Happy Year of the Dragon!

Welcome to our first ever Holiday House blog post!

We’re kicking off with Chinese New Year (January 23rd), which is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays and marks the end of winter (apparently New York City missed that memo!).

Everything associated with the Chinese New Year should represent good fortune, and the tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone.

2012 is the year of the Dragon, which represents luck. At Holiday House 2011, designer Inson Wood’s Chinese New Year room featured a sculpted Great Dragon from Lladró’s High Porcelain collection.

Inson’s room also featured lots of red, the predominant color of the holiday, and an emblem of joy, virtue, truth and sincerity. During celebrations, it is customary to wear red clothes, decorate with poems on red paper, and give children lucky money in red envelopes.

Inson painted the room’s walls with Benjamin Moore‘s “Moroccan Red” #1309, and as is custom on the holiday, the room’s doors and windows were also painted red for luck.

Photos by Peter Rymwid.

The room featured art by Jeff Koons, Ron Ehrlich, Larry Zox, Jeff Zimmerman and Michael Dickey, and furniture by Ruhlmann, Herve VanderStraeten and Paul Mathieu. The table below was artfully set for tea with white porcelain pieces from Lladró’s Equus Collection.

The dining table is from Pollaro and the chairs are by Ico Parisi circa 1955 from Van Den Akker Antiques.

Luscious red window treatments are in silk taffeta with custom trim from Christopher Hyland.

The room is anchored by a stunning Sultanbad silk rug from Orley Shabahang.  A Herve van der Straeten chandelier from Maison Gerard floats elegantly overhead Moura Starr’s luxurious sofas.

Designer Inson Wood of Inson Dubois Wood LLC. Photo by Alexa Hoyer for PMc.

The year before, at Holiday House 2010, designer Barbara Ostrom also incorporated dragon themes and plenty of red into her Chinese New Year table setting.

Photos by Philip Ennis.

When planning your Chinese New Year menu, there are several symbolic foods to be served: fish is served whole with the head and tail to symbolize a good beginning and end to the year, eggs represent fertility, noodles bring longevity, tangerines for luck and spring rolls for wealth!

And with that we’ll leave you with a Chinese New Year dessert recipe: jien duy, sesame seed balls. They’re a perfect recipe for the New Year as they swell when cooked and are said to represent your luck expanding. May your 2012 be happy, healthy and prosperous!

Jien Duy

Recipe from About.com, cooking compliments of us!

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes


  • 6 cups oil for deep-frying, or as needed
  • 1/2 cup white sesame seeds, or as needed
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 – 1 1/3 cups boiling water
  • 3 cups (about 400 grams) glutinous rice flour
  • 1 cup (about 200 grams) red bean paste (may not all be used)


1. In a wok or deep-sided, heavy saucepan, pre-heat the oil for deep-frying to 350 degrees F. Make sure that there is at least 3 inches of oil in the wok. Spread the sesame seeds over a piece of wax or parchment paper. Place a small bowl of water beside the sesame seeds.

2. Dissolve the brown sugar in 1 cup of the boiling water.

3. Place the rice flour in a large bowl. Make a “well” in the middle of the bowl and add the dissolved sugar and water mixture. Stir until you have a sticky, caramel-colored dough, adding as much of the remaining 1/3 cup of boiling water as needed (don’t add the water if not needed).

4. Pinch off a piece of dough roughly the size of a golf ball. Use your thumb to make a deep indentation in the dough and then the thumb and index fingers of both hands to form the dough into a cup. Roll 1 level teaspoon of sweet red bean paste into a ball. Place the red bean paste in the hole, and shape the dough over the top to seal. It is important to make sure the red bean paste is completely covered. Continue with the remainder of the dough.

5. Dip a ball into the small bowl of water (this will help the sesame seeds stick to the ball). Roll the ball over the sesame seeds. Repeat the process with the remainder of the balls.

6. Deep-fry the sesame seed balls, a few at a time, in the hot oil.

7. Once the sesame seeds turn light brown (about 2 minutes), use the back of a spatula or a large ladle to gently press the balls against the side of the wok or saucepan. Continue applying pressure as the balls turn golden brown and expand to approximately 3 times their normal size.

8.Drain the deep-fried sesame seed balls on paper towels. Serve warm. If preparing ahead, refrigerate and then re-heat the balls until they puff up again.

Make sure to check back during the holidays for more past Holiday House designs, table settings and recipes!

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