by Jennifer Chandler
Happy new year! No, I am not a month late — Tuesday is the Chinese New Year.
The Chinese New Year is all about new beginnings and fresh starts. This holiday, often called Spring Festival, has more than 4,000 years of history and is the longest holiday of the year for China. The date is based on the lunar calendar. In China, festivities begin the evening before the new year and last until the Lantern Festival, which is held on the 15th day of the year.
In Chinese astrology, each year is represented by a different animal — 2019 is the Year of the Pig, which is predicted to be a lucky year. The pig represents diligence, kindness and generosity.
Food is a big part of the celebration, with many dishes symbolizing good fortune and other such wishes for the coming year.
To learn more about the holiday and its traditions, I called Eddie Pao, the chef and owner of Mosa Asian Bistro. He runs his Asian fusion East Memphis restaurant with his daughter, Michelle Pao Levine.
Pao grew up in Taipei and has fond memories of celebrating the Chinese New Year in his home country of Taiwan.
For the celebration, Chinese families go from house to house, enjoying big spreads of symbolic dishes.
“Every house had a party,” he said. “The dishes were small plates, like dim sum. You could go to up to 15 or 20 different homes, so you just enjoyed a little at each house.”
There are four dishes that were his favorites, and he plans to serve a few of them as specials the weekend of Feb. 8-9.
A dish called “The Perfect Ten” is one of his favorites of the holiday season, and was served every year by his family.
“The number 10 means abundance and completeness,” Pao said. “This dish has 10 different ingredients — like firm tofu, Chinese black mushrooms, carrots and turnips — and each is cooked separately before being put together.”
Pao said it is a labor-intensive dish, with each ingredient being thinly sliced into julienne strips. He also said it’s a beautiful dish, thanks to all the colors.
Also on his Chinese New Year menu are crispy spring rolls. Pao adds sprouts to the filling because they signify new growth and new life.
A “Jiao” curry dumpling is also planned. Levine plans to make this savory beef pastry.
“The significance of a food that is round or moon-shaped is that it represents the circle of life,” she said.
For a sweet treat, Pao also plans to make a dish that in Mandarin is called Nian Gao. It’s a sticky rice cake. Like most Chinese words, gao has several meanings, one being “tall.” Eating one of these treats is a wish to be successful and to live “higher” each year.
If you can’t stop by Mosa for one of its Chinese New Year specials, you can still enjoy a little luck for the new year.
“Noodles represent long life, and oranges are eaten at the end of a meal to sweeten your life,” Levine said.
Full link here: https://www.commercialappeal.com/story/entertainment/dining/2019/01/31/memphis-restaurants-chinese-new-year-mosa-asian-bistro-dinstuhls-masterchef-junior-gordon-ramsay/2667331002/