Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gong Xi Fa Cai

Yesterday I took the kids to Chinatown, because a) it was something all ages could do together, b) the stores are fun, and c) this year there was a funky convergence of Lunar New Year and Mardi Gras that cried out for gorging on dumplings.

First we went to our favorite grocery store, where we admired the $395/pound dried shark's fin (didn't buy any) and speculated about the origins of various displays of dehydrated wrinkly stuff. We bought many good things: crystallized ginger and Haw flakes and frozen pork buns. And since we've been dropping dishes left and right lately, I also bought some attractive (and unbreakable) Chinese-pattern melamine plates for $2.25 each.

Then we took a long trek off the tourist trail to a little dumpling house a neighbor told us about. Once there, two of my offspring realized it wasn't at all like The Usual Place We Go. They didn't like the idea of ordering at the counter and squeezing in with noisy locals at a small portion of a table. Even the bargain price of four dumplings for a dollar didn't sway them.

Everyone was tired and hungry, warming up to the kind of crankiness that occurs when low blood sugar takes hold. So we left, and walked until we got to the first legitimate-looking restaurant. There were Chinese people eating inside; I figured the food must be reasonably good.

When the menus arrived we looked at the Chef's Specials, which began with jellyfish and included "Blood and chive pot" and a number of intestine dishes. Hmmmm. Authentic. The next challenge was that there were NO DUMPLINGS. Little Guy is my dumpling fanatic, and also my picky eater. Lately he's been the frontrunner for the Sarah Bernhardt award for Best Dramatic Performance When Disappointed, so I thought for sure we were in for a show. But he had the privilege of being seated right next to the fresh-fish tank, and the restaurant did offer sesame chicken (one of Little Guy's faves). So we lucked out.

We ate. We were full. We were happy. On the way home we stopped at a bakery and bought sesame balls (the glutinous rice kind with bean paste in the middle) and almond cookies to munch on the train. And since I'd stocked up on frozen potstickers at the Chinese grocery, we ate dumplings for dinner.

Today we're living off the accumulated calories, since it's Ash Wednesday. I'm feeling extremely penitential; I have a deadline today for a project that's nowhere near done. So here's a factoid for those of you who don't do Ash Wednesday: the ashes are made of the burned palms from last year's Palm Sunday celebration.

And now I'm off to grind away. I'm leaving in the a.m. to take Eldest on a college visit, so things will probably be silent here until Sunday. Gong Xi Fa Cai (Happy New Year), and Happy (?) Lent to you.

1 comment:

  1. Haw Flakes!

    The only Chinese I know is not fit for a family blog. Bing taught it to me.