Sunday, October 30, 2011

Foodbuzz 24X24: Red Egg and Ginger Party

My husband, mother-in-law, and I threw our firstborn a traditional Chinese red egg and ginger birthday party when he turned one this past week. I am sure you are wondering, "What is a red egg and ginger party?" Red egg and ginger parties are typically celebrated at the one month mark of a young child's life. During the ancient times, when infant mortality rates were high, if a child survived to the one month mark, it was a sign of great fortune and an event worthy of a big family get-together.

The one month milestone in a child's life is a significant occasion for all families, and this milestone is marked by a huge celebration in Chinese culture, where family and friends plan a banquet and meet the new baby. Also, a mother was expected to rest for one month so that she could recover from the physical stress of labor. During such parties, relatives prepare large stockpots of nutritious ginger soup, as ginger has warming (yang of yin/yang) properties to help the mother heal and help increase milk production. The ginger soup, as well as a rice wine and pork trotter soup are strongly believed to help nurse a new mama back to health after childbirth. Also, boiled eggs, representing fertility and life, were dyed red (the luckiest color in Chinese tradition) and gently massaged onto the baby's face. Legend has it, that the egg would increase the fertility of newborn child, guaranteeing a sizeable family. Also, during these parties, instead of birthday presents, the baby and the new parents are given red envelopes (hong bao).

In ancient times, at a red egg and ginger party, the family would formally name their newborn and also shave their baby's head for good fortune. Although we didn't carry out all of the traditions of the red egg and ginger party, we tried to carry the theme throughout our baby's party. That meant dressing him up in a formal outfit and serving Chinese party foods!

As the day approached, however, we realized that our menu was a little too ambitious, so we ended up getting a little help (i.e., ordering frozen dumplings, jungzi, and soy sauce eggs from nearby San Francisco restaurants and shops). We have a little baby, so a little "help" is necessary for throwing a party! The party menu included (see descriptions below, with three recipes):

Chicken and Napa Potstickers with Soy Garlic Dipping Sauce

Soy Sauce Eggs (soft boiled eggs marinated in a bath of soy sauce and mirin--for a good recipe, click here)

Shrimp Fried Rice (just add shrimp and frozen peas to my old recipe)

Vancouver Japadog-Style Hot Dogs with Asian-Fusion Topping Bar (for the kids, with wasabi paste, Japanese mayo, caramelized onions, and nori slivers)

Oranges (which symbolize good fortune, prosperity, and longevity in Chinese culture), Boiled Eggs Dyed Red, and Fruit and Veggie Plates

Chinese Tamales, or jungzi

Grilled Chicken Drumsticks

Chicken and Pine Nut Lettuce Wraps
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, finely diced (best to cut if partially frozen)
2 cup carrots, peeled and finely diced (depending on size of carrots, about 5)
1/2 cup green scallions
1/3 cup of pine seeds, lightly toasted in pan for a few seconds until fragrant
2 tbsp of corn starch
2 tbsp of soy sauce
1 tbsp of canola oil
1 tsp salt, or to taste

1 head of lettuce, washed, with leaves separated

Heat the oil in a frying pan until shimmering. Add the carrots and cook until they have started to sweat. Meanwhile, combine the chicken with the soy sauce and corn starch, and then add it into the pan, stirring constantly. Then, add the scallions and fry until the chicken is cooked through. Then, add the pine seeds and serve in a bowl next to the lettuce leaves, or assemble the lettuce wraps for your guests.

Refreshing Chinese Cucumber Salad
2 or 3 seedless English cucumbers, washed and cut into 1/2 to 2 inch strips (almost as if julienned)
1/2 bunch cilantro, cut into 3 cm long portions
1/2 yellow onion, sliced thinly
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp canola oil
2 tsp white vinegar
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Combine all of the liquid and dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Then, combine the sauce mixture with the cucumbers, cilantro, onions, and garlic, until coated. Let the salad sit for at least 30 mins before serving.

Gingered Carrot Cake Mini Muffins
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple in unsweetened juice
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 1/3 cups (about 1 lb) shredded carrots
1 cup (4 oz) walnuts, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup (about 1 1/2 ounces) finely chopped crystalized ginger
chopped crystallized ginger, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, ground ginger, nutmeg, and 1 tsp salt. In large bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat eggs, butter, and sugars 2 minutes, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Beat in pineapple with its juice and vanilla. Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture and beat just until blended. Stir in carrots, walnuts, raisins, and crystallized ginger. Spoon batter evenly into cupcake tins with lined with cupcake wrappers. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes for mini muffins or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

For the games, we invited the children to blow bubbles outside with bubble wands and had an arts and crafts station for the children to color and cut out their own Chinese dragon masks and paper lanterns. Check out the link here for the FREE dragon mask template we used. We bought wooden sticks online for them to use as the mask holders.

We also played Ni Hao, Kai Lan on the television, so that the kids could learn some Chinese and learn about Chinese culture with a fun and popular cartoon.

