Tag Archives: New Year’s

Year of the Rooster

December 23, 2016 by
Illustration by Matt Wieczorek

Chinese Lunar New Year falls on January 28 this year. The holiday is like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s all rolled into a week of celebrations. This year will be my third Lunar New Year in Omaha. Since relocating to the Midwest, I have developed a small go-to list for dishes that taste like home (or at least satiate my appetite until my next return visit to Hong Kong).

When coworkers ask me to recommend “real” Chinese food, I often probe how adventurous they are with eating. Authentic Chinese cuisines do not usually come with a thick brown or red sauce. Sometimes, signature dishes also feature uncommon ingredients. Although I never fancied chicken feet, I know several European Americans who will gobble down the dish (which translates to “phoenix talons” in my native Cantonese language) at any opportunity.

Chinese cuisines vary depending on region. Sichuanese (from western China) is known for its “mala” numbing spice. Cantonese (from Hong Kong and Guangdong) is famous for fresh seafood and dim sum. Dumplings, maybe even more than rice, are beloved in northern Chinese cuisines. You might even say Americanized Chinese food is authentic in its own way, with its distinct flavors and history woven into the story of Chinese migration.

1. Fresh housemade dim sum

I was excited to see barbecue pork and duck hanging on display upon entering Canton House Restaurant during my first visit; the Cantonese diner reminds me of the typical Hong Kong-style café (also known as a “cha chaan teng”). The chef started his career in Hong Kong decades ago and has brought a long list of authentic Hong Kong dishes to his restaurant in northwestern Omaha. Dim sum—bite-size breakfast hors d’oeuvres—are freshly made to order; I highly recommend ordering a variety and enjoying them with a group of friends. Stuffed eggplant, fish slices in congee (rice porridge), and sliced beef with pan-fried rice noodles are among my top three choices.

4849 N. 90th St., No. 1, Omaha, NE 68134

402-505-9446

cantonhouseomaha.com

2. Savory Shandong cuisine

Tucked in the corner of a strip mall on 72nd Street, Blue and Fly Asian Kitchen is a homey eatery that is crowded with Chinese students every night. The traditional Chinese menu features a range of quick-fried and fish dishes that are iconic of Shandong cuisine. A bilingual handwritten menu beside the kitchen offers a further selection of seasonal delicacies. The owners are generous in sharing their cultural heritage with patrons; for example, in the last Mid-Autumn Festival, they gave out handmade “mooncakes” to diners to share celebration of the Chinese holiday. I have yet to order anything I do not enjoy at Blue and Fly (and I am definitely a frequent patron). My personal favorites include spicy shredded potato (a cold appetizer), spicy pig intestine (an entrée), and a specialty dessert—caramelized sweet potato.

721 S. 72nd St., Omaha, NE 68114

402-504-6545

blueflyasiankitchen.com

3. Cantonese-style barbecue duck and barbecue pork buns

Order a Cantonese-style duck (half) to go with a bowl of rice, and you will get an authentic Hong Kong lunch experience. Grand Fortune Chinese Restaurant also has an extensive dim sum menu—the baked barbecue pork pastry and baked barbecue pork bun are must-tries as you may only find the steamed version in other dim sum shops in town. Steamed barbecue pork buns are known as “cha siu bao” in Cantonese. Cha siu bao, pork and shrimp dumplings (“siu mai”), and shrimp dumplings (“har gow”) are regular fixtures of dim sum brunch anywhere in the world.

17330 West Center Road, Omaha, NE 68130

402-697-9888

grandfortunecuisine.com

4. Dim sum brunch after church

New Gold Mountain is crowded with families after church on Sundays. The restaurant has an intimate atmosphere. Its fried items—such as salt and pepper shrimp, deep-fried minced pork shrimp dumplings, and crispy fried tofu are all finger-licking good. Meat lovers can try barbecue pork with five spiced beef. The meat platter is a common dinner staple in Hong Kong, and is best enjoyed with a bowl of rice and some stir-fried vegetables.

15505 Ruggles St. No.105, Omaha, NE 68116.

402-496-1688

newgoldmountain.com

5. Mouthwatering tofu dishes

People may not associate Three Happiness Express with authentic Chinese food. But its kung pao tofu is a good representation of Chinese cooking. The tofu is perfectly fried to form a crispy crust; the dish is not drowned, rather it is drizzled with a light brown sauce. The restaurant’s steamed dumplings are also authentic, as long as you skip the sweet and spicy sauce and dip it in soy sauce. Friends from the neighborhood have professed a deep love for the crab rangoons, Princess Chicken, and Loc’s Chicken Wings (and these dishes are definitely American Chinese inventions).

