Chinese New Year has always been about family for me. Growing up in a Chinese restaurant run by my parents meant that it actually wasn't a typical traditional celebration for us: Chinese New Year is all about spending time with friends and family and eating great food, but we were always around our customers. So our customers became our extended family. Celebrations would tend to start a month beforehand where we'd be putting up decorations, the waving cats and all the superstitious stuffs. Then when it got to Chinese New Year Day it would be about burning the joss sticks and doing the offering before we set up business for the customers.
Get together with the family
It's not until the Sunday after Chinese New Year where we'd have a moment for all the family. We would congregate in one of my uncle's or auntie's restaurants and where all the Wan clan would gather on table beyond table to have some food and to chat. The cousins would play, and the mums and dads would gossip. It would just become one of those massive family events.
Get your friends involved
As I now live away from my family, my friends have become an extension of my tribe. What I tend to do is arrange a huge Chinese meal for all of my friends to get together, usually in a restaurant. We'll sit and we'll drink and we'll talk and we'll gossip and it's basically like Christmas without Santa. I recreate my family Chinese New year with all the foods that I eat in Chinatown: prawn wonton dumpling noodle soup is one of my dad's signature dishes. It's one of the first dishes that I learnt to cook.
The simplicity of that kind of Hong Kong-bowl of goodness, cheap as chips in the middle of Chinatown, means so much to me because being away from my family so often means that I can reconnect with them when I'm eating it.
I love getting everyone involved. For Chinese New Year I call my mate Lucy Mitchell – my fellow co-founder of the Golden Chopsticks Awards and MD of SeeWoo UK on Lisle Street. She'll prepare a big bag of shopping and I'll dash home to set up dumpling-making stations. I love making gyoza or dumplings at this time of year. It's just so easy and I'll invite my friends around and get them stuck into building, wrapping and eating these little parcels of joy.
I always go to Cafe TPT because I know them in there, they know me and I can almost guarantee that the moment I sit down in the restaurant – I don't have to even look at a menu – they know what I'm going to order. That familiarity for me is so important. And then on to Dumpling Legend for the crystal har gaw, which are the prawn dumplings. They are a family favourite. Every single member of our family eats those crystal dumplings, but we don't always eat the whole dumpling. My mum prefers the inside, yet my brother loves the skins – so, often, what they'll do is they'll be sharing that one tiny morsel of dim sum between the two of them.
Opium in the Peony Bar is also another place. Because there's very few places that you can go to in Chinatown where you can have an amazing cocktail at the beautiful bar. It's got the sort of ambiance that's reminiscent of 1920s Shanghai. There you can order just a couple of picky bits of dim sum alongside your drink. If you went to any part of Asia, you would always be offered food with your alcohol.
Refuel on your way home
I 'need' to eat every 45 minutes. So, if you're like me, I would always drop into Wasabi on the way home, too. Being mixed-race Asian and being British-born Chinese, means that my palette has been very much pointed towards fusion foods, so I have a real passion for all Asian foods, in particular sushi. Sushi, for me, is light eating. It's not a proper meal whatsoever. So I've chosen Wasabi because I think they're a great chain. The food is consistent, it's always great and there's one that's around the corner for me. So quite often what I'll do is go out, have lunch, have dinner, see friends, have drinks and then on the way home I'll go and pick up a tray of sushi.