Celebrate the Lunar New Year with Food and Drink at These Houston Events

The Chinese year 4712 begins on January 31, 2014, and Houston is ringing it in with style. There's a huge Chinese population here, and we love a good party, so all over town in late January and early February people will be celebrating the new lunar year, which lasts until the moon is full, around February 15.

This year is the zodiac year of the horse, which dates back 2600 B.C., when the legendary Yellow Emperor named each month after an animal (the other animal signs are ox, monkey, tiger, rabbit, rooster, rat, dragon, snake, sheep, dog and pig). People born in the year of the horse are said to be hardworking, intelligent and kind.

Every year, the Chinese celebrate a new lunar cycle with festivals involving firecrackers, traditional lion and dragon dances, red lanterns and big family meals.

And the meal part is where we come in. We've rounded up all the Chinese New Year events featuring food and drink for your feating pleasure. Happy New Year!

Gigi's Chinese New Year @ Gigi's Asian Bistro and Dumpling Bar Friday, January 31 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Dumplings and dim sum, anyone? Gigi's Asian Bistro is ringing in the new year with traditional food and Champagne cocktails, as well as music by DJ Gino, Hao Lion Dancers and, um, according to the press release, "naked fortune cookies." Sounds like an adventure, whatever it is. The hosts, Gigi Huang, Jared Lang and Christopher Mendel, request that you come "dressed to kill...Shanghai style." To attend, email rsvp@onthemarkcom.com.

Nara's Lunar New Year Menu @ Nara Friday, January 31 through Thursday, February 6 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Enjoy a five-course dinner prepared by chef Donald Chang at Nara in honor of the Lunar New Year. The traditional menu, which costs $75 per person, will feature a Korean chives and lettuce salad followed by a Korean New Year mondoo (Korean meat-filled dumpling) and rice cake soup. Next will be a kobe beef and sesame leaf omelet, then Korean braised short rib with abalone porridge. Finally, for dessert, guests will get red bean soup with a sweet sesame rice cake. Reservations are required, and can be made by calling Nara at 281-249-5944.

2014 Lunar New Year Festival @ Chinese Community Center Saturday, February 1 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

One of the biggest Lunar New Year events in Houston will take place at the Chinese Community Center, which aims "to bridge East and West by enriching families with educational, cultural, and social service programs." The celebration will primarily highlight traditional Chinese dances (as well as a few Japanese, Korean and Mexican dances, 'cause, you know, it's Houston), but we're more interested in the tea ceremony and Asian food available for tasting and purchase at an outdoor marketplace. The event is free, and children are welcome.

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Byejoe Chinese New Year Celebration @ Summer Street Studios Saturday, February 1 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Free entry. Free cocktails. Lots of dancing. What's not to love? Chinese liquor company Byejoe (producers of traditional Chinese liquor baijiu) is hosting an event to celebrate the new year of the horse. DJ Ceeplus Badknives and DJ Fredster will be spinning house music as well as dance tunes to accompany lion dancers and ribbon dancers. Attire is new year's dressy (think an American New Year's Eve party) and admittance is strictly 21 and up. RSVP for the event online.

Happy Hour and Lunar New Year Test Kitchen Tuesday @ Boheme Tuesday, February 4 6 p.m. until the food runs out

The Asia Society Texas Center Young Professionals is hosting a party at Boheme as a precursor to Thursday evening's pop-up dinner with celebrity chef Christine Ha and Rishi Singh, head chef at Boheme. On Tuesday, come to the Montrose cafe and bar for Singh's "Lunar Wings," all for only $7. He describes them as "crispy jumbo chicken wings tossed with tangerine hoisin sauce, topped with toasted crushed peanut and cilantro, and served with a gorgonzola dolce sauce." There will also be drink specials and Boheme's regular menu of goodies. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Asia Society Texas Center, and guests will have the opportunity to win a signed copy of Christine Ha's cookbook, Recipes from My Home Kitchen.

Lunar New Year Leo Bar Featuring Christine Ha @ Asia Society Texas Center Thursday, February 6 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Join MasterChef winner Christine Ha and Boheme chef Rishi Singh as they prepare a Lunar New Year-inspired tasting menu that's free for members of the Asia Society and $35 for non-members (and $50 after 12 p.m. February 6). Chef Ha will be available to sign cookbooks and autographs and answer questions about her journey from blind home cook to culinary celebrity. Chef Singh will probably also sign autographs if you ask him. Purchase tickets online through the Asia Society.

5th Annual Chinese New Year Celebration @ Fung's Kitchen Tuesday, February 11 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Of course, some of the most decadent celebrations are happening in Chinatown. At Fung's Kitchen, celebrity chef Martin Yan, master chef Hoi Fung and hand-pulled noodle master Tony Wu will be cooking up an eight-course banquet featuring a traditional lion dance and door prizes. The meal, which costs $88, will include Fung's roast pork, creamy pumpkin grouper soup, roast plump Champagne quail, Pacific imperial scallops with wasabi sauce, tiger shrimp with spicy garlic salt, stir-fried pork in a crispy wonton cup, scissor-cut hand pulled noodles (plus a demonstration) and a fresh fruit dessert. The meal also includes wine pairings. Make a reservation online or call Gilbert Fung at 713-779-2288.

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