The Year of the Rabbit begins Sunday. Here’s a rundown of deliciously serendipitous foods to celebrate the Lunar New Year, also called Chinese New Year (and where to get them in the Twin Cities).
Nancy Ngo, Star Tribune editor and lifestyle writer, laid them out for All Things Considered host Tom Crann this week.
What culinary traditions do you have around Lunar New Year? What signifies the New Year?
The thing I remember the most is my grandmother's banh tet, which is a glutinous rice cake that's very common dish in Vietnam during the Lunar New Year, yet it's very coveted.
It takes a while to make — and my grandmother always made it every year. It has layers of mung bean fillings, steamed pork. You wrap it in banana leaves, and so it really gains that flavor while you let it rest for a few days. And so it's just a really big treat during the holiday.
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The Lunar New Year — this is kind of starting a new year and what you do can determine your fate and part of that is also having New Year's resolutions, in a way, where you don't talk ill will towards others. And so there's also symbolism with the rice cake because it is so sticky and so that will remind you to keep your mouth shut during the year.
What are some other lucky foods?
Noodles for longevity
Basically the idea is the longer the noodle, the longer your life will be. So I definitely recommend finding the longest noodles that you can out there.
Dumplings for wealth
So it's basically an indicator of how much money you're going to make. And because they signify wealth, the idea too is that the more dumplings you eat, the wealthier you'll be. So we always make sure we're really stuffed with dumplings this time of the year.
Egg rolls for wealth
They have that golden color, so that also signifies wealth. And so you want to eat egg rolls during this time of the year in order to kind of solidify that prosperity going into the New Year.
Where are your favorite places to get these foods?
Magic Noodle, 1337 University Ave. W, St. Paul
I first discovered it because they make hand-pulled noodles which is unique within itself in the Twin Cities. And on top of that, they make really long hand-pulled noodles in some of their dishes and they have noodles there that are a mile long.
That's also a place that I love for dumplings as well. And as we were talking about before, the more dumplings the better. They have dumplings in several different varieties and so you can have plenty but not get bored.
Pho Pasteur, 694 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul
We’re supposed to have deep-friend spring rolls during this time of the year — that golden color signifies wealth. And I say we can have it all.
So I discovered this one dish at this restaurant … what they do with this appetizer dish, called Vietnamese roll roll, is they figured out how to take the deep fried part of the egg roll and then wrap it around a fresh spring roll. And so it's a twofer.
It's just such a cult hit at this point and you can celebrate the Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Korean countries that celebrate Lunar New Year, but you can also celebrate something that's very Minnesotan because it's so uniquely Minnesotan.
Listen to the full show above by clicking play on the audio player.