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Celebrate the Chinese New Year with Traditional Treats in Los Angeles' Chinatown

By Veronica An

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Everyone can use a reason to celebrate!  Ring in the Chinese New Year with traditional dishes and symbolic, lucky charms.  The Chinese, or Lunar New Year, marks the start of a new year on the Chinese Zodiac calendar. Each animal recurs every twelve years and 2014 is the year of the Horse. According to the zodiac, people born in the Year of the Horse are self-reliant, hard-working, and social butterflies. This is a time to fondly remember the past year while preparing for a prosperous new one. 

Food is a central part of New Year’s festivities.  Treat yourself out or prepare your own versions of these lucky dishes to ensure a prosperous New Year.

Fresh long noodles are a tasty alternative to instant ramen

Long noodles, typically served uncut, represent a long life.  Cellophane noodles, or Chinese glass noodles, are a staple in Asian grocery stores.  These white noodles turn clear and glassy after cooking and are ideal for soups and stir-fry dishes. When dining out, order pho, Vietnamese noodle soup, at the Via Café.  Although this dish is typically made with beef broth and tendon, the Via Café offers a steaming, delicious vegetarian option.

Bok Choy also pairs well with oyster mushrooms

Noodles pair well with long green beans or mustard greens, which are also symbols of longevity.  Chinese cabbage, or bok choy, is available at most Asian supermarkets and makes quick side dish when steamed and tossed with sesame oil and soy sauce.  Be sure to trim the rough stems before steaming. Bok Choy pairs well with fresh fish or seafood. Long green beans, or regular green beans for that matter, are best when seasoned with soy sauce, garlic, and red chili flakes. Top steamed green beans with toasted sesame seeds or crushed peanuts, which are also considered lucky.

Dim sum is usually served in bamboo steamers

 

The start of the Year of the Horse is a perfect reason to taste a variety of dumplings and small bites at a dim sum restaurant.  Dim sum are ordered a la carte and typically served for weekend brunch. Popular items include egg tarts, pork dumplings, and steamed turnip cake.  Gather a group of friends and feast on sweet and savory samples at Golden Dragon Restaurant or CBS Seafood Restaurant.

Assorted dried fruits provide a perfect ending to a meal

Citrus fruits are traditional New Year’s fare, their golden color alludes to prosperity and their sweetness promises a delightful start to the year.  Snack on fresh or dried persimmons. Dried persimmons can also be added to Western foods, and work particularly well on oatmeal on in baked goods. Another dried fruit to try is jujube or red date, this sweet and chewy fruit is a terrific addition to a fruit plate and also makes a rich dessert tea.

Mochi is also served as a frozen ice cream-like treat

In addition to fruits, light cakes and pastries, such as red bean buns, peanut candy, and lotus paste cakes, are a perfect way to impart sweetness into the New Year. Sample mochi, a sweet sticky rice dessert typically filled with sweet red bean paste, at Mochi Cat or visit Phoneix Bakery for a wider array of desserts.

Bubble milk tea can be served hot or iced and comes in a variety of flavors

While tea is a daily drink, be sure to include some in your Chinese New Year celebration.  Now is the perfect time to browse assorted loose teas and order a cup or two from Ten-Ren’s Tea Time.   Splurge on white, or silver tip tea, or floral springtime teas, such as jasmine blossom. For a sweeter drink option, grab a cup of boba, bubble milk tea, or a fruit slush from Lollicup.

Any way you choose to celebrate the Year of the Horse, remember that food is only half of the festivities. Traditionally, the New Year is an opportunity to clean the house, visit loved ones, buy new clothes, and present children with lucky red envelopes. Enjoying the start of a prosperous new year with family and friends is the most important part to securing good fortune in the coming year. Happy Year of the Horse!

L.A's historic Chinatown

Published on Jan 16, 2014

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