Aside from the dishes we are most known for, like our famous Peking Duck and Dim Sum, here at Chili House we strive to serve the widest range of authentic Chinese dishes. One of our personal favorites happens to be our delicious Beef Pancakes, a take on one of China’s most popular treats. Today we are going to take a look at the history of this storied delicacy and how it came to prominence.
The 3rd Century Origins of Chinese Pancakes
The snack, similar to what is known in China as “Jianbing,” traces its roots all the way back to the Shandong Province during the Three Kingdoms Period (220 – 280 AD). Legend has it that Zhuge Liang, the chancellor of the state of Shu Han, was struggling to find an effective way to feed his soldiers who had lost their cooking supplies during battle. As a result, Liang had cooks concoct a mixture of water and wheat flour to be cook thinly and evenly across copper-made griddles (and sometimes even using the soldiers shields as a cooking surface). The result was a light, crispy crepe that helps sustain and boost the morale of the soldiers on the battlefield.
The dish proved popular beyond the battlefield, later getting passed down across generations. Today, Chinese pancakes can be found cooking on street corners in every major metropolitan neighborhood across China. The recipe is quite simple. Start by layering and folding the wheat and bean flour pancake fries, eggs, scallions and cilantro. Finally, add chili paste, hoisin sauce and lettuce to taste. Then fold the pastry a few more times for easy eating on the go.
To say the least, Chinese pancakes have become the quintessential snack food in China. Every afternoon, they satisfy hungry workers and students across China. In contrast to popular American street fare, Chinese pancakes are anything but fast food. Every one is cooked fresh to order, meaning there is always a line at the local vendor. In fact, many plan their commute to work around setting aside enough time to grab one!
America’s Discovery of Chinese Pancakes
Up until recently one would have trouble locating the snack outside of China and Taiwan. However the popularity and reach of Chinese Pancakes grows every year. Today, people across the US work to recreate the snack they fell in love with in China. One of the most popular variations (and one that has proved quite popular with our customers as well!) are Chinese pancakes with beef . It is quite similar to the traditional recipe, the only difference being the use of slow-braised beef instead of egg. This variation is popular in Taiwan, and has found a strong following in Southern California in recent years.
Chinese pancakes are perfect for those looking to add another Chinese culinary icon to their list of favorite dishes. We suggest searching your area for restaurants and seek out all the different variations available. Don’t forget to stop in and try the absolutely delicious Chinese beef pancakes at Chili House SF as well!
(Originally published in July of 2016 – Updated in March of 2019)
Many of the ingredients in Chinese dishes are foods that are abundant in nutrients, and they are foods that work to keep your health in good shape. You will find some of these foods listed below, along with valuable information regarding the health benefits they offer. Simply read what follows to discover the health benefits the Chinese have been reaping from these foods for many years.
Bok Choy and Broccoli
Broccoli as well as bok choy contains sulforaphane, a substance experts believe prevents cancer. Both of these cabbage family vegetables also contain lots of cancer-preventing vitamin C. Besides enhancing immunity, vitamin C reduces cholesterol, helps prevent heart disease, and aids in the prevention of gum recession. Protection from the damage caused by free radicals is another health benefit.
Green onions, also called scallions, have exhibited their ability to reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and the chance of developing heart disease. The flavonoids contained in green onions are responsible for lowering heart attack risk, and the quercetin in this vegetable lowers the risk for colon cancer. Quercetin has also proved it can lower the risk for blood clots. Since onions are an anti-inflammatory food, they help lessen the symptoms of arthritis and the chest congestion that comes with a cold.
Tofu is soybean curd. It is an excellent source of protein, calcium, and iron. Bean curd has been known to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and it may help lower the chance of developing cancer. A drop in weight is also possible when this nutritious food is incorporated into your diet because it is low in calories.
Red and green bell peppers contain impressive amounts of vitamin C. One pepper of average size offers 150 percent of your daily value of this essential vitamin. Like bok choy and broccoli, bell peppers aid in the prevention of cancer.
White Rice and Brown Rice
Rice is a superb food for strong bones because it contains iron. Studies performed on animals indicated mammals deficient in iron had less bone density than those with adequate iron in their bodies. Brown rice is also an excellent supplier of fiber, and it is a good source of protein.
