", explains the owner of the Gong Oriental Attitude restaurant, Giulia Liu. “It's like combining Western New Year and Christmas in one occasion. For this reason, families come together to share this moment of joy. It is considered such an important holiday that the Chinese who work or live abroad, and who can afford it economically, are not afraid of spending even very high amounts just to buy a plane ticket and go home. "

Chinese New Year

New Year's Eve in China, or Spring Festival, begins on the eve and this year falls Friday 24 January, but the celebrations will continue for 15 days, until February 8, the date of the Lantern Festival. For the Chinese this is the most important holiday, so deeply felt that it entitles you to three days of vacation. It's a big party with parades and fireworks, but unfortunately also the peak tourist period in Asian countries (and the most expensive).

Chinese horoscope: you are of the mouse sign

The Chinese horoscope is not broken down by months, but by years. Each sign is represented by one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. Mouse, Buffalo, Tiger, Cat, Snake, Dragon … the year of the Pig is about to end and that of the Mouse will open. All born in 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984 and 1996 are of the sign of the Mouse – a zodiac sign that represents wisdom, being shrewd and a little calculating, almost engineers. Who was born under this animal (which is the first of the Chinese Zodiac, because according to the legend before the Buddha, shortly before his death, mouse, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster had presented themselves , dog and pig, in this order) is a great communicator, intelligent and very clever, it is said that the mouse managed to get first in front of Buddha jumping on the back of the ox.

The parade in Paolo Sarpi

It is celebrated on the evening of the eve, with the traditional dinner, fireworks are expected in Asia, and then the next day we go to see the Lion Dance, the parade with what looks like a dragon to us. In via Paolo Sarpi the parade takes place on Sunday afternoon and all the various Chinese schools and associations in Italy parade between music and customs. Sunday 2 February we start at 14 from Piazza Gramsci (MM Lilac Jerusalem).

What is traditionally eaten

"Chi fan le mei you"? "Have you already eaten" ?: It is the most common welcome when you enter a house in China that is preparing to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Eve dinner is a party. Traditionally we eat fish and abound with food as a sign of good luck. Abundance in the northern Chinese countries is also underlined by the offer of children dim-sum (jiǎozi) closed in a sack: the more they eat on New Year's Eve, the more money they earn in the coming year. Their shape resumes that of the gold and silver ingots (Yuánbǎo) which served as currency in Imperial China: non-rectangular ingots, in the shape of a rod, but oval, like a small boat with bow and stern facing upwards . Traditionally the Jiǎozi are filled with minced pork, shrimp or vegetables, and must be served in parallel rows, and not in circles, because these represent the "don't go anywhere". In the countries of Southern China, instead, they are served cakes of the year or New Year's cakes, le niángāo 年糕, also called in Italian rice dumplings, since they look much more like dumplings than cakes. Traditional closing of a New Year's meal are the classics sweet rice balls, tāngyuán, which with their spherical shape represent the reunion of the family and being together on holidays. Moving on to fruit, oranges and mandarins are never missing on Chinese tables, whose round shape recalls the idea of ​​fullness, abundance and prosperity. In Chinese pastry shops there are sweet rice puddings that look like English puddings.

The menu is shared

In more "traditional" Chinese restaurants, the New Year's menu is served all over the table. You choose a menu of dishes, more or less rich, more or less long, which will arrive in the center of the table more or less all together. There is no first-second-side dish sequence and to party you need above all a lot of variety, more than quantity. The price is often set, which is € 150 or € 500, while the number of participants is free. A sort of buffet at the table – where the Florentine that comes sizzling with a bottle of red wine is the maximum of luxury. Or you opt for a special tasting menu, served all over the table. “In China today – explains chef Zhang Guoqing of the Bon Wei restaurant – people eat differently at the restaurant. The traditional dishes remain but only within the home walls or in a restaurant; when you go out to a certain level the recipes range between the ingredients, preferring valuable raw materials also from other countries, such as truffle and foie gras, further enhanced by the combination with large wines". To drink then look to the West, even with scotch whiskey, like Johnnie Walker who launches a new limited edition bottle for the Year of the Mouse.

But here's where to go to Milan to celebrate.

