Feeling rushed to get something together for Lunar New Year? You’re not alone. It’s part of the fun and excitement of celebrating major holidays. On the other hand, come Sunday, you can slither into the Year of the Snake with a simple sweet and warm cup of tea. Sit down and contemplate the year to come.
Pick your lucky fruit(s). This holiday typically means lots of fruit displays. I keep it to a minimum with tangerines. This year, a friend shared a bag of mandarin oranges grown by her father in Fresno. Sweet as candy, they’re better than store bought! I’m thankful for my friend Diane’s generosity.
Many Viet people go all out for special Tet lucky fruit trays. You’re suppose to make a sculpture with 5 (lucky number!) types of fruit and set them on your ancestral altar. We never had that when we were growing up because we focused on preparing traditional Viet foods. My parents, ardent Catholics, say their daily rosary in front of portraits of my grandparents. I figure that we’re covered year-round.
Buy a sweetmeat. Eat sweet things and think sweet thoughts to insure that a fabulous year lies ahead. Candied and preserved fruits are a big deal during Lunar New Year, and you don’t have to stretch much to find them. I found candied coconut at Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago. Seriously. It’s from Thailand and quite lovely.
My husband and I have nearly eaten up the bag. The white batons are not the traditional shape but so what? It’ll do in lieu of the thin strips of candied coconut, which I absolutely love and enjoy making my own, cracking the coconut included!
Alternatively, buy a sweetmeat or special candy at an Asian market. This year, I spent about $10 for a crazy 8-sided tray (8 is a lucky number) of preserved plums.They’re mildly sweet and moist, with a pit in the center. There are lesser priced alternatives but my strategy with buying foods produced is this: buy up a little in the market place and you’ll get better quality.
Bake a cookie. One of my favorites is hua sheng bing, an easy Chinese peanut cookie that my friend Karen Shinto and I made a couple of years ago. My husband and I ate too many. They’re addictively good, buttery little domes. What’s extra cool is you can put a stamp atop each one:
Make luck-filled gold bars. In other words, fry up some spring rolls. The Chinese idea is that they resemble gold bars. Fill them with fruit for a sweet ending, perhaps with powdered sugar or ice cream? Or, go a savory route. There are many recipes in Asian Dumplings but you can also go with a sweet non-traditional apple spring roll or savory oyster spring rolls. Though spring rolls are deep-fried, they’re low-drama. Really.
On February 10, whether you do it up or keep things low-key, work a little sweet treat into your day. It’ll be a nice way to start the Year of the Snake.