Every Chinese New Year, Kat Lieu’s mother would make steamed nyengao. Eating dessert for breakfast was a delicious tradition.
Seattle-based author of the Modern Asian Baking at Home cookbook and founder of the Subtle Asian Baking online group, she changed things up for her 9-year-old son. He gets mochi waffles made of bright green pandan on the first morning of the new year.
“We will be making waffles again this year,” said Liu, who is half Chinese and half Vietnamese. , that too. “
Unlike Thanksgiving, where many households are given pies, Lunar New Year’s desserts and confections are as diverse as the Asian diaspora around the world who celebrate it.
From China to the United States to Vietnam, families ring in the New Year on Sundays with usual customs such as an elaborate dinner and a red envelope containing money for the children. There are sweet snacks. But in this age of social media, food savvy and cultural pride, younger generations of Asians are also tempted to offer whimsical and creative dessert courses, from black sesame financiers to peanut butter miso cookies. I am increasingly inspired by
In Beijing, residents flock to the flagship store of one of Beijing’s most famous bakeries, Daoxiangcun, for a New Year-themed dessert gift box. zodiac.
Staff said people queued outside the store for hours on Saturday for the chance to buy baked goods. Even at a less popular branch half a block away, customers had to wait 40 minutes for him.
For Lexi Li, it meant standing in line for seven hours in freezing temperatures, but it was about delivering something small to a loved one.
“I don’t really like desserts and pastries, but I just want to bring something home as a gift,” said a 30-year-old who left after stacking eight boxes for friends and family in his hometown of Taiyuan. She said: It’s in Shanxi province in central China.
Known for its diverse food culture, China offers a variety of Chinese New Year desserts, usually rice-based or flour-based. Tang Yuen, a rice cake-style rice ball with black sesame or peanut paste in a soup, and steamed cakes such as sesame dumplings, almond cookies, candied lotus seeds, and fat go are also known as prosperity cakes.
Nian Gao is one of the most popular options. The main ingredient is glutinous rice flour, and depending on the type, taro, jujube, jujube, red bean paste, etc. Its name is a homonym for “higher year” in Chinese, meaning a year of prosperity and a wish for children to grow up.
According to Hong Kong-based expert Siu Yan Ho, well-preserved traditions play an important role in the transmission of Chinese culture. to Chinese food culture.
“Food is a memory, and this memory is tied to festivals,” said Siu.
In Vietnam, which celebrates the year of the cat, sweets also differ depending on the region. Vietnamese eat nian gao, which is called banh. They also eat che kogaonep, a pudding made with a mixture of glutinous rice and water, ginger, sugar or molasses. These include kho dau xanh and banh tet chuoi, a sticky rice cake served with bananas.
“For the three days of Lunar New Year, I go see my family, my friends and my teachers,” said Linh Trinh, a Vietnamese food historian who holds a doctorate in the field from the University of Michigan. Everyone needs to keep a lot of snacks at home for people to visit and drink tea.Serving traditional snacks will be like pride in the home.”
More US companies are finding their sweet spot in incorporating Chinese New Year elements. Cupcake chain Sprinkles has partnered with Gold House, a pan-Asian cultural advocacy nonprofit, to sell red velvet cupcakes with almond cookie crust and almond cream cheese frosting. At Disney California Adventure Park, you can order milk tea cheesecake with taro mousse.
Judging by the over 150,000 membership of the Subtle Asian Baking Facebook group, many Asians are more interested in showing off what they’ve made than what they bought for the holidays. This community has come a long way since Lieu started in his 2020. In its third year, a virtual Lunar New Year bake-off took place on Facebook and Instagram, where members shared photos of stunning macarons, chiffon his cakes, and other pastries.
“You’re innovative. You’re bringing appreciation to all these great ingredients,” Liu said. “And you’re making it your own tradition. It’s amazing.” .”
For Chinese New Year, San Francisco’s Kelson Harman created sourdough boules featuring an illustration of Miffy, the bunny girl from the popular Dutch children’s book series. Already an avid baker, the 44-year-old was inspired by seeing what others were doing online.
“We see a lot of boundaries being pushed. People are not just pushing each other away, they are trying to be more creative,” says Herman. “I think we always end up with flavors that bring back family memories. …maybe something that evokes conversation or family.”
In Queens, NY, Karen Chin made a two-tier cake frosted with coconut buttercream and topped with a white chocolate bunny, one layer of which was red bean paste and vanilla. The other is cardamom and mango curd spice cake. It’s a far cry from the fat gou her grandmother makes.
“I told my grandma I was going to make a cake. She said, ‘Don’t make it too complicated,'” Chin said with a laugh.
Still, Chin’s creativity created a special moment for the family.
“The last time she came over and we ate something, she said, ‘You cook good food,’ and I was so touched. I was like, ‘Wow, she complimented me.’ It was like, ‘It’s the first time I’ve ever done that,'” Chin said.
Born and raised in Canada and now living in Hong Kong, Sue Ng loves to “pretend” pastries for special occasions. During the pandemic, she’s found a passion for combining baking with her love of Asian pop culture, and past Lunar New Year pieces include Hershey, a Chinese brand as iconic as her bar. White rabbit included a creamy her candy roll cake.
Ng said that growing up in Hong Kong with two school-aged daughters has taught her the importance of Chinese New Year, including food. But she also likes to throw in something different, like black sesame financiers and salted egg yolk cookies.
“For me, Lunar New Year desserts are made with Asian elements, referencing products that are traditionally made around this time of year,” Ng said in an email. You can get creative and make something like a cookie with nian gao, the ideas are endless!
Caroline Chen, AP News Assistant in Beijing, contributed to this report.
Tang is a member of the Associated Press’ race and ethnicity team. Follow her on her Twitter. @ttang AP.
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