Eat your way through the Year of the Rat celebrations.
Aimee Chanthadavong

21 Jan 2020 - 12:02 PM  UPDATED 30 Jan 2020 - 10:32 PM

Food, family and traditions are all synonymous with any Lunar New Year celebration.

This year marks the Year of the Rat - the first animal in the Lunar zodiac 12-year cycle - and falls on Saturday 25 January. Like every other Lunar New Year, it will be welcomed with plenty of festivities over the coming weeks, including stretchy-pants-worthy banquets that will satisfy your tastebuds, and ensure your year ahead is blessed by plenty of fortune and even more great food. Here are some of our top picks.

Sydney, NSW

Lunar Lanes

To kick-off celebrations of the Sydney Lunar Festival 2020, for the first time there'll be a giant street festival where the laneways of Haymarket will be turned into a space filled with live entertainment, art installations, carnival games and market stalls and food trucks, of course. There'll also be roving performers including lion dancers where from 8.30pm, a 10-metre LED luminous dragon will make its way through the festival.

25 January, 5pm – 10pm

Lighting up the night.

Chatswood Year of the Rat Festival

On the back of last year's success, Chatswood's Lunar New Year festival will return. This time, there'll be a chance to enjoy dinner hosted by cookbook author and SBS Food's own Chatswood resident Adam Liaw at Lucky Chatty on Wednesday 5 February. Guests will feast on a menu of dishes designed by Liaw and General Chao executive chef Son Sewoo.

The rich cuisine our Chinese-Australians have given us.

You can also catch Liaw live from 6pm to 8pm on Thursday, 30 January for an evening of canapes and conversation with TV personality Neale Whitaker. While there, hit up the Golden Market (every Thur and Fri, 9am–9pm) for freshly made okonomiyaki, mee goreng, dim sum and buchimgae (Korean pancakes).

20 January to 8 February

Watch Adam Liaw live at the Chatswood Lunar Festival.

The Rocks Lunar Markets

The cobblestone lanes of The Rocks will be lined with hanging red lanterns and festoon lighting, setting the ideal atmosphere to hop from stall to stall to enjoy dishes prepared by the likes of Mr Bao, Zizime Korean Street Kitchen and Firepop. Nearby at Circular Quay, there will be 12 larger-than-life Lunar zodiac lantern displays including the Tiger at Bligh and Barney Reserve, and a tower of golden robotic rats at First Fleet Park.

30 January to 9 February; every Thur to Sat 10am – 9pm, Sun 10am – 5pm

Ho Jiak Haymarket

Haymarket's Malaysian restaurant Ho Jiak will usher in the Year of the Rat with a Lunar New Year menu featuring dishes with head chef Junda Khoo's spin on his grandmother's recipes.

Dishes include her signature steamed chicken, Teochew barramundi and venison hor fun.  The Lunar New Year menu will be available alongside Ho Jiak's regular menu.

13 January to 24 February

Lunar New Year is usually full of performances and other events.

Market City's 1909 Dining Precinct

Grab some friends and head to Level 3 of Market City's 1909 Dining Precinct for a hotpot-style Lunar New Year dinner banquet at The Dolar Shop on 24 January. There you'll be able to dip your special ingredients of choice ­(abalone, grouper, scallops or kurobuta pork to name a few) into your chosen broth and sauce concoction.

Over at The Eight, a more traditional Lunar New Year banquet will be served. Roasted suckling pig, deep-fried shrimp ball and crab rolls, stir-fried lobster with ginger, and steam coral trout are just some of the inclusions.

Sit down for a tasty banquet at The Eight.

New Shanghai Westfield Sydney

Make-me-rich dumplings, peace-and-harmony lettuce cups, good-fortune chicken and eight-treasure rice pudding are among some of the dishes that New Shanghai will be serving up as part of its lucky number eight-course banquet in honour of Lunar New Year festivities. Head there on 31 January and you'll also witness traditional lion dance performances as they chase away evil spirits and bring in good fortune.

25 January to 9 February

Golden Century

Golden Century, which is affectionately known by locals as a Sydney institution, will be bringing the Lunar New Year festivities to its restaurant with three different types of eight-course banquets, each designed to bring on a year of success, prosperity or blessings.

Until 31 January

Melbourne, VIC

Springvale Lunar New Year Festival 2020

To mark the most important festival on the lunar calendar, Springvale will host its annual multicultural festival. Entering its 28th year, the festival will have more than 85 market stalls including food stalls serving cuisines from various cultures, as well as traditional lion dancing, games, rides, entertainment and fireworks in the evening.

19 January, 10am – 11pm


Chinatown's Chinese New Year Festival

Expect celebrations to begin on Lunar New Year Eve on 24 January from 5pm and including a midnight countdown. This will be followed by a full-day event on Lunar New Year Day featuring the city's Dai Loong (big dragon) parade, lion dance performances and other cultural performances, hawker stalls serving a range of cuisines, and prayers to Buddha. On the day, the Chinese Museum will also swing open its doors for free to visitors.

2 February, 10am – 9pm

Dainty Sichuan South Yarra

In addition to their usual spicy offerings, Dainty Sichuan South Yarra will use the Lunar New Year to introduce diners to the seafood treasure pot with abalone, sea cucumber and scallops, an auspicious dish that is said to bring good luck to those who eat it. Banquet menus for tables of four or more will also be available where you’ll be able to choose from a selection of hot and cold entrees, and main and veggie dishes.

Hawker Hall

To get everyone into the festive mood, a venue that mimics an Asian food-and-beer hall will be serving a six-dish yum cha every lunchtime. There'll also be the option to order extras such as prawn and sesame toast with sweet and sour caramel or crab and wood-ear mushroom fried rice.

Expect to have dumplings during a banquet at Hawker Hall in Melbourne.

Come Lunar New Year weekend, Hawker Hall will ring in the new year with a four-course feast exclusive for dinner. It starts with none other than the prosperity toss salad known as yee sang with salmon, carrot, papaya, peanuts and yellow plum dressing. This is followed with a selection of some yum-cha favourites and hearty offerings including roast pork belly and steamed whole snapper.

Until 27 January, noon – late

Come Lunar New Year weekend, Hawker Hall will ring in the new year with a four-course feast exclusive for dinner. It starts with none other than the prosperity toss salad known as yee sang with salmon, carrot, papaya, peanuts and yellow plum dressing. This is followed with a selection of some yum-cha favourites and hearty offerings including roast pork belly and steamed whole snapper.

Until 27 January, noon – late

Spice Temple

Head chefs Andy Evans and Neisha Woo have created a special menu with each dish of the nine-course banquet designed to promote prosperity, happiness, wealth, longevity, money, peace, rejuvenation and love for the new year.

All the goodies at Spice Temple.

20 January to 9 February

Love the story? Follow the author here: Twitter @achanthadavong or Instagram @aimeech33Photographs by Box Hill Central and Market City.

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