By Tiffany Ran
Northwest Asian Weekly
When it comes to Lunar New Year, your year is what you eat. Want luck, prosperity, good fortune, and longevity? There is a prescription in the form of a specific dish eaten every year for these very reasons (but mostly because it’s delicious). But if the task of preparing a New Year’s Eve banquet or sitting through one with family seems daunting, there are many options in Seattle outside our limited kitchens that welcome all to embrace the year of the rooster.
Resolutions be damned. Lunar New Year calls for carbs, specifically noodles for longevity and dumplings for prosperity. The longer noodles bring a longer life, some say, and dumplings shaped like gold ingots of coinage past is said to bring wealth in the future. It’s no wonder why our local dumpling juggernauts Dough Zone and Din Tai Fung have expanded quickly since their initial openings between Seattle and the Eastside. Dough Zone is set to debut its anticipated location in the coming year. Both are great starts to the New Year’s feast, but don’t stop there when local food scene stars Girin, helmed by chef Brandon Kirksey and Kraken Congee of reality show “Restaurant Startup” fame, are featuring their unique spins on dumplings in Pioneer Square.
From Jan. 28 through Feb. 15, “Kitchen Circus” reality show contestant and esteemed cook Atina Tan brings her signature dumplings to Kraken Congee. Korean restaurant Girin’s creative mandus are imperative and available for a year-round prosperity boost and it tastes just as rich. Everything including its beef, pork, or vegetarian fillings and the mandu wrappers are made in-house, served pan fried or steamed, and garnished with an onion-chive salad called pa muchim and finished with Girin’s signature black vinegar dressing.
There’s also not a more festive time to visit the Tsue Chong Noodle Company, which will be approaching its 100th year of making noodles; a true definition of longevity in Seattle. The company’s equally famous vanilla scented fortune cookies aren’t traditional Lunar New Year fare, but its name begets the possibility of future riches. Pro tip: Tsue Chong sells bags of its factory reject fortune cookies for $3 a small bag and $9 a large bag.
Eat through the ID
While in the neighborhood, don’t miss the grand event, the annual Lunar New Year Festival, organized by the Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area (CIDBIA), including its food walk on Sunday, Jan. 29 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit all the participating restaurants, like famed rice noodle restaurant Dong Thap Noodle House and Gossip Milk Tea for $3 food bites, and you’ll be eligible to win prizes like a $50 gift certificate to beloved neighborhood coffee spot Eastern Café or score the motherload, complimentary tickets from Delta Air Lines to China, tour and accommodations included.
After dabbling in dumplings and tasting the neighborhood food, the ambitious and the experienced would beat the crowd to Uwajimaya for traditional staples, including a whole fish symbolizing
harmony, for example, or rice cakes (its name translates in Chinese to “year cake”) and sweet rice balls (also known as “tang yuan” in Mandarin). Uwajimaya will offer New Year deals, along with small red envelopes with certain purchases. Calligrapher Yenbo Huang will be on-site at the International District location, on Jan. 28 and 29 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., writing out the year’s wishes and good fortunes for friends and family.
On Jan. 28, the pros will head further south to a pocket of Beacon Hill, which comes alive at night when the Co Lam pagoda lights up to celebrate Têt or Vietnamese New Year.
At the temple, the crowds gather for food for the soul vegetarian fare for $5 that rival dishes offered at nearby restaurants. The crowds will stay until midnight when, like a rooster crowing, fireworks will usher in a new beginning.
Tiffany can be reached at email@example.com.