Welcome Year of the Rat!
It's nice to have something to celebrate in early February when all the other holidays are over, and the doldrums come slipping in like a gray fog to hang around until April when the first buds appear, and the birds start to chirp. That seems like miles away, doesn't it? But - this is easy if you live in NYC or San Fran (right, EB?) - it's great to get a group of friends together and find a place to have a happy and delicious Chinese meal to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
If what I said doesn't inspire you to get off the couch and put your cozy blanket away, head over here. And while you're there, meet two new friends, Todd and Diane, if you haven't made their acquaintance already. (If they don't get you into a festive mood that makes you want to get out, just settle in till spring and wait for Ice Cream Day*.)
If you want to really get in the spirit of the thing, there are a lot of great Chinese cookbooks out there. I, personally, have three favorites and don't think you can go wrong owning all three because they are so different one from the other.
The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking is to me the "bible" of Chinese cooking, written, surprisingly, by an American, Barbara Tropp. It is an in-depth, scholarly tome that is fascinating to read and eminently usable if you want to get into Chinese cooking in a serious way. It's a lot of fun to compile a list of basic ingredients suggested here and head to Chinatown with two shoppping bags, which will be full of interesting stuff as you head home.
Susanna Foo Chinese Cuisine is a wonderful book. When I first wrote this post, it was out of print. The good news is that it's available again. This book is totally different from the Barbara Tropp book. The food is very light and often easy to make. The recipe for fried rice is a revelation.
The Breath of a Wok is a beautiful book that is just as interesting to read as it is to cook from. It's also different from the other two and worthy of note as a paean to Chinese culture.
I highly recommend all three of these books. If you want to pick just one, check out the reviews at Amazon. That will help you make up your mind which one is for you.
*Ice Cream Day is what I call the first glorious spring day - sometimes as early as March 20th; sometimes as late as April 10th - when every person in New York City heads outside and with a smile on his or her face walks around the City, generally with an ice cream cone in hand.