happy new year 2014!

I know . . . I know. No more radio silence! I promise we have some toasty specials for you this Chinese New Year . . . the weather’s unforgiving, but you won’t regret it. Good food solves everything. 🙂

From 30 January until 2 February (ahem, I know that’s tomorrow), we’ve got some brand spankin’ new specials to ring in the lunar new year. Check ’em out!

Mei Shung's Chinese New Year 2014 specials menu

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happy Easter from the Chinese Easter bunny

A couple things. 1) I am lame and haven’t updated in way too long. Apologies for that. It’s been kind of a crazy time lately, but no excuses. I’ll be back shortly. 2) The Chinese/Taiwanese aren’t particularly known for their Easter festivities, so no, there is no Chinese Easter bunny. However, I did just stumble upon this little guy in our medicine cabinet the other day and I thought he should make an appearance. Er . . . she? What do you think? And 3) finally, if you celebrate this holiday today, may you have a warm one filled with delicious eats with friends and family! We are open today from noon till 9.30pm. You’re welcome to stop by!

What do you think, boy or girl?

What do you think, boy or girl?

never too late for well wishes

I admit this could have been posted, like, this morning, but I’m still getting a handle on this timing thing (it’s a resolution). Happy lunar new year! I hope you took advantage of our sweet Chinese New Year specials this weekend. As Chicago Restaurant Week 2013 wraps up, as well, I hope you have enjoyed some real fine dining! (We didn’t do Restaurant Week at Mei Shung this year, as I feel it would have just confused my mom. ;))

2013 is the year of the snake

water snake

Since I posted rather extensively last year about the history of Chinese New Year (also known as the Spring Festival), you can refer to those posts, or this other (non-Wikipedia) article I found, to learn about the holiday or brush up on your trivia:

what to eat on chinese new year

happy new year

china holidays

Just for fun and variety, I thought we could go into another fun aspect that the (lunar) new year brings: the Chinese zodiac!

Currently, we’re still in the year of the dragon, but as this year comes to a close, the Chinese are preparing for little snake babies. Incidentally, I found out through reading Jeff Primack’s Mastering 5 Elements that the Chinese believe so strongly in their zodiac and “mystical” things of this nature that there are times of the year where sales of birth control-related goods skyrocket and also when they go dry. This is probably less so for given animals, but more so in the less-known elemental phases of the earth:

metal

metal

Fire

Fire

tree
tree

water
water

earth
earth

These five elements are what the book Mastering 5 Elements is based upon, but instead of “tree,” some sources prefer to use the term “wood.” Now, Chinese astrology can actually get pretty complex, integrating the elements with each animal sign (of which there are 12 — see picture below) with Chinese philosophy (yin and yang), medicine, and divination (for long-winded, more thorough explanations, see this article). This is a lot to swallow for those of us accustomed to simple astrological signs and traits (like me), so I won’t go into it. Suffice it to say that the elements and animal signs overlap, creating a sort of “compound” sign.

So this year, we are entering the age of the water snake. Coincidentally, this is the exact same time my mother was born.

According to chinesezodiac.com, the Water Snake is:

influential, motivated, insightful, and highly intellectual … These snakes work well with others and enjoy being recognized and rewarded. They’ll reveal feelings to those closest to them, but no one else.

If you’re curious to know more about Chinese astrology, there are plenty of books and Internet sources to calculate precisely what sign your birthdate fell under. (I, personally, am a water boar.)

I’ll leave you with this well-wishing Chinese New Year 2013 video (not ours):

happy (solar) new year!

I don’t want midnight to roll around again without first wishing you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR! True to nerdy/mathematically inclined Asian fashion, my boyfriend Anthony (who you should know is white . . .) made us ring in 2013 last night by signing it in binary:

Apparently this all adds up to 2013.

Apparently this all adds up to 2013.

I guess it bodes well for my family that one of us likes numbers.

Are you excited for the new year? What will it bring for you?

If you joined us at Mei Shung last night for your last meal of 2012, thanks for sharing it with us!

goodwill & some general housekeeping

Here at Mei Shung, we’d like to wish you, during the interim, happy holidays!

All the critters of the Hsieh household (incidentally, all mine -- this is what I'm doing when I'm not at the restaurant)

All the critters of the Hsieh household (incidentally, all mine — this is what I’m doing when I’m not at the restaurant)

If you follow us on Facebook (and you should!), you will have seen that, due to popular demand, we were open for a half-day on Christmas Eve last week — never been done before on a Monday (notoriously the only day my folks have the day off)!

Clearly, I’ve taken too many days off of blogging for you guys, and I’m working on a more regular schedule for you from now on, so . . .