To get the most health benefits from the Chinese dish you eat, try to avoid consuming foods that are deep fried. The fat content in foods cooked this way is extremely high, and it is unhealthy because when oil is heated to such an extreme temperature it becomes carcinogenic. You will also be better off with low-sodium soy sauce instead of the regular kind that has a high salt content. If you cook your own food, read the labels on all Chinese sauces and use them sparingly since they are usually high in sodium content. Whenever you eat out, ask your waiter how your food will be prepared, and ask him what is in it.
Shumai is a traditional dish that can be made in many different forms. In the United States, the most common form is the shumai dim sum. While there are many different fillings and techniques use for this delicious treat, it usually is served as a filling of pork in a thin dough which is streamed or fried. When biting into shumai dim sum, the dumpling will burst into a ball of flavor that will leave you begging for more.
Meaning of Shumai Dim Sum
Shumai is a word that translates to “to cook and sell.” This means that dumpling is most often prepared and sold at a restaurant instead of a home. It has also been suggested it was named this way because shumai “never left unsold.”
The term “dim sum” is from a Mandarin word “dian xin” which means “touching the heart.” This speaks of the way this food is considered to be excellent for the soul. However, it is also translated as “dessert” in some situations.
History of Dim Sum
The earliest documented consumption of shumai occurred during the Song Dynasty at Chinese teahouses where merchants stopped in to rest while traveling the Silk Road. During the Tang Dynasty, more teahouses were introduced as a way to offer meditation as well as food and drink. While teahouses originally did not serve food, dim sum became standard over time. Shumai dim sum was originally consumed as an afternoon snack but over time became a staple of lunch and breakfast meals. In Cantonese culture, mealtime is a time for great company and conversation.
While business can be discussed over dim sum, the meal is largely considered a time for enjoyment. It is unknown if shumai was born along with tea and other foreign foods, but it is believed to be likely. If so, it may have been in existence even before the Song Dynasty where it was documented.
Traditional Serving of Shumai Dim Sum
Shumai dim sum and other dim sum dishes are most commonly served on a metal cart that is pushed around the entire restaurant. Steamed dim sum may be served in steamers made of bamboo, while other types are most often served on typical plates. All the fresh offerings will be on the plate and you call out to a server who brings you what you order. In many cases, dim sum will come in sizes of small, medium, and large.
At traditional United States restaurants, there may not be carts and instead your chosen dishes will be served to your table, as is the typical American restaurant behavior.
How Shumai is Made
The most common ingredients in shumai dim sum include ground pork and shrimp, along with a small amount of vegetables and unleavened dough. Additional spices and herbs are also included to give the fragrant, tasty dish its popularity. If you haven’t tried this exceptional dish, it is something everyone should consume at least once. Give it a try!
People who live in the Sichuan region of China know that the food there is varied and that each dish has a sophisticated as well as a complex taste. Unfortunately, this knowledge doesn’t translate well to Western culture. In the United States, people primarily consider Sichuan Chinese food to be extremely hot and spicy and little else.
Understanding the History of Sichuan Chinese Food
The reason so many Westerners don’t fully appreciate Sichuan food is that they don’t understand the history and culture of this region of China. For one thing, it isn’t easy to reach China’s Sichuan basin because it’s surrounded on all four sides by mountains. Another important fact about the Sichuan basin is that the Qinghai-Tibet plateau sits to the west of it. Many Chinese citizens and immigrants alike saw the difficulty in reaching the Sichuan basin as a challenge to overcome. As immigrants continued to pour into the region, they brought new cultural and culinary customs with them.
A Primer on the Flavors of Sichuan Dishes
Increased appreciation for food from the Sichuan region of China can also come from having a greater understanding of its main flavors. Although more than 20 exist, five of the most common ones include:
- – Fish fragrant: Chefs don’t really use fish to create this flavor. Instead, they combine seasonings popular with traditional fish cookery in China. These include ginger, garlic, pickled red chilies, scallion, soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar.
- – Garlic paste flavor: For the first step, a chef simmers soy sauce with spices and brown sugar. He or she then combines it with chili oil, mashed garlic, and sesame oil. This topping is especially popular on cold pork.
