Let’s Talk Food: Next Tuesday is Chinese New Year

Next Tuesday (Feb. 5) is Chinese New Year, the 4,716th, and the Year of the Boar or Pig. If you were born in 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007 or 2019, then you are born in the last of all the zodiac animals, the boar. You are kind, generous, warm-hearted and considerate with leadership skills.

Lucky foods to eat for the day include a whole fish for more prosperity, as in Chinese “fish,” or “yu,” sounds like “surplus.” Having a surplus at the end of the year is important to Chinese because they think they managed to save something at the end of the year, “then they can make more in the next year.” Usually steamed, the type of fish is chosen by auspicious homphonics.


Crucian carp, or “jiyu,” sounds like the Chinese word “jee” for “good luck for the next year.”

Chinese mud carp is “liyu” and is pronounced like the word for “gifts.”

Catfish, or “nian yu,” means “year surplus,” so eating this fish is to wish for a surplus in the year.

Eating two fish, one on New Year’s Eve and one on New Year’s Day, in Chinese sounds like a wish for surplus year-after-year.

If only one catfish is eaten, eating the upper part of the fish on New Year’s Eve and the rest of the fish the first day of the new year can be “spoken with the same homophonic meaning.”

The fish dish should be the last dish left with some leftover, as it will mean you will have a surplus every year. In certain areas of China such as north of the Yangtze River, the head and tail of the fish is not eaten until the beginning of the year in hopes that the year will start and end with a surplus.

The head of the fish should be placed toward the elders to show respect.

No one can eat until the elder has first eaten.

The fish shouldn’t be moved. The people facing the head and tail should eat and drink together, which has a lucky meaning.

Fish can be boiled, steamed or braised.

Eating dumplings, or “jiaozi,” is traditional on New Year’s Eve, as “jiao” means “exchange” and “zi” means “the midnight hours,” and means it is the exchange between the old and new year. They are made and eaten on New Year’s Eve, symbolizing sending away the old and welcoming the new.

“Jai,” or Buddhist vegetarian stew, is usually served on the Chinese New Year to bring good luck, and it is one of my favorite dishes. I have made it in the past, with so many ingredients.

Dried lily buds, also known as golden needles or tiger lily buds, the dried golden buds of the daylily plant, are tied into knots.

Dried black moss, or “fat choy” in Cantonese, is a black moss grown in the deserts on China and Mongolia. It symbolizes prosperity.

Dried black fungus, or cloud ear or wood ear, is another essential ingredient in making jai.

Deep-fried tofu contributes to flavors as well as absorbs the liquids in the dish.

Other ingredients include dried shiitake mushrooms, bean curd sticks and chai pow yu, or Chinese braised gluten.

Making jai includes a lot of ingredients and if I am busy, I love to pick up the jai at Sum Leung’s at KTA Puainako. Thank you, Mrs. Leung!

Foodie bites

Hawaii Community College’s Bamboo Hale is now open from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Reservations are requested by calling 934-2591. The schedule:

• Today through Friday, Americas standard menu and Mexico.

• Feb. 5-8, Americas standard menu and New Orleans.

• Feb 12-15, Asian standard menu and India.

• Feb. 13 dinner and wine special at 6 p.m.; call for reservations.

• Feb. 20-22, Asian standard menu and Thailand.

• Feb. 26-28, Asian standard and Philippines.

• March 5-8, Asian standard menu and Chinese.

• March 6 dinner and wine special at 6 p.m.; call for reservations.

• March 12-15, European standard menu and Spain.

• March 27-29, European standard menu and France.

• March 27 dinner and wine special at 6 p.m.; call for reservations.

• April 2-5, European standard menu and Italian.

• April 9-12, European standard menu and Germany.

• April 23-24, Hawaii special.

The Americas standard menu, which is scheduled next week with the foods on New Orleans, is as follows:

• Choice of one salad: Hearts of Palm Salad (local hearts of palm, roasted tomato, avocado pepper puree, citrus vinaigrette, quinoa puffs), Seafood “Causa” (shrimp and ahi escheche, potato puree, aji amarillo emulsion), Pork Chalupa Salad (house masa crouton, achiote braised pork belly, cabbage slaw, fresh salsa).

• Choice of one soup: New England Style Seafood Chowder (oysters, shrimp, scallop), Black Bean Soup (house Mexican chorizo, tortilla strips, queso fresco).

• Choice of one entree: Cumin and Lime Pork Loin with sweet potato mashed, tomato and squash salad, chimichurri sauce; duck, shrimp, house andouille gumbo; charred brassica, house bacon, beer battered okra, rice pilaf; Maple Glazed Wild Salmon with orange fennel salad, sauteed green beans, rice pilaf.

• Desserts: Banana Coconut Flan with Polorones Cookie; Peanut Butter Mousse Cake with chocolate crust, chocolate ganache topping

• Beverages: French press coffee, hot tea, iced tea.

• • •

Volcano Art Center’s annual Love the Arts is from 5-9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Naiulani Campus. Menu includes mini hamburger “sliders,” ratatouille, poached salmon, Magic Mushrooms and Hippy Dip. Red and white wines from Grapes, A Wine Store, Campo Viejo Cava Brut Reserva bubbly, as well beers on draft from Big Island Brewhaus will be served with the food. VAC’s famous truffles and Woodstock brownies also are on the menu.


Tickets are still available by calling the office at 967-8222. Tickets are $55 for VAC members, $65 for non-members.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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