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Sticky rice cakes filled with pork belly, red envelopes, and a pile of fruit on a wooden table.
The Lunar New Year spread from Ba Sa Restaurant on Bainbridge.
Tony To

How to Celebrate the Lunar New Year at Seattle Area Restaurants

With banana-leaf-wrapped bánh chưng, new year sweet rice cake, dining room lion dances, and more

Lunar New Year in Seattle is a multicultural celebration; the holiday, which lands on February 1 this year, is celebrated in China, Vietnam, Singapore, among dozens of other countries. In Seattle, celebrations will span from the Chinatown-International District to Bainbridge Island to Edmonds, with lion dances, red envelopes full of money, and of course, Lunar New Year foods.

Edmonds restaurateur Shubert Ho says you don’t need to have cultural ties to the holiday to celebrate (he and many other non-Christians celebrate Christmas). So whether it’s your first Lunar New Year or your 50th, here are some ways to celebrate the holiday with food in Seattle, including a Lunar New Year celebration with restaurant specials in Edmonds, bánh chưng and a dining-room lion dance on Bainbridge Island, and new year sweet rice cakes in Chinatown.

A whole fried trout covered in chopped cilantro and chili peppers over a bowl of brown sauce.
Salt & Iron will serve whole fried trout as a Lunar New Year special on January 29.
Madeline Ingham

Lunar New Year in Edmonds

Long wheat noodles swimming in red chili broth with shrimp and green onion.
Fire & The Feast will serve longevity noodles as a Lunar New Year special through February 1.
Madeline Ingham

January 29 marks Edmonds’ first-ever Lunar New Year celebration, which will include lion dances, kung fu performances, and a movie showing, among other things. The event was put together by the Edmonds Diversity Commission and includes a partnership with Ho.

His four downtown Edmonds restaurants, Bar Dojo, The Market Fishmonger & Eatery, Salt & Iron, and Fire & The Feast will be serving Lunar New Year specials in the coming week. Bar Dojo will serve green onion pancakes with pork belly for the occasion, Fire & The Feast will offer traditional longevity noodles through February 1, and Salt & Iron will serve dan dan noodles and whole fried trout on January 29. Though these aren’t all traditional new year foods, Ho says they’re true to how he celebrated while growing up.

“We’re not necessarily going for absolute tradition because I was born in California and raised by Chinese parents and grandparents,” Ho says. “So it is my interpretation of what I feel tastes good and also represents my heritage and my background.”

There’s a large Asian population in Edmonds, Ho says, and he’s proud to help bring the community more recognition through this celebration. He also recommends going to other Chinese restaurants nearby, like Fashion Dim Sum and T&T Seafood, for dumplings and other new year foods.

Three pie-shaped cakes of different colors in pie tins on a wooden surface.
Chinatown’s Jade Garden restaurant serves three kinds of cakes for Lunar New Year.
Eric Chan

Jade Garden’s New Year Specials

When Jade Garden owner Eric Chan was growing up, the smell of frying sweet rice cakes signaled it was “red envelope season.” Chan is now serving those cakes at his Chinatown-International District dim sum restaurant through February 8. Customers can pick up the whole pie-sized cakes at the restaurant and steam them or chop them up to pan fry at home.

Chan’s also serving two savory new year cakes, both made with Chinese sausage and dried shrimp — one made with taro, and the other with dried daikon.

Lion Dances and Bánh Chưng at Ba Sa on Bainbridge Island

For Ba Sa restaurant co-owner Trinh Nguyen, Tết (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) is a time when she consciously connects with her cultural roots and thinks about her ancestors. “As a kid, I grew up looking forward to the new year like kids in America look forward to Christmas,” Nguyen says.

In the days leading up to the holiday, she’d gather with her family to cook sticky rice cakes like bánh chưng, a long process she describes as a “labor of love.” The sticky rice is meant to keep the family from being hungry, and the rich pork belly inside symbolizes prosperity. The leaf wrapping turns it into a gift that says “I want you to be warm and full.” “It’s all we wish for our family,” she says.

Ba Sa will be serving bánh chưng as well as banh Tết, a longer, cylindrical version of bánh chưng that’s popular in South Vietnam. (Her mom is from the north, and her dad is from the south, so she grew up eating both variations.) Trinh will also make braised pork belly with bamboo shoots and steamed chicken with scallion oil, two dishes often served with sticky rice cakes in Vietnam.

The specials will be available from February 2 to February 6, when the celebrations will close out at 1:30 p.m. with firecrackers, red envelopes provided by the staff, and a lion dance from local group Mak Kai, which will start in front of the restaurant then snake through the dining room.

Other Celebrations

Ballard’s Lucky Envelope Brewing will give out red envelopes with discounts and free merchandise on January 28 and 29, and Panda Dim Sum food truck will serve dumplings and steamed buns until 10 p.m. on January 28.

A box full of containers of sweet rice, mung bean paste, and pork belly.
Jose Garzon partnered with the Banh Chung Collective to pass out bánh chưng kits for a Zoom class.
Jose Garzon

The Banh Chung Collective, a national project organized by LA-based chef Diep Tran, partnered with Jose Garzon of Garzón and Ekéko to hand out kits to make bánh chưng during a queer-friendly Zoom class on January 29. The time for preorders is over, but Tran will announce another class for the first weekend of February where participants can make the dish with ingredients they source on their own (available at local Asian markets). She started the collective to create a safe place for queer people to celebrate Tết. Check the group’s Instagram for updates.

And on February 12, Seattle Night Market will celebrate the Lunar New Year with vendors, food trucks, cocktails, and performances. Find tickets on Eventbrite.

The Chinatown International District’s Lunar New Year celebration was postponed to April 30 due to COVID-19 concerns and will include food, dance performances, and music.

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