- – Scorched chili flavor: To prepare this seasoning, a chef fries dried chilies inside of a wok until they show signs of toasting and darkening. He or she then adds several other ingredients to the wok, including Sichuan peppercorn.
- – Spicy sesame: This basic ingredient typically tops cold dishes. It comes from a combination of dried red chilies and Sichuan peppercorn.
- – Wine fragrant: Chefs create this flavor primarily from rice wine and rice wine lees. It produces a fragmented flavor that Westerners might recognize from Chinese dishes from the region of Shanghai. However, a dash of Sichuan peppercorn helps to differentiate it.
Some Well-Known Sichuan Dishes
Even though they may not recognize the above flavors, many Western diners do recognize popular Sichuan dishes served here. Kung Pao Chicken, for example, is a staple on the menu of a lot of Chinese restaurants. It includes diced chicken along with golden peanuts and dry red peppers. Dan Dan noodles, also known as Dan Dan Mian, is another well-known Sichuan Chinese dish in America. An authentic serving of Dan Dan noodles contains vegetables, chili oil, Sichuan pepper, and minced pork. While it’s more on the bland side outside of the Sichuan basin, it’s known for its strong nutty, savory, smoky, and spicy flavors in its home region.
These are just two of the many dishes Sichuan dishes Americans can enjoy in their own country. To truly experience Sichuan culture, they should consider expanding their taste buds and try several others.
At Chili House SF, in addition to Sichuan cuisine, much of our food is inspired by or comes from dishes native to the Beijing Region. To truly appreciate this style of food, one must travel to Beijing itself. However, Our authentic cuisine here in the Richmond District of San Francisco is the next-best thing.
For those lucky enough to get to experience Beijing in person, here are 7 sights not to be missed!
China has long been associated with a sense of exotic mystery, and its recent political history means it’s still something of an unknown quantity for even for the most intrepid traveler. However, the last few decades have seen the country open up to western visitors, and it is now a viable destination for the adventurous tourist.
It would take a lifetime to explore the entire country, but these seven sights in and around the capital Beijing offer a fascinating taste of China, from its imperial past right through to its modern, fast-developing face of today.
The Forbidden City
Spread over an area of 178 acres and made up of over 870 distinct buildings, the Forbidden City is the biggest palatial complex of its kind in the world. The site served as the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties from 1420 to 1912 and remains a treasure trove of Chinese imperial history, culture, and architecture. It is now home to the Palace Museum, which is among the world’s most visited museums, with close to 15 million visitors each year.
The Great Wall
It’s often said that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made object visible from space. This is, unfortunately, a myth, but there’s no doubt that this ancient fortification is one of the planet’s must-see structures from solid ground.
The wall stretches for close to 4,000 miles in full, but several parts are within easy reach of the capital – particularly Mutianyu and Jiankou, to the northeast of downtown Beijing. Around 70,000 people visit the wall each day, but its sheer size means that you won’t feel too crowded out. However, be aware that the authorities take conservation of the wall extremely seriously, and dropping garbage and similar actions can quickly land you in hot water, so be sure to behave respectfully.
The vast, hundred-acre Tiananmen Square in central Beijing is perhaps most widely known in the West for the grim events of 1989, when a pro-democracy demonstration was ended with lethal force. Although the square is worth visiting for its impressive architecture and monuments, including the Mao Zedong Mausoleum, it is nonetheless most notable for this recent history. A trip to this largest paved square in the world brings it home to the visitor that despite the recent transformation, China is still a unique, complex country behind the modern western-style facade.
Yonghe Lama Temple
The Yonghe Lama Temple in Dongcheng dates back to the Qing dynasty, with construction started in the late 17th century. Although it was off limits for 32 years following the communist revolution, it is now open once more as both a working Tibetan temple and a popular tourist attraction. Perhaps the most impressive sight is the huge statue of the Maitreya Buddha, reaching nearly 20 yards in height, and carved from a single piece of white sandalwood.
