Tradition Never Tasted So GoodCover Story
January 13, 2019
Story By: Caroline Wright | Photos by: Anthony Consillio
Like many Chinese foods served around Lunar New Year, jin dui have special symbolic significance.
The deep-fried golden orbs of dough are considered lucky because the way they expand as they cook is a metaphor for a small venture that grows and expands. Due to their round shape, jin dui also symbolize family unity.
It’s appropriate, then, that Golden Palace Seafood Restaurant, launched 18 years ago by Howard Lam, is offering Golden Giant Jin Dui ($10) for the New Year. Lam’s success story is perfectly symbolized by this very special treat. If regular-sized jin dui bring regular-sized luck, then the Golden Giant Jin Dui, almost as big as a basketball, must certainly bring enormous good fortune.
“My father was the first in our family to come to the U.S. back in the 1970s, and he built up everything from practically nothing,” says general manager Gary Lam, older son of Howard Lam.
Still completely family-run and managed, the venerable Chinatown restaurant employs Howard, his wife, two sons, and daughter-in-law, with aunties, uncles and cousins who help out during holidays and peak times.
Between now and the Lunar New Year on Feb. 5, your own ohana can enjoy that gigantic jin dui and other special New Year’s dishes at Golden Palace.
Fish is an essential dish at this time of year, and Steamed Sea Bass Fillet with Ginger, Onions and Soft Tofu ($12.95) fits the bill.
“The Chinese character for ‘fish’ sounds just like the character that means ‘to have abundance,'” Lam explains. “The sea bass is cooked over the tofu, which absorbs flavors from the fish, ginger and onions, and our house-made soy sauce.”
Another essential item on any Chinese New Year’s menu, Stuffed Duck ($35) is a grand traditional dish that serves 10-12 guests. Symbolic of fertility and family completeness, the duck is prepared and deboned in a long, complex process, then stuffed with ham, shiitake mushrooms, barley, gingko nuts and chestnuts, and is covered in a house gravy with egg flowers and garnished with green onions.
Through WeChat, the popular Chinese messaging and social media app, Gary Lam asked chef friends in China and Hong Kong about the provenance of Braised Duck with Jai ($40).
“I couldn’t find out much about its origins, but it’s popular locally, mainly with the older generation,” reports Lam. “It’s prepared similarly to our Stuffed Duck, marinated with star anise and other Chinese herbs, then braised, steamed and deboned.”
Before serving, the delicious vegetarian stew known as jai is poured over the duck.
Golden Palace’s Golden Giant Jin Dui, and the two duck dishes, must be ordered 24 hours in advance.
“We need to prep those ahead of time, especially the jin dui,” says Lam, adding that the giant puffs are made with a recently perfected secret family recipe.
Every traditional New Year’s celebration must include Gau (starts at $5.95), the perfect treat for such a feast. Made with brown sugar and mochi, it’s soft, sweet and sticky, like the bonds of love and loyalty that hold families together.
LET THE FESTIVITIES BEGIN
The Year of the Pig begins next month! On Friday, Feb. 1, Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii will present its annual Choy Cheng Visitation, with lion dancers, drum artists and fireworks throughout Chinatown. The following evening, Saturday, Feb. 2, will see the return of A Night in Chinatown, the neighborhood party that celebrates Chinese culture in Hawaii. Dinner reservations for both evenings are highly recommended for Golden Palace Seafood Restaurant.
PERFECT PLACE TO PARTY
Looking for a room that can accommodate a crowd? Consider Golden Palace Seafood Restaurant’s banquet room, as it can host events from big family reunions to small concerts — the space can comfortably hold 400 or more. “It’s very spacious, and it comes with a sound system and full stage,” says general manager Gary Lam. There’s also reasonably priced parking just behind the restaurant, and if your bash needs a banquet, Golden Palace will create a custom menu based on your budget and favorite dishes.