5107 Leavenworth St., Omaha, NE 68106

402-558-8899

facebook.com/threehappinessexpress

6. Classic American Chinese food

Golden Palace has an old-school menu and an Oriental interior design that suggest the restaurant has been passed down through generations. The restaurant serves polished classic American Chinese food. The barbecue back ribs are the absolute bomb.

4040 N. 132nd St., Omaha, NE 68164

402-493-2777

goldenpalacene.com

7. Unlock the secret menu 

The “secret menu” of Jade Palace offers authentic Chinese cuisines. Even if you don’t read Chinese, pick a protein and ask the server what he/she recommends. The owner suggested we try “water boiled fish”—beware though, the Sichuanese dish is cooked with a lot of red hot chili peppers. The heat index of the fish is a challenge (southerners, like me, are not known for eating spicy). Be sure to discuss the level of spiciness before ordering.

1702 Galvin Road South, Bellevue, NE 68005

402-558-8899

jadepalacebellevue.com

8. Hot pot special

China Garden Restaurant has a winter hot pot special. The communal dish is popular in colder months. Select meats and vegetables from a list, and the server will bring a pot of broth and a portable stove for you to cook the food in. The restaurant offers most of the favorites of Sichuanese cuisine. To drink, ask the server if sweet-sour plum juice is available. Other thirst-quenching options include Tsingtao beer and canned Chinese herbal tea, “Wong Lo Kat.”

8315 Tangier Way, Omaha, NE 68124

402-397-1995

chinagardenomaha.com

9. Fusion Chinese food

P.F. Chang’s modern take on Chinese food results in a range of light, savory fusion cuisine. I highly recommend the chicken lettuce wrap.

Westroads Mall, 10150 California St., Omaha, NE 68114

402-390-6021

pfchangs.com

10. Oldest Chinese restaurant in town

The interior design of King Fong Cafe resembles that of Chinese courtyard houses. The wood carvings and chandeliers (imported from Canton, the old name of Guangzhou) are well-preserved—the visual enjoyment is a feast in itself. The restaurant is not only the oldest Chinese restaurant in town, it is the longest-running restaurant in the city.

315 1/2 S. 16th St., Omaha, NE 68102

402-341-3433

facebook.com/pages/king-fong-cafe/117861274906131

* Note: King Fong Cafe announced its temporary closure in 2016 and had not announced a reopening date at the time of Omaha Magazine‘s publication deadline.

Another great way to discover new dishes is to ask the server what Chinese customers have ordered. If something looks delicious at another table, ask your server what it is. For anyone looking to celebrate the Lunar New Year with a Chinese feast, please note that restaurants may close during the festival, so check ahead to confirm if they are open.

Authenticity aside, I absolutely love when fortune cookies arrive with the bill. The American Chinese invention (or American Japanese, depending on the origin story) coincides with Chinese affinity for auspicious signs. Happy Lunar New Year! May your fortune cookie bring good luck!

How do you say Happy New Year in Chinese?

“Gong hei fat choi!” That’s Cantonese (the language of Hong Kong and Guangdong).

“Xin nian kuai le!” That’s Mandarin (the official language of mainland China and Taiwan)

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…and for a preview of the 2017 Nebraska Chinese Association Lunar New Year Celebration:

Resolving New Year’s Resolutions

December 30, 2013 by
Photography by Katie Anderson

I don’t go out on New Year’s. I’m a mom, so the minivan and I prefer to stay home. About halfway through the Dick Clark New Year’s Rockin’ Eve special, I get nostalgic and start thinking of what New Year’s resolution I should come up with.

Whether you set New Year’s resolutions or you don’t, let’s be real, either way—you never keep them. I’ve never seen a weight loss success story where the thin bombshell proclaims, after asked how she did it, “It was my New Year’s resolution!” Not gonna happen. Ever.

By February, I’ve not only failed at the resolution, I’ve forgotten what it was all together. When someone asks me what my resolution is, I will respond with: “I’ll tell you my resolution if you can tell me what yours was last year.” It’s a time-honored tradition—no one can even remember.

For the record, let’s review why no one can remember a resolution: You were out partying when you told all your drunk friends what your resolution was. Your friends can’t hold you accountable if they can’t remember where their phones or keys are.

