A look inside Eddie Huang’s Chinese New Year feast, topped off with Hennessy Milk Tea

Eddie Huang’s Chinese New Year menu was complemented by an endless amount of Hennessy’s Red Ram cocktail. 

The Daily Meal: 

Chinese New Year… If you’ve never celebrated before, here’s a look at one Chinese chef’s interpretation.

Last week, a few days in advance of the real start of the Year of the Goat, Baohaus chef Eddie Huang hosted a New Year’s celebration in partnership with Hennessy, a label which will be especially familiar to anyone who’s attended his or her share of Chinese weddings.

Huang’s menu for the evening, a six-course affair put together in the tiny kitchen of No. 7 Restaurant in Brooklyn, featured lion’s head chicken soup, Hainan lobster salad, chili miso-braised fish, and Szechuan roasted black garlic chicken. As an interlude, guests were treated to a traditional lion’s head dance typically reserved for boisterous Chinatown streets around New Year’s.

The evening’s sponsor made sure that every glass was full of Red Ram, a cocktail created especially for the evening. Eddie, who has partnered with Hennessy in the past, even created a Hennessy Privilege Milk Tea (paired with egg tarts from Taipan Bakery in Chinatown) that actually made this author appreciate milk tea (black tea sweetened with condensed milk).

When we sat down with Eddie to talk about his love for the holiday, he brought over a full plate of roasted chicken and recalled his early role in the kitchen.

My mom worked, so she would call me on the way home, and I would get things ready so that when she got home, she could just cook. I was always my mom’s prep cook.”

Quickly, that role expanded to one of household handyman.

My mom bought a pressure washer and had me pressure wash the house. She would see other people get services, like this guy pressure washing or this guy cleaning the pool, and she would be like, ‘What chemicals do you use? Where do you buy the machines?’ and she would be like, ‘Guess what? You’re now pressure washing the house and cleaning the pool.’

There are lots of things you wouldn’t think kids can do until parents force them to, I offer.

Mulan joined the army,” Eddie says in agreement.

On Fresh Off the Boat, the ABC sitcom inspired by Huang’s memoir of the same name, we’ve yet to see a young Eddie face these challenges. The chef has made it clear that the resemblance between the show and its source material continues to diverge. Will there be, for instance, an episode of the show that features this holiday — the most important one of the Chinese calendar?

I don’t know if any of this will be on the sitcom because they never do any of the real s–t on that show, but on Vice we’re gonna do it. You’re on Vice right now.”

And, lastly, who in Huang’s family is known for being the most generous giver of the all-important red envelope?

Grandparents.”

Why do people get cash stuffed into red envelopes during Chinese New Year?

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Next Shark: 

Red envelopes have been a staple of Chinese New Year for as long as anyone can remember. No matter whether you celebrate the holiday or not, you’ve probably wondered why your Asian friends receive red envelopes filled with cash every year. Heck, many recipients of red envelopes don’t know why either.

Origins

Unfortunately, there is no one consensus on where the red envelopes came from. One popular story dates back to the Qing Dynasty, where the elderly would thread coins with a red string. This money was called yāsuì qián, meaning “money warding off evil spirits,” and was believed to protect elder people from sickness and death. As the printing press became more common, the yāsuì qián was replaced with red envelopes.

Another legend tells of a village where a demon would terrorize children at night. It was believed that the demon would touch the children’s heads while they were asleep, causing serious illness or death. From there, a theory emerged that when they prayed, God would send eight fairies to protect the child. The fairies would disguise themselves as eight coins and hide under the child’s pillow. When the demon would get close, the coins would began to shine very bright, blinding the demon. Word began to spread and the villagers started giving out red envelopes filled with coins to each other to put under their pillows at night. As time passed, red envelopes became a way to bring good luck and prosperity to the receiver.

How much do you get?

The amount of money depends on the occasion, but the amount typically ends with an even digit, as odd numbers are traditionally associated with funerals. Additionally, it is believed that money should never be given in fours, nor should the number “4” appear in the amount (i.e: 400, 444, 4004), as the chinese word for “four” sounds similar to the word “death.”

Who gets them?

During Chinese New Year, red envelopes are typically given by the married to children and the unmarried. The red symbolizes good luck and the money wishes the recipient good fortune for times to come. The red envelopes are also used to fend off bad spirits. It’s not uncommon for red envelopes to be given during birthdays and other special occasions as well.

Chinese weddings are also occasions when red envelopes come into play. The amount given is supposed to cover the cost of the attendees and as a way to wish the newlyweds good luck. While red envelopes shouldn’t be opened in front of the giver, it’s different during weddings. During Chinese weddings, there is a table at the front of the wedding reception where guests can drop off red envelopes as gifts and sign their names on a large scroll. The envelopes are then immediately opened, counted and then recorded to show how much each guest gave. Why? It’s mainly to bookkeep and to make sure the money matches with what the guests brought at the end of the night. Another reasons is that when single guests finally get married, the bride and groom are expected to give the guest more money than what they received at their own wedding.

At work, it’s a tradition that Chinese companies give away red envelopes to their employees on the eve of Chinese New Year. Alibaba has participated in the tradition before, however, according to Fortune, CEO Jack Ma recently announced that they will not give away red envelopes this year due to mediocre performance.

Other Etiquette

You’re also supposed to avoid putting coins in the envelopes, which makes it difficult for people to gauge the amount before opening. Also it’s tradition to put crisp, new bills inside, which explains why my grandma always went to the bank to switch old bills with new ones every year.

So, there you have it… Happy Chinese New Year!