Fortunate Fare For The New YearInside Feature
February 4, 2018
Story By: Caroline Wright | Photos by: Lawrence Tabudlo
As the Year of the Rooster winds down, Chinese restaurants all over the world are getting ready for the Spring Festival. A celebration at the turn of the lunisolar Chinese calendar, the holiday is filled with icons, symbols, traditions and elaborate feasts fit for an emperor.
To celebrate the forthcoming Year of the Dog, the kitchen at Little Village Noodle House in Chinatown is prepping its first servings of Jai ($14.95), also known as Buddha’s Delight. For those who follow the Buddhist purification ritual of eating a vegetarian diet for the first five days of the new year, jai is a meaningful annual tradition. For all who taste it, the dish is a rare treat, complex with flavors of field and forest.
“We serve jai every new year, with ingredients that symbolize good luck,” says Little Village’s managing partner David Chang. These traditional ingredients include gingko nuts, representing silver coins and good fortune; water chestnuts, representing unity; and golden lily buds, which symbolize long life.
Another special dish on the Chinese New Year Menu: Deep-fried Fresh Oysters ($25). “Oysters symbolize good fortune,” explains Chang. “The word for ‘oyster’ sounds like the word for ‘money’ in Cantonese and Mandarin.” Five plump Washington oysters are deep-fried till crispy, and served with ponzu and Chinese seasoning salt.
Reservations are no longer being accepted for Little Village’s New Year’s Day dinner and Lion Dance Feb. 16, but the New Year’s Menu is available daily through Feb. 17, by reservation only.
The elaborate 10-course feast for 10 guests is offered at $338 (or there’s a $168 option for four guests).
Each new year, Chang likes to showcase a completely new dish or two. “This year, it’s the Firecracker Chicken ($14),” he says. “It’s a little spicy, but at a normal level — people can actually add more (spice).” The boneless chicken is deep-fried and dressed with a sweet, sour and tangy sauce. It’s as deliciously good as everything else on the menu.
Newly added to the appetizer selection is Kau Yuk ($15.20). Especially sure to delight local palates, tender pork belly is served with four fluffy steamed buns. “It’s braised for at least four hours in red bean curd, until the pork fat breaks down,” Chang explains.
Though a few items have been added to Little Village’s regular menu, no big changes have been made. “The Village is always going to be the Village!” says Chang with a reassuring chuckle. “We’re always going to offer our signature dishes, but there’ll be a few twists here and there. If you haven’t visited before, give us a try. If you haven’t been here for a while, please come back and try the new dishes.”