A few years ago, I set out to eat clean for an entire year. I was determined. I’m proud to announce that I lasted all the way through April. Think about it. That’s like the Heisman Trophy of New Year’s resolutions.

When my kids asked me what a New Year’s resolution was, it changed things. Do I want to teach my kids to set unattainable goals? Do I teach them to wait until midnight on New Year’s Eve to set a goal? Do I teach them to come up with something they hate about themselves so they can change it? As always, my kids’ curiosity changed my perspective on the entire purpose of a New Year’s resolution. How do I pass down this tradition to my kids and make it a positive experience?

Last year, I decided my New Year’s resolution would be to try something new each month. It could be anything. So one month I wore eye shadow every day. The next month I drove a different way to work for a week. Another month I went for a week without makeup. Each new thing may seem slight and not as noble as you think. But I had fun with it and learned something fun about myself each time. By May, I forgot to proclaim my monthly something new to try. Then again, I still find myself trying new things. The resolution stuck as a practice, hopefully throughout my life and not just for a year.

And so, at our house, I think we’ll come up with something fun and positive for our New Year’s resolutions. It’s the less grandiose resolutions that stick better and make a bigger difference, after all. My kids bring insight to the success of a New Year’s resolution.

 

Read more of Murrell’s stories at momontherocks.com.

Dressing for the Holidays

November 21, 2013 by
Photography by Jim Scholz

‘Tis the season to celebrate the holidays! A time to decorate your home, your office, even your car with personal style. Then comes you, wondering what’s best to wear for your own family feasts and to holiday parties of all kinds.

When I was a child, dressing up for the holidays was very important in my family. We wore dressy clothes for family dinners and parties, and we dressed the table and the house according to the theme of the season. I loved the holidays and was impressed by what a difference dressing up for them made.

The holidays are no time to be lazy about what you wear. Three common events during the holidays are family gatherings, office parties, and glitzy celebrations. You want to be well dressed for all of them, and that requires special attention to detail.

For Family Gatherings

Dress to show respect for the event and each other. Remember, if your host says the event is casual, it doesn’t mean warm-ups and pilled, fleece sportswear. It can mean jeans, but only clean and fashionable ones worn with shirts and sweaters that are several notches above what you wear to relax on weekends. Even in your own home, a family celebration that shows effort and style will have a nicer feel for all if everyone is well dressed and well groomed.

For Office Parties

Office and company parties can present a quandary. Pay attention to the invitation and to the location of the party. Sometimes the invitation specifies the attire. Respect that and remember that you’re with co-workers and executives. It’s not your time to dress hot and sexy. Low cut and very short dresses do not belong. Too much cleavage and leg is taboo even for a beautiful 30-year-old. Tasteful is the way you want to present yourself.

When an invitation suggests business attire, it means, for men, a suit or a sport jacket with dress pants, a dress shirt, necktie, and dress shoes. A woman should wear a suit or a coordinating skirt and jacket, or pants and jacket with a pressed blouse or sweater. A sweater set with pants or a skirt also qualifies. A dress that looks professional does too. Accessories, shoes or boots (not sandals), and bags should coordinate with the clothing.

Casual is a word that confuses almost everyone. It means that whether you’re a man or a woman, the sportswear you choose should be neat, clean, pressed, well fitting, and coordinated. If the invite says dressy casual, that means guys wear a sport jacket too.

For Fancy Celebrations

New Year’s Eve is the party night that for many is the dressiest of the year. It’s the one night I actually think pajama parties are fun, but for most it’s black-tie-party time. That means the guys are to wear winter tuxedos, with the proper tux shoes and accessories. Women have options. They can wear a long gown, a tuxedo, elegant silk or tuxedo pants, classy tops, or cocktail dresses. Accessorize with your best jewelry for evening.

Cocktail means that guys wear a dark suit, with a dress shirt, a necktie, and a pocket scarf. Polished leather dress shoes are a must. For women, it’s easy. Wear a cocktail dress or suit, a stylish pantsuit, or pants with a chic top. Add jewelry, too. Your purse and shoes are very important. Only elegant ones are appropriate. The height of the heel doesn’t matter; it’s the style and finish of the shoe that does.

If you’re still in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask your host what to wear and dress accordingly.

Mary Anne Vaccaro is a clothing and product designer and an image consultant to businesses and individuals. www.maryannevaccaro.com She is also a sales consultant for Carlisle and Per Se, New York. www.carlislecollection.com