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Phnom Penh Picks: Chinese New Year

Red lanterns are the quintessential Chinese New Year decoration.
Red lanterns are the quintessential Chinese New Year decoration. Charlotte Pert

Phnom Penh Picks: Chinese New Year

Kitting your home out for a party, or just want to wish someone gong xi fa cai? Bennett Murray picked some of the best home decorations and gifts on sale in honour of this weekend’s festivities.

Red pineapples are less fleshy than their brown brethren.
Red pineapples are less fleshy than their brown brethren. Charlotte Pert

Red Lanterns, $7-100+
Red lanterns, the most prominent symbol of Chinese New Year and the namesake of the Lantern Festival which marks the end of the annual festivities, are widely available throughout the city this time of year. One of the better stocked shops is located in front of the Black Eagle Club and offers a vast array of lanterns that range from small, plain lanterns to massive, ornately designed ones that would take up the better part of a studio apartment. They also have a massive red pineapple lantern, which brings us to our next suggestion…
Corner of Streets 53 and 214.

Chinese truffles? Edible bird’s nest is among the priciest foods.
Chinese truffles? Edible bird’s nest is among the priciest foods. Charlotte Pert

Potted Red Pineapple, $30
Nothing welcomes in Chinese New Year in the fruit world quite like pineapples, which are a sign of prosperity. Red ornamental pineapples are available around the capital both in supermarkets and on the vine. Similar to the ordinary pineapple but less fleshy, they are used mostly for decorative purposes. They can be bought in Chinese-orientated grocery stores around the city, but they look best on the vine. A nameless plant shop on Monivong Boulevard adjacent to Maria Coffee carries potted red pineapples, while HS grocery store across the street carries them in their fruit section.
Corner of Monivong Boulevard and Street 278. (potted)
HS grocery story #503 CEo, Monivong Boulevard (harvested)

The humble dumpling is a New Year favourite.
The humble dumpling is a New Year favourite. Charlotte Pert

Bird’s Nest WITH SUGAR, $70 per 12 pack
While perhaps more famous as a soup ingredient, edible bird’s nest is also used for luxury sugary drinks saved for special occasions (or as a regular indulgence by the very wealthy). Made by edible-nest swiftlets, who secrete a glutinous saliva to make the nests, it is said to have a sweet taste and gelatinous texture. With a single kilogram fetching up to $2,500 it is also one of the world’s most expensive foodstuffs.
HS grocery story #503 CEo, Monivong Boulevard

Bronze tiger ring.  PHOTO SUPPLIED
Bronze tiger ring. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Dumplings, $5 for four dozen
For a traditional New Year snack, put some dumplings onto the steamer. Chinese tradition has the cook place a coin into a single dumpling to signify good luck for the lucky diner who bites into it, but that may be difficult to pull off in this coinless Kingdom. For those unable to prepare dumplings from scratch, Chinese Noodle sells their homemade dumplings frozen.
Chinese Noodle Restaurant, #551 Monivong Boulevard.

Lantern-shaped earrings put a modern spin on tradition.  PHOTO SUPPLIED
Lantern-shaped earrings put a modern spin on tradition. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Bronze Tiger Ring, $18
Tigers represent bravery, and are associated with protection from the three main household tragedies of Chinese culture: fire, thieves and ghosts. While the Year of the Tiger may have ended in 2011, they can be picked up from Crash Test Dummies. Those born in 1974, 1986 or 1998 may be particularly interested.
Crash Test Dummies, Alleyway 240 1/2 (between Streets 240 and 244).

Red Crystal Ball Earrings, $16
These crystal ball earrings, which resemble the aforementioned ubiquitous lanterns, would provide a colourful addition to a Chinese New Year costume. Candle inserts are unavailable and are not recommended.
Crash Test Dummies, Alleyway 240 1/2.

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