Brandon Jew, Chef-Owner of the award-winning Cantonese-style restaurant, Mister Jiu’s, in San Francisco’s Chinatown has many memories of celebrating Lunar New Year. From the red envelopes (lai see) to marching in the parade with his Kung Fu troupe, there wasn’t a year that went by that Brandon didn’t celebrate in some way with his family.
Here are a few traditions that make the iconic Chinese holiday so special to him.
1. Getting red envelopes (lai see) from elders.
“Now that I’m married part of the fun is giving lai see to my nieces and nephews.”
2. Performing Kung Fu in the Lunar New Year parade.
“Growing up, I practiced Kung Fu for eight years. Every year we would practice kung fu for months in preparation for the parade.”
3. Cooking together.
“My mom cooks half-Chinese and half-American things. It’s true that everyone loves their own mom’s cooking because there’s something so nurturing about it. Now that I have nieces and nephews, it’s almost like another Thanksgiving for us.”
4. Making dishes that are special to his family.
“One of the dishes we used to make when my grandma was alive was joong — a sticky rice steamed in bamboo leaves. We would make it with my aunts with my grandma leading the way. Now, my mom makes the majority of the dishes.
Since she’s from the American era of casseroles, she’ll make chicken a la king or maybe randomly brisket and cabbage. But then she’ll also make black bean chicken and steamed fish with ginger and scallions, rice noodles, Chinese soups like Westlake beef soup or jook. For dessert, we often have coffee crunch cake from Eastern Bakery, which is my mom and aunt’s favorite thing to get for Lunar New Year.”
5. Serving tea.
“As the oldest son in the family, I was tasked with pouring tea for everyone. I enjoyed it, filling everyone’s tea cups all the time.”