If you are in Bangkok over Chinese New Year there's only one place to be and that is Yaowarat or China Town. The capital's substantial Chinese community congregates en masse there and the streets become a festival of colour and performance with parades and lion dances, while the incense burning temples burst at the walls with the merit making throng.
Another kaleidoscopic celebration can be witnessed on Phuket in the Old Town, where the old Sino-Portuguese buildings are similarly decorated with red flags and lanterns and special performances include martial arts demonstrations and Chinese opera performances to complement the street processions and fireworks displays.
Both of these locations are also known for their diverse and delicious local food offerings. The street stalls and restaurants tend to specialise in certain dishes you won't find in other parts of Thailand, drawing lovers of Chinese fare year round.Popular choices include fish maw soup, a Chinese delicacy often made with a variety of additional ingredients such as crab meat, chicken and mushrooms. Fish maw (swim bladder) is an excellent source of collagen and also thought of as a nourishing tonic that helps blood circulation, as well as being beneficial to the general health. Then there are several dishes with wide noodles, including Guay Teow Lod, served with minced pork, cuttlefish, dried shrimp mushrooms, chopped green scallions and golden fried garlic or the delicious Kuay Chap Oun Pochana, served with generous helpings of tender roasted pork. At Chinese New Year the menu selections in Thailand's Chinese-influenced destinations expand to include traditional dishes that are considered "must eats" as they guarantee a prosperous and happy year to come. These dishes are also eaten throughout the year, but climb to the top of the food chain during the celebrations. Yuanbao dumplings are famous throughout for the world and particularly popular during Chinese New Year because they are associated with good fortune. Made from dough, which is wrapped around pork and cabbage, they are shaped like the ancient gold ingots used as a standard medium of exchange in ancient China. Hence the Jin Yuanbao symbolize money, wealth and prosperity. Nian Gao are Chinese steamed New Year cakes made from glutinous rice flour, brown sugar, and oil. Some versions have white sesame seeds, red dates, or nuts in them. The cakes are also considered very lucky because their name also means "higher year." The cakes are often prepared in different shapes that also symbolise good luck and prosperity for the coming year. Jai is a vegetarian dish often eaten at Chinese New Year because of its lucky ingredients, which include sea moss for prosperity, lotus seeds for children/birth of sons, noodles for longevity, lily buds to help with a harmonious union and Chinese black mushrooms to make wishes come true. It is also part of the Buddhist culture to cleanse the body by abstaining form meat at this time of year, so the vegetables ensure a healthy meal. Whole Fish in Chinese sounds like the word for abundance so many people prepare or order fish the head and tail in tact during the celebrations. This, they believe ensures an auspicious start and finish to the year ahead. Food is one of the main elements that make Chinese New Year a unique and fascinating festival to experience on a trip to Thailand. Along with the street processions and dragon dances, lanterns, fireworks and traditional performances, the culinary adventure is one that will not only satisfy your taste buds, but will also bring "gōng xǐ fā cái" (congratulations and prosperity) to you and your family. by LVH Marketing