I actually have NO idea what this is about, but I felt it strangely appropriate somehow. From http://bit.ly/VNczbX.

I actually have NO idea what this is about, but I felt it strangely appropriate somehow. From http://bit.ly/VNczbX.

We’re staying open for you again this New Year’s Eve, so if you’d like to join us for some good eats prior to getting your 2013 celebrations on, give us a call and make a reservation!

On another note, I’m sure all of you know that we got new gift certificates printed not too long before Christmas, since many of you snagged ’em for some lucky foodies out there. 🙂

We still have to do our drawing for our 100th Facebook “like” — and to make up for the delay, the prize for this drawing will be a $30 gift certificate instead of the usual $15. Remember, per our ongoing Facebook Likes Us contest, for every 50 “likes” we get, we do a random drawing. The 100th will be drawn by New Year’s Day. By now we’re well on our way to 150, so thanks again to you all, and keep spreading the word! The more fans we have, the more drawings we’ll do!

A big thank you to everyone who attended our Secret’s Out launch party! We are collaborating with the Taiwanese-American Professionals (TAP-Chicago) group to set up another (even more hardcore!) one, and we’ll extend the Hello New Dish contest for the Hello Kitty tumbler till February.

looks like we’re still here (dongzhi festival)

Well, we braced ourselves for the Mayan apocolypse, and it seems things are still intact.

From http://bit.ly/X4UEV2

From http://bit.ly/X4UEV2 — such drama!

What better time for another cultural lesson?

Apparently, the Chinese Winter Solstice Festival, also known as the Dongzhi Festival (the “extreme of winter”), happens today. In certain parts of China, such as Guangdong and Canton, the Winter Solstice Festival rivals — and sometimes even surpasses — the celebration of the lunar New Year (the one coming up in February) in importance! Thanks to my friend Robert, for cluing me in, when my own parents are too busy planning for Western holidays in Chicago to give me a heads up. 🙂 (Robert is married to a Chinese woman.) Evidently, some people treat the Winter Solstice as the dawning of a new year instead of waiting around for Chinese New Year. A little confusing for a “hybrid” like me, but anyway . . .

The Winter Solstice, to recap for those of us rusty on our astronomy, is the day when one hemisphere of the Earth (north or south) is farthest away from the sun, resulting in the longest period of nighttime. It usually marks the first official day of winter (at least, here), roughly around the 21st each December. This year, it’s today! The upside of the solstice — and yes, we have summer solstices, too (incidentally flipped on the hemisphere opposite ours) — is that it’s precisely when these long winter nights have peaked, and days start getting longer as we transition back into the warmer months.

In ancient Chinese “yin-yang” philosophy, the Winter Solstice symbolizes the restoration of balance within the cosmos. It’s the time when positive yang energy re-enters, and, consequently, the return of warmth?

yin yang

Photo courtesy of http://bit.ly/RYWDJ6

Just like our traditional Western holidays, the Dongzhi Festival is a time of family reunion and eating. (Interestingly, people of the same last names are also expected to gather at this time. Must be fun for all those Chens out there.) The food associated with the Winter Solstice Festival is, true to Chinese mentalities of, um, just never quite living up to expectation (what? I said nothing), meant to remind us that we are now a year older and should strive for improvement during the new year.

What exactly are these shame-inducing goods?

Photo credit to the Taiwan Culture Portal

Photo credit to the Taiwan Culture Portal

They eat tangyuan, which are essentially little dumpling balls, made of glutinous flour and stuffed with sesame paste, peanut powder, or even plain. They’re then cooked and served in a sweet soup or broth. According to the Taiwan Culture Portal:

This festive food is eaten for several symbolic reasons. The word “tang” means “soup” and the word “yuan” means “round” or “ball,” and when the two words are combined, the phrase is similar in sound with the term for “reuniting” (tuan yuan) in Mandarin Chinese.

And what’s a celebration without a little mythology and sacrifice? I hear the Taiwanese also select a few tangyuan, in the shape of sacrificial animals (chicken, sheep, duck, etc.) to stick to the back of chairs, windows, and doors — this is an offering to ancestors, as well as a type of talisman to protect against evil that might come to harm the kids.

In Taiwan, also, it is a time to enjoy what’s known as “tonic foods,” which are meant to help immunity and keep you strong during the frigid winter months. These include different types of hot pot (loosely described by yours truly as a Chinese version of fondue) — which, now that I mention it, I’m happy to say my parents are thinking about making hot pot available to you fine ladies and gents sometime soon (probably in the new year — the Western one, that is)!

None of this could have been written (by me, anyway) without the help of Wikipedia or the Taiwan Culture Portal — so please check them out if you would like to learn more about the specifics of the festival.

Hope to see you soon as the days start getting longer!

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