The Eye of the Tiger: Chef Arnold Eric Wong Talks Food and Fortune in the Chinese New Year

In more ways than one, it appears that 2009 was a complete fluke. As the Year of the Ox, we were guaranteed prosperity and reward for all our steady, hard work- a bull market was on the horizon! Well, not quite.

2010 represents the beginning of a new year and a new decade- a fresh start after the relative unrest of the ‘’aughts.” And this time, we’re ringing in the new year with a triumphant growl.

Yes, 2010 is the Year of the Tiger. In the tradition of the Chinese Lunar New Year, which began on February 14, the Tiger symbolizes passion and daring courage. A fearless and fiery fighter, the Tiger is revered by the ancient Chinese as the emblem that wards off disaster.

With celebrations and the famous New Year Parade in sight this weekend, San Francisco is certainly sinking its teeth into the promise of this prospective year. As home to the most extensive Chinatown outside of China, and one of the largest and most unique Asian populations in the country, San Francisco straddles tradition and modernization with considerable aplomb.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the food. Chinatown restaurants are widely considered to be the birthplace of westernized Chinese cuisine, in the form of the long-standing Dim Sum and buffet restaurants that dot Grant Street. The meteoric rise of Asian Fusion cuisine, or the pairing of European dishes with influential Asian elements and flavors, can also trace its roots back to groundbreaking San Francisco restaurants.

Touting a simple, fresh take on Asian classics, E & O Trading Company is a premiere example of blending tradition and innovation in food. At the helm is Executive Chef Arnold Eric Wong, a former San Francisco Chronicle “Chef of the Year,” and Asian flavor revolutionary. Haute Living chats with Chef Wong about his tastes and traditions, while wishing him a gung hay fat choy (Happy New Year!):