CHINESE New Year is about being with friends and family, wishing loved ones health and happiness and celebrating with food, bright clothes and traditions.

This year is the year of the Rooster and it begins on Saturday and lasts until February 15 2018.  The new year, also known as the Spring Festival, is marked by the lunisolar Chinese calendar, so the date changes from year to year. 

Saffy Roselan Johar, 25, is a Maylasian/Chinese law and politics graduate at Essex University. She is a students’ officer who looks after international students.

She says: “Chinese New Year is similar to Christmas in the UK in that everyone wants to be close to their family at this time. We eat food like turnip cake, dumplings and dim sum and wear lots of colour like red and yellow. 

“We do not sweep up, take out garbage or wash our hair on this day as we believe that it would sweeping away and washing away good luck.”

Saffy is part of the team who has organised Chinese New Year celebrations for students at the university at the Southend and Colchester campuses.

“We call it Lunar New Year at the university so we include countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. It is a very popular event here.”

The food and being together with family is an important part of the celebrations.


Saffy says: “As we sit and eat together we take it in turns to wish eat other good luck and good health for the future.”

Helen Wang, international officer at the University of Essex, is involved with organising the events at the Southend and Colchester campuses.

She says: “There will be two events for students on Wednesday to celebrate the Chinese New Year. An outdoor event on Square 3 and 4 of the Colchester Campus including free red envelopes with small traditional Chinese decorative knots inside, Chinese dancing and music, Chinese food, calligraphy and lion dancing. 

“The aim is to encourage university staff and students to participate and get a taste of Chinese culture. Then in the evening we have the celebration gala night where our vice-chancellor Professor Anthony Forster will be attending and we’ll be welcoming representatives from the Chinese Embassy, university staff, students and members of the public.”

It is a popular event at the university.

“Yes, we’ve got a long history of celebrating Chinese New Year at our Colchester Campus, and strong links with Chinese universities, and business partners. 

“The Chinese New Year , also known as Spring Festival or Lunar New Year, is an ancient festival thought to be thousands of years old. We have more than 1,500 students from China and southeast Asia and for many of them this will be one of the most important festivals of the year. As a result our celebration will be important to members of our University community from these countries.”

A place to try authentic Cantonese Cuisine ...

IF you needed an excuse to indulge in high quality Chinese cuisine, then the New Year celebrations are a perfect one.

And customers, both amateur and connoisseur, come from miles around the sample the dishes on offer at Colchester’s Banquet 1408 restaurant - in particular the dim sum.

The menu for this alone runs into double digits and fans have even gone as far as taking home some of the recipes to have a go themselves.

But manager Karen Shipman explains recreating them at home can be a tall order.

“One customer who loves them so much kept asking for a recipe for the dim sum so we sorted one out and he went off and got all the ingredients but reported back it just wasn’t the same!”

Dim sum, prepared by a specialist chef at the Stanway eaterie, are small dumplings which can be eaten as a starter, lunch or evening meal.

New Year weekend is already almost fully booked and the restaurant is popular as a venue for Chinese people living in the area who will be celebrating the big event.

Karen says: “In past years we have had dragon dancers and drummers.

“Sometimes they just come along and entertain but this year we are letting the food speak for itself.

“It is a place people come to who really want to try authentic Cantonese cuisine.

“Recently we had delegates from China who were visiting the university come for a meal which was a big deal.

“But we also have a lot of people who want to come and try the dim sum or traditional dishes, and they will often ask the waiters for advice.

“They might not necessarily go for the chicken’s feet but they do like to try different things,” she says.

The restaurant has an oriental style garden which is popular with visitors over the spring and summer months.

Karen explains there are no specific dishes eaten at Chinese New Year but there is a strong emphasis on family and friends eating together and sharing quality time.

“They also hand out red envelopes to family members, which have presents of money in them,” she says.


ANOTHER north Essex restaurant sure to be having a busy Saturday is the North Hill Noodle Bar, in Colchester, which specialises in Chinese,Indonesian, Malaysian and Thai-inspired cuisine using fresh ingredients, many of them locally sourced. They’ve very kindly given us the recipe for a favourite dish at the restaurant if you fancy organising your own Chinese New Year celebrations at home. Call 01206 368889 to book.


Makes 2 portions


  • 200 to 240 grams of cut squid tubes.
  • 80 grams of potato starch.
  • Half of egg white from a medium size egg.
  • Pinch of salt pinch of white pepper and pinch of five spice.
  • Mixed together should be no more than half tea spoonful.
  • 1 hot chilli, sliced.
  • Half clove of garlic, ideally minced.
  • A few chopped spring onions to garnish.


Mix the squid pieces in the egg white in mixing bowl then put the potato starch to the squid, make sure they are all covered evenly and not too gluey.

If they are too gluey means too much egg white so drain the excessive substance away and put a little bit more potato starch in.

Put in a pan of hot oil (180c), make sure it’s deep enough for the oil to cover all the squid pieces and fry them 2 minutes until coat is crispy.

Meanwhile heat up a frying pan and put a table spoon of veg oil add garlic and chilli and lightly fry them for 30 second.

Take squid pieces out from deep fat fryer and put them in the wok.

Turn heat off on the wok and throw in the squid along with the seasoning. mix evenly.

Sprinkle the chop spring onions on and serve immediately.

Goes well with sweet chilli sauce which you can get from any supermarket.