Beijing visitors have no shortage of imperial splendor to marvel at, contrasting sharply with the fast-growing modern cityscape of the capital’s downtown area, but there’s yet another side to Chinese life no visitor should miss. The hutong neighborhoods such as Donxujuaominxiang, Yichidajie, and others are labyrinths of narrow streets and alleyways which once covered the city, but are slowly being lost to redevelopment. However, the remaining areas still give a powerful taste of old China and make a fascinating destination for a leisurely stroll through the hubbub of daily life.
Food lovers willing to look beyond their hotel dining room will find plenty to thrill here, not least the delicious Beijing duck (aka Peking duck) available from handcarts and stalls spread throughout the area.
Wangfujing Night Market
If the Beijing duck has whetted your appetite for Chinese cuisine in all its many forms, then the Wangfujing Night Market in the Dongcheng district should be your next destination. This market is a mecca for street food and is beloved of locals and visitors alike. Be warned though – with the snacking options covering everything from scorpions to starfish, this is no place for the squeamish.
Lastly, fascinating as Beijing can be, there’s no doubt the bustle and size can be a little overwhelming. Recharge your batteries with a trip to the Ming Tombs on the Changping district, 26 miles to the north of Beijing city center. The complex hosts 13 mausoleums of the Ming dynasty emperors and is as impressive as you’d expect from this pedigree. However, one of its main charms is that it was constructed according to feng shui principles, with a peaceful valley backing on to protective mountains, and makes for an ideal change of pace for weary tourists.
China remains on the list of destinations that only the more intrepid travelers will attempt, and there’s no doubt it can be a little more challenging than other more conventional tourist locations. However, the impressive delights of Beijing and surrounding areas make it well worth the effort for anyone with a love for oriental history and culture.
Aaaah, what can be more satisfying than biting into a perfect dumpling – the soft dough, the sensation of escaping steam, that first hit of flavorful filling. However, dumplings are not just tasty treats. They are also little pieces of magic when they manage to transform sometimes meager ingredients into substantial, delicious meals with just a little help from flour and water.
But What Exactly is a Dumpling?
Defining a real dumpling can be tricky. Are knishes, kreplach, empanadas, gnocchi, and ravioli, dumplings? They might be, but to home in on a true dumpling, two characteristics are necessary:
- – Dough must be wrapped around a filling.
- – The filled dough must only take three bites or fewer to eat.
China is the land of true dumplings that come in a multitude of varieties. The most common dumpling wrapper is made with wheat flour that is often combined with tapioca to provide stretch. The following describes some Chinese dumplings grouped according to two basic shapes, the crescent and the purse.
These dumplings are easily shaped by folding a thin, round circle of dough around a filling and pleating or crimping the edges together. They can be steamed, boiled, pan- or deep-fried. Here are a few types:
- – Guo Tie: Most Americans will say, “aha potstickers!” Guo tie are pan-fried to produce a golden brown, ultra-crisp bottom. The skin is springy and chewy and filled with a range of ingredients, the favorite being juicy pork and chives.
- – Shui Jiao: The name means “boiled dumpling.” These tender creations have a thin wrapper and are served in broth or drained and dipped in a sauce. Typical fillings include ground pork and vegetables.
- – Zheng Jiao: Steamed delicacies made with elegantly pleated translucent wrappers. They may contain shrimp, pork and chives, cabbage, or winter melon.
- – Har Gow: Plump and juicy dim sum favorites. Some dumpling-making expertise is needed as chunks of crisp shrimp should be just visible through the delicate, translucent dough.
- – Chiu-Chao Fun Gow: Crunchy treats – thin wrappers filled with a tasty mix of pork, shrimp, and peanuts. Cilantro and crisp chunks of jicama often add additional flavor.
So-called because the filled dough is pleated and drawn together like a draw-string purse. Here are some descriptions:
- – Siu Mai: Steamed, white-skinned dim sum classics. Juicy, open-topped concoctions filled with pork and/or shrimp and often enhanced with grated carrot, fish roe, or a single pea.
- – Jiu Cai Bau: Generously filled with peppery chives and pan-fried to produce a blistered, crisp crust.
- – Xiao Long Bao: The filling includes collagen-rich pork parts that produce a sticky, thick stock that solidifies when cooling and melts during steaming. It’s delightful to suck out the rich, savory soup from the dough before digging into the tender, springy meatball within.
