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Monday, February 6, 2023

The Flavors of the Lunar New Year

This Sunday marks the beginning of the Year of the Water Rabbit, the Lunar New Year (except in Vietnam where it will be the Year of the Cat). My Brooklyn Jewish family placed a high value on the Lunar New Year when I was growing up. Every year, we would bundle up and drive to our favorite dim sum restaurant, arriving early to beat the crowds for special holiday dishes such as tang yuan, a sweet soup with glutinous rice balls; vegetable-flecked longevity noodles; and those golden fried spring rolls that shattered so exquisitely when you bit into them. Dim sum was the only breakfast that could rouse my sluggish family, and the Lunar New Year brunch made us prompt.

You might also commemorate the holiday by preparing a home-cooked supper. In her most recent post for The New York Times, Genevieve Ko presents several good concepts. Her suggestion? Wontons! As a typical comfort dish, wontons are not often regarded as a Lunar New Year staple. But for Genevieve, their prevalence is exactly what makes them so wonderful.

“For someone like myself,” she adds, “born on the other side of the globe yet connected to the culture, they provide a concrete link to family and country.” And for everyone who likes wontons (everyone, right? ), creating them from scratch is just as much of a celebration as eating them.”

Need some weekday food suggestions? You may try Ali Slagle’s frijoles borrachos (drunk beans), a traditional northern Mexican meal made with pinto beans, bacon, and alcohol. A simple cabbage slaw or sliced green cabbage mixed with lime juice and salt would complete this dish.

Then, for dessert, maybe Nargisse Benkabbou’s chocolate chip oatmeal cookies with ras el hanout or Lidey Heuck’s chewy peanut butter marshmallow bars? Would it be excessive to pair any of these with a warm cup of Kiera Wright-atole? Ruiz’s Perhaps, but in the finest manner.

You’ll want to start the year off properly by subscribing to New York Times Cooking so you can read these and our other several thousand recipes. Hetty McKinnon also posts her recipe for butternut squash congee with chile oil on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. The intelligent individuals at [email protected] will provide technical assistance. And here’s a tip: You can now see all recipes suggested in New York Times Cooking newsletters on the iOS app’s home page.

Now, the Lunar New Year is also the occasion for Chunyun, a 40-day period during which millions of individuals from China, Taiwan, and other East Asian nations go home to enjoy the holiday with their relatives. Imagine the Thanksgiving travel jam, but with two billion journeys anticipated in China alone this year. For the Lunar New Year, Metrograph in New York City is streaming and displaying “Last Train Home,” a remarkable documentary on Chunyun and its human scale by Lixin Fan. (Also streaming on the Criterion Channel are two films by Jia Zhangke, whose epic scope and attention on common people show the bizarre dislocations of daily life in modern China.) The Lunar New Year is a time when people’s everyday desire for home and family may inspire them to do exceptional endeavors.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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