The year of the ox is upon us as we celebrate Lunar New Year 4707 (though some sites claim it's really year 4706). If you're looking for something more adventurous than a bottle of wine to bring to a dinner party between now and February 9th (the end of the 14-day celebration), we've got ideas. All sorts of foods and sweets are traditionally given during the festivities: fruits, chocolates, candies, and cookies.
L.A. Burdick has put together beautiful collections of handmade chocolates ($5 to $61) infused with smoky teas, complex layerings of Asian spices,and sweet citrus fruits. They are available in bamboo boxes wrapped in rice paper or wooden boxes sealed with a golden wax "Good Luck" stamp and tied with bright red and gold ribbon.
For something a little less sinful, consider an assortment of dried fruit from Bella Viva. The gourmet World Voyage fruit platter ($17) contains 24 ounces of flavorful, moist pears, plums, prunes, apples, apricots, mango, and pineapples.
If the host is an enthusiastic cook, but just starting to explore Asian cuisines, this spice collection ($40) comes, along with recipes, in an embossed tin that includes cassia bark, Chinese five-spice, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns.
Lai see or hóng bao, small red envelopes stuffed with money, are a common gift, so if you end up going with homemade confections or cookies, or find yourself resorting to a bottle of wine as the deadline approaches, make sure to wrap everything in red paper or tissue. Stick with even numbers for good luck, but avoid packing four of a kind: The Chinese word for four is a homophone for the word for death.
If you're the one hosting the dinner, and you're looking for an easy dash of authenticity, check out the collection of woks, steamers, cleavers, and hard-to-find gear available online from San Francisco 's famous Wok Shop. And don't forget to consult our Lunar New Year Guide for recipes.
By Heather Tyree
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