- – Sheng Jian Bao: A popular Shanghai fried breakfast food or snack cooked with just enough water to steam the dumplings through. As the water evaporates, a tender, juice-filled treat with a golden, crisply fried bottom results.</li
Other Chinese Dumplings
There is an abundance of other differently-shaped Chinese dumpling treats. Here’s just a sampling.
- – Won Ton: Square-shaped won tons are common in soups, bobbing alongside noodles and cabbage. The filling is usually ground pork and/or shrimp. They can also be deep-fried and served with a sweet and sour dipping sauce.
- – Haam Sui Gok: Made with a glutinous rice dough and deep-fried to produce a blistered, crispy exterior with a chewy, doughy layer underneath. A variety of savory or sweet fillings is used.
- – Wu Gok: Pretty fried pork dumplings made from frilly strands of purple taro. They’re a study in delicious contrasts – both savory and sweet and crisp and tender.
- – Tang Yuan: Sticky and sweet boiled rice dumplings. Typical fillings are rock candy, sesame or red bean paste, or peanuts. Usually added to sesame, sweet bean, or ginger soup.
The Influence of Chinese Dumplings
Over the centuries, Chinese dumpling culture has spread to neighboring countries that have developed their own unique dumplings:
- – mandu (Korea); gyoza (Japan); momo (Nepal and Tibet); samosa, guja, modak (India)
Dumplings have also traveled further abroad and include:
- – pierogis (Poland); pelmeni (Siberia); vareniki (Ukraine); khinkali (Georgia); manti (Turkey)
It’s simply impossible to list all the different types of dumplings but what is certain is that the rest of the world has a lot to thank China for.
The creation of the traditional Peking duck dish is something that requires a careful knowledge of an age-old skill. Prepared the same way since the Imperial era, this Chinese dish is an important cultural cornerstone.
The crisp skin combined with the correct fat to meat ratio is something that can’t be replicated utilizing shortcuts of any kind. Far too many people have been fed an inferior product, and there’s a very telling difference between commercially prepared Peking duck and the authentically prepared dish.
An Overview of the Traditional Method
The traditional method of Peking duck preparation is as old as the Northern and Southern dynasties. The chef would choose a White Beijing duck, a breed heavily domesticated in China, and roast the duck to slow perfection. They did this using either a convection method, or a second method that suspended the duck above the flame.
The second method has been continued with a great deal of success throughout traditional Chinese restaurants. The preparation of the traditional Peking duck involves the following:
- Choosing and plucking an appropriate White Beijing duck
- Air is pushed between its skin and flesh, and an incision is made to remove its entrails
- The bird is cleaned and skewered with a wooden rod which allows it to be suspended above the flame
- The duck is sometimes soaked in boiling water to tighten skin and then filled with water and sewn shut once again
- After being thoroughly hung and dried the duck’s skin will be brushed or marinated using sugar or other traditional agents
- The last step involves the suspension of the duck in a large oven at a temperature of around 500F for between 30-40 minutes
The duck will be deemed ready when its skin has a beautiful reddish color and has the crisp texture that can only be achieved via traditional cooking methods. In restaurants that continue to embrace the old ways, the chef will bring the duck to the table and slice it into more than 100 thin and succulent sections.
Why is the Traditional Method Preferred Over Modern Alternatives?
An article by Veronica Lin highlights some of the problems with cutting corners and utilizing cheaper and faster electric ovens. In Lin’s interview with chef Lu Xiaofei, she uncovers the advantages that cooking in the traditional large fireclay oven provides over modern electric means.
Lu notes the chef’s ability to carefully monitor the cooking duck and to make immediate changes when necessary. This close attention to detail combined with the original fruit flavors infused with the woods creates a finished product unique to this timeless method.
How Far Chinese Chefs in California are Willing to Go to Preserve Tradition
The practice of preparing and serving traditional Peking duck is so sacred to the Chinese culture that local California chefs and activists lobbied to have health code exceptions made in their favor. These exceptions allow the duck to be hung in the windows of traditional Chinese establishments while being dried according to ancient methods of preparation.
