Welcoming 2016 With Prosperous Fare
Now that the busiest part of the holiday season is behind us, we can start focusing on the new year ahead. As the countdown to midnight draws closer, many of us are taking time to reflect and set goals for the next go-around.
I, too, will be doing these things, but I have to admit that I’m not a stickler when it comes to making resolutions. The goal I’m much more concerned with is partaking in the New Year’s traditions revolving around food — which, in my opinion, are the best ones. Rich in symbolism for inspiring a positive future, their cultural meanings add layers of flavor to so many of these already delicious must-haves. So before the ball drops, let’s give them a try and toast to making 2016 the most savory year yet!
RAY’S BYOB KITCHEN
As Raymond Chau, the spirited owner of Ray’s BYOB Kitchen, sits down to tell me about his New Year’s specials, he writes a noteworthy Chinese character on a piece of paper to show me (see previous page).
“This side means fish in Chinese, and this side means lamb. Put it together, and you know what that means?” he asks. “Really tasty!”
The chef took inspiration from this expression of xian, or fresh and delicious, to prepare some heavenly and fortuitous fish and lamb entrees, which will be available until Chinese New Year. And seeing as Ray’s BYOB Kitchen specializes in fish, it’s the ideal place to visit when welcoming the new year in Chinese fashion.
Right now, Steamed Uhu with Homemade Black Bean Sauce ($15.99) is on special and prepared with a lavish combination of lots of chopped garlic and ginger, preserved black beans and green onions. Red bell peppers also are used for their bright color, while chili peppers bring the spice factor.
Chau describes that the word for fish in Chinese is pronounced the same as the phrase for having a surplus of wealth — thus, eating up fish specialties will bring the hope of success in the coming months during both Western and Chinese New Year’s.
Chau also recommends his festive and unique Mongolian Lamb ($15.99), which showcases Mongolian spices he became familiar with when traveling to the area. Among them are black pepper, garlic and the secret weapon for complementing lamb’s distinctly strong flavor: cumin.
And as we head into the last phase of the Chinese calender, “It’s good to eat lamb while it’s still Year of the Ram,” he says.
Ray’s BYOB Kitchen
Chinatown Cultural Plaza
100 N. Beretania St., Ste. 113, Honolulu
SEKIYA’S RESTAURANT AND DELICATESSEN
If there’s one restaurant that knows a thing or two about tradition, it’s Sekiya’s Restaurant and Delicatessen. After all, the Kaimuki Avenue eatery has been serving up customary Japanese fare, okazu and local comfort food for 80 years and counting. And just as customers have done for years on end, they’ll once again visit the modest eatery to get their New Year’s fill of Kuromame ($4.25 side order, $26 per pound).
As general manager Lynn Ky explains, the Japanese mix of soft black soybeans and chestnuts takes about eight hours to prepare, so it’s only available once a year. It is thought to promote strength and health, and it gets a lovely pop of sweetness from the sugar used during the cooking process. But what’s the real secret to its deliciousness? The Kuromame at Sekiya’s is made with high-quality beans imported from Japan, and the difference is wonderfully palpable.
The longstanding establishment also features a few items from the regular menu that are especially popular to munch on during New Year’s celebrations. The ever-auspicious Mochi Soup ($7.95), or ozoni, is one of them, complete with soft and pliable mochi, vegetables and house-made dashi broth. Patrons also love to order Nori Maki ($4.45) this time of year, made with kanpyo (gourd), tuna and old-school red and green ebi flakes — which Sekiya’s actually makes from scratch.
The restaurant reminds readers that gift cards still are available, and be sure to pay a visit to the okazu counter. And with that, I wish you all a bright and beautiful new year!
Sekiya’s Restaurant and Delicatessen
2746 Kaimuki Ave., Honolulu