Where to Get Lunar New Year Dishes & Treats in Portland
The Lunar New Year is fast approaching—this year, it falls on January 22. While big family gatherings and community celebrations might be a little smaller, you can still order all the usual celebratory foods. Whether you’re a seasoned Lunar New Year reveler or new to the tradition, get ready to ring in the Year of the Rabbit with these Vietnamese, Chinese, and Korean dishes. Don't see your favorite New Year's dish on this list? Tell us what you eat for the Lunar New Year by leaving a comment or emailing [email protected]
Bing Mi Dumpling & Noodle Bar
Bing Mi food cart owner Jacky Ren opened his first brick-and-mortar restaurant one year ago, serving handmade dumplings and pork belly zha jiang noodles and fried rice. Dumplings and noodles are traditional eats for New Year for many, and it's right in the name here. Vegans, have no fear: the noodles, dumplings, and fried rice are all available in plant-based versions boasting Impossible meat, shiitake mushrooms, and tofu. Since it’s traditional to eat vegetarian for the first few days of Chinese New Year, and long noodles are considered a sign of good luck, the vegan noodles should bring you especially good fortune. Note, though, that the restaurant is closed Sundays, so you'll have to get your fix before or after New Year's Day. 2572 NW Vaughn St
At Chin’s Kitchen in Hollywood, Wendy Li serves up her Chinese New Year childhood favorite year-round: handmade dumplings stuffed with fillings like pork, shrimp, leek, egg, and Chinese sauerkraut. But Portlanders might not realize how lucky they are to be able to order these dumplings six days a week, whether for dine-in or takeout.
When Li was growing up in a family of eight on a farm near Harbin, China, dumplings were reserved for special occasions like Chinese New Year only, since her mother had to make them entirely by hand—no machines or mixers. But they’re a must-have on Chinese New Year’s eve for many Chinese families: the dumplings are said to be lucky since they resemble ancient Chinese gold ingots. As soon as Li and her sisters were old enough, they helped her mother fold the dumplings, stuffing them with fillings like pork with leeks or cabbage.
At Chin’s Kitchen, Li has a machine to help mix the dough, but she still kneads the dough, rolls out each dumpling wrapper by hand, chops the pork butt filling with a cleaver, and folds and boils each dumpling. Guy Fieri even got a hands-on taste of the dumpling-making process himself in an October 2020 episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, chopping the pork butt at lightning speed and rolling out a slightly lopsided dumpling skin. “This is how it’s going to end, folks,” Fieri says, popping a juicy, pillowy pork, shrimp, and leek dumpling into his mouth. “Me and an all-you-can eat dumpling bar.” Side them with veggies like garlic A-choy or green beans for a full meal. 4126 NE Broadway, call 503-281-1203 to order
In addition to its usual pan-Asian menu, this newcomer to the former Blue Hour space will be serving specials including whole steamed snapper with tomato sambal, ginger, and garlic; duck salad with rice noodles and pickled plum; rainbow buri-bop rice bowl with hamachi, tuna, and salmon; A5 wagyu tataki; and toro tartare with Osetra caviar and ponzu. Reservations are available via OpenTable. 250 NW 13th Ave
Li Min Bakery
For me, an essential Chinese New Year treat (along with lots of oranges with the leaves still attached) is nian gao, a steamed cake made of glutinous rice flour that’s often adorned with sesame seeds or dried red dates. Eat slices of the chewy, caramel-like golden brown cake as is, or do like my family does: cut into slices and panfry in a little peanut oil until the edges are crisp. Li Min is open daily for your last-minute nian gao needs. 8615 SE Division St, 503-954-2883
Mama Dút Foods
‘Crab, crab, fish, fish, gourd, chicken, chicken!’
These aren’t foods that Thuy Pham of Mama Dút ate for Tết, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. It’s how her family would fervently bet on bầu cua cá, a dice game that translates to “gourd-crab-fish,” a favorite during the monthlong parade of family visits for Tết.
“You have a board with pictures of a gourd, a deer, a crab—six different animals,” Pham explains. “And then you have two dice with the animals on them. And then people place their bets on whichever animal comes up on the dice.... It’s a bunch of Asian people holding dollar bills and screaming names of animals like their life depended on it. I miss it.”
This year, Pham is making celebration buns: a fresh-baked, sesame-topped bun with a sheet of woven vermicelli noodles, herbs and pickled veggies, and her signature vegan pork belly. On the sweeter side, she's making red and yellow snow skin moon cakes, colors that are meant to signify Vietnam. The skin is colored red with beets, while the golden interior is made of mung bean, durian, and coconut. They're available January 18 through January 22, or until sold out, via walk-in or preorder. 414 SE Morrison St, preorder online at mamadut.com
Powell’s Seafood Restaurant
A steamed whole fish with julienned ginger and green onion is a must for many Chinese families, along with plenty of white rice to soak up the gingery, lightly soy-flavored sauce. Take your pick of live fish from the tank and have it cooked to order. While not strictly a New Year’s dish, a whole steamed lobster with ginger and green onion over thick, chewy e-fu noodles is a great celebratory dish for all kinds of occasions. The simple preparation lets the seafood shine. Get it here at market price. 6633 SE Powell Blvd
The minimalist, eccentric Japanese pop-up inside Courier Coffee will be serving dango—balls made of glutinous rice flour served on skewers. Choose from four different kinds on offer: adzuki bean, black sesame, soy sauce glaze, and Okinawan brown sugar. They're available from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. or until sold out, January 20 through 23. 923 SW Oak St