Since the exception was made for Peking duck in the 1980s , chefs have continued to embrace and practice cooking methods that keep a cultural tradition alive and well for future generations.
Noods Noods Noods is an incredible festival featuring the unlikely combination of two very popular worlds – noodles and video gaming. Following the success of Noods Noods Noods in Southern California, the festival came to Oakland on April 7.
The event celebrated not only the craziest, most inspired, and delicious noodle creations and Asian-inspired food fusions, but also the upcoming official grand opening of Esports Arena Oakland. The skills of some of the best chefs and gamers in the Bay Area were on display.
Chili House SF & Z & Y Restaurant at Noods Noods Noods
Chili House and Z & Y Restaurant showcased our hand-pulled noodles at the event. The special noodle-coated sauce filled the mouth with waves of taste, beginning with a slightly sweet tang that was followed by a smack of satisfying, spicy hot burn.
Kung Fu Tea master Xumin Liu, who has been performing at Chili House since January also dazzled the crowds at the event. His Kung Fu Tea performances were a very popular attraction drawing appreciative audiences.
A Wall of Noodles
Noods Noods Noods Oakland was presented by Foodbeast and NISSIN, The Original Cup Noodles, the 46-year-old company that helped make instant noodles a mainstream dish. A noodle lover on the way in knew they were in the right place when they were greeted at the entrance by the impressive Tower o’ Cup Noodles display.
Inside, the outdoor noodle festival had two sections: the Marketplace with visiting food trucks from all over the Bay Area, and the all-you-can-eat (AYCE) section showcasing unique drool-worthy dishes from Bay Area restaurants. There were so many noodly and other types of Asian dishes that no one could come close to sampling everything on offer.
The idea of founders Paul Ward and Tyler Endres, Esports arenas are designed to fill a niche need for gamers. Traditionally, playing video games has been a solitary pursuit, even when playing online with others. Esports arenas are places where a player can share their gaming passion with like-minded fans.
At Noods Noods Noods Oakland, players could compete in the Super Smash Bros. Melee and Smash 4 singles tournaments with $5,000 in cash prizes. And of course, when they become hungry, there was no shortage of food.
What to do Now that Noods Noods Noods Oakland is Over
Noods Noods Noods Oakland provided the perfect opportunity to try some of the exclusive dishes and premiere food items from the Bay Area’s best restaurants. In a city with no limit on Asian food options, Chili House SF stands out. Chefs Han has earned international acclaim for serving both Sichaun and Beijing cuisine since 1988. Check us out online or call (415) 387-2658 to experience delicious and authentic Chinese dining.
Over the next few weeks, Chili House SF invites you to take a deep dive into authentic Chinese culture and experience one of the most unique and mesmerizing performances in the world, as we graciously host renowned artist Xumin Liu , master of Gong Fu (or “Kung Fu”) tea and Bian Lian, or “face swapping”.
Kung Fu Tea is a traditional form of tea brewing that quite literally translates to “making tea with skill”, traces its roots all the back to the 3 rd century. The overall process, which puts heavy emphasis on quality ingredients, water chemistry, and temperature, helps to bring out and improve the flavors and aroma of the tea, heightening the drinker’s experience.
Liu’s accompanies his performance by serving his tea with complex and acrobatic pours, utilizing long spouted copper teakettles. As Liu has noted, the use of the teakettles goes far beyond the shear spectacle. The resulting pour from the special kettle helps unlock the flavors upon the pour , further heightening the experience.
Bian Lain , or “face swapping” is an ancient dramatic Chinese art and staple of operas in the Sichuan province. Performers in ornate masks and costumes will conduct choreographed moves and dances, all while swapping the color and style of the mask they are wearing at what appears to be fractions of a second. The techniques utilized by the true Bian Lain masters are as heavily guarded as American magicians secrets, with stories of actors offering tens of thousands of dollars to learn the secrets behind the art .
Xumin Liu, a native of the Sichuan province, began studying and practicing the art of Gong Fu tea in his early 20’s, while under the wing of known tea master Shifu Chen. Liu complemented these skills by training in the martial art of Wushu at a Taoist monastery on the Quigcheng Mountian. His background in martial arts helps give his Gong Fu performances an added level of fluidity and athleticism, capturing the awe of all who come to see him (including world famous California chef Alice Waters ).
