E2 = Excellent Eats: Enter the Lunar New Year
Submitted by Jonathan Nasser
I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season. It’s traditionally a time of year where families stay in and share a home cooked meal. I really like the holiday season - and for me it continues to the Lunar New Year. The Lunar New Year is celebrated all around Asia, with several variations. In China, the Lunar New Year is celebrated for fifteen days. In Vietnam, Tet is traditionally celebrated for three days. In Singapore, many take the week off to celebrate with friends and family. Houston has its share of Lunar New Year celebrations as well, and anyone can join the festivals around town - or maybe just consider a smaller tribute by enjoying one of the classic Chinese New Year dishes.
One of the Lunar New Year’s classic dishes is dumplings, those little presents of meat and veggies. Dumplings are little symbols of wealth, and the shape is said to be reminiscent of ancient Chinese gold and silver ingots which were vaguely boat-shaped. My daughter loves to devour dumplings Hughie's, and downtown also has a couple of great dumpling shops like Doozo’s and Baoz.
Another staple is long noodles. The traditional two foot long variety might be a challenge to chase down in Houston, but I don't think anyone’s walking around with a ruler either. The noodle's length symbolizes a long, healthy life. I would go for some pho from Flying Pho or noodles from the Rice Box.
And finally, if you do decide to go to a Lunar New Year festival, you can find a lot of the traditional foods served at the festivals as well. There are always several festivals in Chinatown and throughout Houston to visit. I’ve enjoyed the free celebration at the Chinese Community Center in Chinatown. Fung’s Kitchen hosts a pricey but impressive seated dinner as well.
Last time I went, Fung’s Kitchen hosted a spectacle with a cooking display from a celebrity chef, a seated dinner, and indoor lion dancing.
There are some good Asian restaurants around, and several have been mentioned in this newsletter in the past. I don't want to rehash the same material. Flying Pho (Ella, just north of 34th) is a modern take on some Vietnamese classics. Flying Pho offers a unique spin on Vietnamese food, and I like the variety it adds to the local offerings. Rice Box (20th, a block west of Yale) is a slightly upscale take on a classic Chinese restaurant, with several familiar options alongside their craft beer menu. Their portions are pretty big, and I’ve liked how fresh the food seems. Everything is served in those old school takeout boxes.
The point of all this for me is that food is a cultural experience, and holidays like this are excellent opportunities to learn about the culinary roots of cultures. So my family won’t be celebrating for 15 days, but we will be doing our little part to ring in the year of the earth pig. I hope you take the time to see a lion dance, and to wish others happiness, health, and long noodles.
1001 Fannin St., M180 Houston, TX 77002 facebook.com/BaozDumplings
1200 McKinney St. Houston, TX 77010
3434 Ella Blvd. Houston, TX 77018 flyingpho.com
7320 Southwest Fwy., #115 Houston, TX 77074 eatatfungs.com
1802 W. 18th St. Houston, TX 77008 hughiesgrille.com
300 W 20th St. Houston, TX 77008 riceboxed.com