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Don't expect words of wisdom or earth shattering revelations, just my thoughts and observations about living in Ottawa, being a public servant and trying to live life every day to its fullest

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Kung Hai Fat Choi - It is now the year of the rabbit and this week will see the forth edition of my annual Chinese New Year dinner. It started small enough; a few friends wanted to try "real" Chinese food and seemed to think I could do it better than the restaurants down-town, so I offered to try to cook for them. A weekend with my mother finding recipes and a panicked night of calls, I was able to pull off a decent meal for about 20 people.

The first year was intimate, people didn't know what to expect - I didn't know what to expect. How much food to cook? How long will it all take? Will people like the food? Will I have enough dishes to serve it all? The humble evening has turned into an annual tradition where I currently have 40 RSVP's and people start asking in early January when the dinner will be held.

The rules of engagement are simple; bring something to drink, a bowl and chopsticks (forks are OK - but I will judge), try a little bit of everything, meet new people and have fun. Bring friends, significant and insignificant others, but let me know so that I have an idea of numbers. People now know not to ask if they can bring anything and instead ply me with wine and stories. House rules include only three people in my kitchen at any one time - I count for two to ensure people stay out of my way - and I often ask for a donation to a charity of my choice (this year is a non-perishable donation for the food-bank).

For my part, the planning is actually very simple. I write up the menu and an ingredient list, then head to the local stores and hope I don't forget anything. Last year I decided to try to make dumplings from scratch, which was a great idea until 9:30pm on Thursday night when I realised that I forgot to get wrappers and had to make the dough too! Every year I try at least one new dish and 90% of the cooking done after the first person walks through the door. Prep happens on Thursday night, and apart from that I love knowing that people are looking forward to eating. The secret is that Chinese food looks impressive, but can be quite simple and quick to make, you just can't be squeamish!

May the year of the rabbit bring you prosperity and may you eat many a meal in the company of friends.
King Hai Fat Choi!