At Bon Wei, the contemporary tasting menu

Also this year the Bon Wei restaurant, which offers many specialties of the regional chinese cuisine, wanted to celebrate the Chinese New Year 2020 with a 10-course tasting menu created by chef Zhang Guoqing in combination with a selection of champagne and wines by Cuzziol GrandiVini. We leave the known patterns, without forgetting the legends of the past: it opens with the Golden Sand Soup, an invigorating soup with abalone bisque and salted duck egg yolk, which hides in its dense meat broth a shao long pao filled with crab, followed by the Yellow Grouper, oyster sauce and ba lung gua, a soft nest resting on Chinese courgette and lotus chips, with a delicately refined taste, and the spoonful of black Shao Mai with scallop and Xing Bao Gu, where the steam dim sum is placed on a sauce of Xing Bao Gu mushrooms, pepper and ginger. Then Huang La King Crab, or "spicy yellow" King Crab, Zhejiang-style lamian, rice and Foie gras – the emblem of Contemporary China conceived by chef Zhang. And still the Fior di Abalone, a very precious and less known mollusc in our latitudes, whose fleshy pulp stewed at least 18 hours goes well with the winter taste of broccoli. Finally, a single portion of dark chocolate and gianduia with a cherry and black cherry jelly named Hong Lao Shu: "The Red Mouse", designed by Bon Wei's new pastry chef, Sonia Latorre Ruiz.

Mu Dim Sum, for those who love Hong Kong cuisine

From 20 to 26 January, MU dimsum celebrates the anniversary with a special tasting menu, made up of the most traditional dishes of Cantonese culinary culture. The menu is made up of eight dishes, the lucky number par excellence, plus a dessert: dishes rich in tradition and symbolism, which from the tables of Chinese families arrive at the restaurant to wish a happy new year to all those who will have the pleasure of immersing themselves in the atmosphere of Hong Kong.
Each course was chosen for what it symbolizes, for its name or for its ingredients, and creates an auspicious taste path. It starts with the Xiao Long Bao Mapo, a red plate, the color brings good luck to the menu; continue among others with the crispy pork belly, a symbol of abundance and prosperity; stewed scallops, whose Chinese name means "May you add years to your already long life" or a dish with precious ingredients, sauteed rice with prawns and foie gras, for a wish to get double the expected harvest. To close the meal, you can choose between the "Cake of the year", whose Chinese name sounds like "best year", or the traditional rice dumplings, whose circular shape and pronunciation recall the concept of "being together".

Da Gong, special dumplings

“For us at Gong, cooking is first of all culture, therefore, also on the occasion of New Year's Eve, we want to revive the ancient Chinese traditions with a special dish: Rice dumplings, tofu cream, edamame, crispy bacon and kimchi powder. ”Explains Gong Oriental Attitude owner Giulia Liu. Among the most popular dishes for the Chinese New Year there are rice dumplings, which, according to ancient traditions, bring wealth and luck. For the Chinese New Year 2020, the Gong restaurant offers this "auspicious" dish that will remain on the menu throughout the year. The soft consistency of the gnocchi is combined with the creaminess of the tofu cream. To give character and flavor, the crispy bacon and, for a pleasantly sour finish, the kimchi powder (fermented cabbage with spices) is added. The vegetable part of the dish is given by the steamed edamame.

Bao in the tea room at Baokok

Bokok is a Cantonese tea room restaurant, a Hong Kong style cafe but in via Paolo Sarpi. The right place to enjoy dim sum, plates of Chinese and Asian fusion cuisine that the young chef (graduated from Brera) Michele Yang and his staff make according to traditional recipes and with a touch of unprecedented creativity in combinations and condiments. Bokok is also a bit of a library, with many books in Italian and Chinese arranged on the shelves, available to anyone who wants to devote some of his time to reading between a dim sum and a tea, freely stopping in the restaurant. For the Chinese New Year, two new special baos will be on the menu and will remain on the menu for the entire year of the Mouse starting from January 25th: Zi Shu Bao, a bao with purple potatoes and golden dust (Shu is the name of the mouse in Chinese. Purple is a color that brings luck and is synonymous with nobility, since it was the color of the city prohibit or the residence of the emperor (purple in Chinese is part of the name of the forbidden city) and legend has it that if a purple cloud was seen above the royal palace this meant the advent or birth of a great and powerful emperor. So eating the purple Bao brings good luck and the gold of the golden dust brings money) and the Char Siu Bao, a bao with pieces of marinated pork shoulder inside with soy, honey and ginger and baked in the oven, a dish among chef Yang's must-eat dishes. Eating pork means taking wealth, not just money but everything positive.

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