Happy Chinese New Year!

Happy Year of the Goat everybody! For those of you who celebrate Chinese New Year, I hope you have all feasted well. For those of you who don’t, well I suggest you make some good friends who do celebrate to score an invitation to one of these feasts. I wish everyone prosperity, good health, and happiness in this new year.

I’ve always had very, very, very fond memories of Chinese New Year. As a child, the focus was mainly on collecting red envelopes and then counting the Benjamins (just kidding, it was more like Lincolns and Jacksons), trying to decide what cool things to buy. My eyes always lit up at the sight of those bright red envelopes, usually with some type gold wording on it, peeping out of any adult’s bag. Because really, and we can all relate to this, money that’s just given to you, especially in a cute red envelope, is just great. And especially if it’s given to you just for being a kid and up until you enter the adult world, is freaking awesome.

However, as I’ve grown older and the red envelopes started to come far and less, my focus turned more to the food that comes with celebrating Chinese New Year. Because no money can buy the feeling of being around a table with family, friends, and just people you generally like, having a good time and of course…EATING! And no money can buy the feeling of camaraderie when everyone discloses to each other that they’ve eaten too much and need to loosen their belts. Leggings, jeggings, and just basically anything with a stretchy waistband, or even better NO waistband at all have become my best friend during holiday meals.

I’m once again in Taiwan and last night was New Year’s Eve for us, which meant, FEAST ON! After a day of cleaning, you bet I was ready to eat by the time dinnertime rolled around. We went to a restaurant in Hsinchu, close to Hsinpu, where my mom is from. It was a restaurant a little bit more in the countryside, kind of in the middle of nowhere. So much in the middle of nowhere that I can’t even find an address for it!

Anyways, without further ado, highlights from last night’s feast:

IMG_3816 Our table…and this is already with a few plates missing, since this photo was taken about halfway through the meal. There was everything you could want on this table – meat, vegetables, soups, and everything else in between. Sometimes I wish I really had 4 stomachs.

IMG_3807 Delicious braised tofu stuffed with ground meat, topped with white beans. This dish was actually made by one of my mom’s relatives, who brought it to the restaurant to serve along with the meal. This was the first time I had ever heard of a restaurant being OK with serving something that was homemade by a client.

IMG_3810 Garlic and green onion roasted chicken. Served with the head and everything! And they give you plastic gloves to use to rip off parts of the chicken. Makes eating this baby all the more fun. This chicken is flavorful and moist, and in my opinion, better than the Parisian boucherie rotisserie chickens.

IMG_3812 One of my favorite things to eat in Taiwan – braised pork with the skin and bamboo shoot. Braised pork skin has been one of my favorites since childhood, so fatty and chock full of the flavor of the braising liquid, which usually consists of soy, star anise, and various herbs. Plus, pork skin is full of collagen, giving me all the more reason to stuff my face with it. Bamboo is also one of my favorite vegetables, crispy and with a sweet yet earthy flavor, also loaded with vitamins, minerals, and anti-inflammatory properties. Deeeeeee-licious.

IMG_3815 Tofu stuffed spring rolls and sesame buns. I must’ve eaten like 3 of those sesame buns, they were so delicious and was a nice in between course snack…and dessert. I could probably eat all of these…plus they’re so cute with little pandas stamped on top! Although I think a goat would’ve been more appropriate.

IMG_3817 The soups were very unique, especially the one served in the bamboo trough. It’s a shrimp and pork soup but made with Chinese herbs, giving it an herby, Chinese medicine smell. At first it made me crinkle my nose a bit, bringing back memories of downing bitter Chinese herbal medicine, but the broth was so earthy and not at all medicine-y. The other soup was a rib soup with goji berry, also very delicious, with a little hint of sweetness from the goji. Very healthy soups!

All in all, I had a wonderful Chinese New Year Eve dinner with my cousins and my mom’s side of the family. I stuffed my face and had good laughs with good company. For those who also celebrated (and are still celebrating right now), what were some of your favorite dishes during your family feast?

Liu Jia Zhuang Men Ji (literally translates into: Liu Family Village Braised Chicken)
Hsinchu, Taiwan
Tel: +002 886 4 894 5969


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