Quarantine-Style Lunar New Year Calls for Home-Style Restaurant Food

For those on a gluten-free diet, this crispy breaded shrimp from China Moon Restaurant is an excellent choice. With a light, starchy breading over a flavorful mini salad, this shrimp dish is popular for good reason. Although China Moon Restaurant does not offer delivery options, it is well worth the trip for takeout considering the array of gluten-free options and the many precautions they take to avoid gluten contamination.

Lunar New Year, commonly known as Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival, marks the beginning of a new year on the lunar calendar. 2021 is the Year of the Ox. 

This traditionally 15-day holiday is celebrated by many East Asian cultures by decorating homes, lighting fireworks, exchanging red envelopes and having large family reunions with symbolic foods. 

Due to COVID-related safety measures and travel restrictions, many are unable to enjoy the company of their family and homey comfort food this year. However, video chatting apps such as FaceTime or Zoom and food purchased from nearby, authentic Asian restaurants have allowed families to recreate such reunions while maintaining physical distance. 

Lunar New Year is a great opportunity to support local, family-owned businesses while enjoying home-style cooking experiences. We reviewed four small-business restaurants on their New Year cooking to identify whether authentic restaurant foods create a similar feeling to homemade Lunar New Year foods. 

A&J Restaurant:

Spicy Beef Noodle Soup (红烧牛肉面): Noodles in Lunar New Year symbolize a wish for longevity. Long and uncut noodles are an especially lucky food in Northern China. A&J’s take on uncut long noodles can be found in their spicy beef noodle soup. Although the soup is supposed to taste spicy, the flavor is mild and meaty with a pleasant garlicky aftertaste. Warmed up, the noodle soup serves as  a comforting and pleasant dish.

Pork Dumplings (水饺): With a history of more than 1,800 years, the dumpling is a classic lucky food and traditional dish eaten by many on Lunar New Year due to its symbolic promise of wealth to its consumers. The traditionally-wrapped New Year-style pork dumplings produce a mild and slightly salty flavor. Arranged in rows, this dish is perfect for any family reunion. 

Furiwa TOGO:

Garlic Noodles: The garlic noodles at Furiwa TOGO might be perfect for people who prefer drier, more American-style noodles over traditional noodle soup. They are made with long spaghetti-like noodles and a pleasant garlic sauce that exquisitely complements the simplicity of the ingredients. While this dish may not be the most traditional meal eaten on Lunar New Year, its balance of flavors makes a very tasty and comforting meal for those who are unable to reunite with their families.

Giant Pork Belly Buns (叉烧包): Most dim sum dishes on Lunar New Year symbolically correspond with increased wealth and health in the consumer’s life. Therefore, these steamed eight-piece giant pork belly buns are a perfect addition to your traditional Lunar New Year meal. Despite being light and airy, the buns turn slightly sticky when you take a bite. The sweet barbecue sauce and the meaty pork belly add to the overall deliciousness of the dish. 

Olive Tree Restaurant:

Lemon Garlic Fish: While steamed whole fish is often traditionally served for Lunar New Year because of its symbolic meaning of prosperity, some may find it expensive, hard to find or an acquired taste. If that is the case, then you may prefer to opt for this simple and lightly-flavored fried fish dish served with a salad. Its thin breading and garlic coating create a crisp and refreshing taste. Additionally, the fish paired with the salad is a modest alternative to some of the heavier dishes eaten on Lunar New Year. If you are looking for something more pungent and spiced, this dish may not be for you.