We also handed out party favors in red Chinese take out boxes (board books, kazoos, bubbles, and red envelopes with chocolate coins), so the kids kept busy and entertained. See the picture way above, to see the contents.

For the decor, we reused our wedding banner, set up Chinese umbrellas, and also folded origami tigers and dragons from the Canon website. Check out the Canon site for the FREE patterns and templates, here. Warning: The patterns are beautiful and complicated!

Also, we printed labels for our water bottles for an extra personalized touch. Check out Gynnn Wasson Design's blog for the FREE water bottle templates we used.

We also decorated a centerpiece with red envelopes.

Thanks for joining me at my party! I hope you learned a thing or two about the red egg and ginger party, a traditional Chinese celebration which is as important of a holiday as Thanksgiving or Christmas for some families. Hey, any even where the entire family gets together to enjoy a feast and meet the new addition is good in my book!


  1. wow, looks awesome!! i was scrolling through the photos and then was like, wha?? hot dogs are not asian! and then i went back for your caption... those japadogs sound interesting!

    happy birthday sammy!!

  2. Happy 1st Birthday Sammy! (Is he one? or one month?)

    So cute and so elaborate w/all your planning, decor, and great looking food! Like Crystal, I need to get my hands on a Japadog style hot dog, STAT!

    Looks like it was a great party! And thanks for the Chinese cultural lesson too! Learned lots! :)

  3. OOooh Congrats to the bithday Boy! Hoeray! 1 year old & what a feast for the eyes & mouth too;)!! I love every recipe here! So special too!

  4. Thank you everyone, for your sweet birthday wishes! And I did not make it too clear in the post, but Sammy is now 1 year old! Time flies Bola!

  5. congratulations to you all, you certainly celebrated in style. btw, I wept wasabi tears when I saw that healthy dose of wasabi lining the japadog... looks deliciously painful. what a feast!

  6. My goodness, one already! Best brithday wishes to Sammy.

  7. wow.. great post! Everything looks so delicious! Did everybody like the japa-hot dogs? I think it sounds good, but maybe because I like wasabi

  8. Happy birthday Sammy! They grow so fast huh? He looks so cute in his little blue suit. Hey, is that a little brother? Or a cousin? Did you have another one? :) You really went all out with the party. I loved the idea of the Japa-dog. Growing up, these parties seemed to be more for women as my mom and sister loved the pickled pig's feet soup. I just liked the red eggs!

  9. That is just a friend, Ben, I am not Michelle Duggar! ;) Thanks for your sweet comments though, I still remember that promise I made to you and Foodhoe about doing a "sponsored" food bloggers' party. We will do that, I promise!

  10. Oh, and did you see how I used your cake stand Ben? We use it all the time and love it!

  11. That shrimp fried rice and Chinese tamales are calling out to me, the photos are all so amazing!

  12. Stunning! Thanks for the great cultural insight. I didn't know about this tradition, but it was wonderful to read your post and learn about it. Those delicious meals look as fantastic as the tradition behind this event. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Fabulous food pics. I would love to try Japadog hot dog! My mum still make red eggs for our birthdays.

  14. i like so much your blog. want u link exchange with my blog ? if want tell me at . tnx

  15. Wow, what an amazing spread of lovely foods. I've heard about japdogs, but I've never seen them here in london, they look delicious (as do all the other treats). I totally want to come to your next party!
    *kisses* HH

  16. Dear Passionate Eater,

    I'm a representative from a marketing agency in Southern California, and one of clients adores your blog. She wants to feature a recipe of yours in a monthly newsletter in exchange for some link love. Please let me know if you're interested, and we can exchange information. Thanks!

  17. what a beautiful spread! That looks like one great party! (when I saw the thumbnail of this post I thought those eggs were chocolate! :)

  18. This party looks amazing. I am going to try the cucumber salad recipe and the soft boiled eggs in soy and mirin. Thanks for posting!

  19. Congratulations on your second child's 1st month red egg and ginger party! You did such an amazing job in decorating the party and coming up with so many cool cultural games and activities for the kids! I am really impressed! And thank you for sharing all those wonderful game and activity resources as well. When I get to become a mom, I'll need to refer back to this post of yours!! =) Thanks again!

  20. Now that's something new...and I'm loving it. Thanx for sharing the tradition. I've always been interested in the Chinese culture and the Asian neighborhood, but I never heard of this. Thanx again for sharing.

  21. I loved reading your blog and wondered if you could share your recipe for the chicken/napa potstickers?

    1. We actually fried frozen potstickers made by these retired ladies in Chinatown. I will post a recipe though soon for the homemade kind, Grace!

  22. I just came across your post. This is so awesome — I frequently read about RE&G parties at local restaurants, so it really cool to read about your party at home, especially all the decorating ideas!

  23. I just found your post! This was so awesome — I frequently read about RE&G parties thrown at local restaurants, so it was really cool to read about your party held at home, especially all the decorating ideas!


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