About ten years ago, famed face-swapping artist Shimen Lu took one of Liu’s Gong Fu performances in Korea and immediately recognized his natural talent and presence. That performance lead to Lu offering to take Liu under his wing and teach him the coveted art of face swapping. After years of practice, Liu includes a face-swapping aspect into all his dinner shows, rounding out a truly magical performance.
Liu will be gracing our diners with his one-of-a-kind performances over the next eight weeks, giving you ample time to come plan an excursion out to the our Inner Richmond location to take in a once in a lifetime dining experience. As we want all of our diners to be able to take in one of Liu’s shows, we suggest calling ahead to ensure Liu will be performing during your visit.
We hope to see you there, you will not want to miss it!
Since the mid 1800s, San Francisco has been ground zero for the most vibrant Chinese New Year celebrations in North America. As a long time haven for immigrants and ex-pats looking to establish a life in West, the growing Chinese population quickly established cultural roots in the city and helped establish the worlds most well known Chinatown outside of Asia. By the 1860’s, community began using the New Year celebration to not expose westerners to their culture, but also incorporate elements of American holiday festivities, such as the parade. As a result, the Chinese New Year Parade was established.
Over time, the celebrations became bigger and bigger, evolving into a festival spanning two weeks and featuring a plethora of fun events. This year marks the Year of the Dog (year 4716 on the lunar calendar), and the city has been hard a work making sure this years celebration goes off without a hitch. Below you will find some of these years events you will not want to miss!
Mini Procession Preview and Ribbon Cutting (Feb. 10th)
The mini procession review is the perfect place to get a sneak-peek at some of the floats that will feature prominently in the upcoming larger parade. This event follows the original parade route used over 150 years ago. Beginning at St. Mary’s Square and ending at the Flower Market Fair’s main stage (on Washington below Grant), the parade concludes with a ceremonial ribbon cutting attended by city official and honored guests (signifying the official opening of the festival). Guests in attendance will enjoy lion dancers, drummers, giant puppets and other performances. Read more here .
Flower Market Fair (Feb. 10th – 11th)
Immediately following the mini parade, guests can enjoy the annual Flower Market Fair , where over 120 vendor booths and concessions showcase an abundance of fresh flowers, fruits and plants while enjoying traditional dance, music and art displays. There is a significant cultural relevance to flowers and fruits, especially surrounding New Years. Oranges and tangerines both symbolize abundant happiness, and tangerines with the leaves left intact represents a strong secure relationship with your partner. Fresh flowers are a staple of Chinese households as they symbolize good fortune. In fact, a flower in bloom on New Years Day is known to be a sign of prosperity in the New Year so having a house filled with fresh, lively flowers is incredibly important and the Flower Market Fair is the place to be to stock up!
The Chinese New Year Parade (Feb 24th)
The crown jewel of the Chinese New Year’s festivities, San Francisco’s parade is the gold standard at which all other Chinese New Year parades are measured. This year’s parade will feature over 100 participants, allowing attendees to enjoy scores of elaborate floats, displays, and performances from groups and organizations across the greater Bay Area. The crowd favorite is always the Golden Dragon, a 268 ft. puppet operated by a team of over 180 men and women that is truly a sight to see. There will also be plenty of fireworks, so make sure to pack earplugs!
Attendee the parade is free of charge, although spectators who wish to purchase tickets to sit in designated bleacher seats along the route may do so. Additionally, the parade will be broadcast live on KTVU Fox 2 or KTSF Channel 26.
Chinatown Community Street Fair (Feb 24th-25th)
As the festival begins to wind down, Chinatown plays host to the Community Street Fair , featuring over 100 different vendors and concessions selling a wide array of art, clothing and gifts to help commemorate the events of the festival. Attendees can enjoy traditional Chinese food and entertainment, while being given the opportunities to take photos with some or the giant dragons and puppets that were featured in the parade.
No matter what you choose to do to help ring in the Chinese New Year, San Francisco has something for everyone in the family to enjoy. Although it may be tough to attend them all, just going to one of the many great events this festival has to offer will give you a front row seat to immerse yourself in authentic Chinese culture.