I grew up in a household where Lunar New Year was the biggest holiday. Growing up, my sisters and I would stay up until almost midnight just so our family could bring in the new year together over dinner. My parents would come home from a full day’s work at the restaurant and still be able to make the most lavish meal. Of course I didn’t fully understand it as a kid, but I knew my superstitious parents would kill us if we dropped a chopstick, let our faces fall to even the slightest frown, or didn’t make sure our asses were in our chairs the entire dinner. The food was always special and each dish presented the deepest of meaning.

Me during Lunar New Year's dinner. Credit: "Key and Peele"
Me during Lunar New Year’s dinner.
From “Key and Peele”

On top of the feast, we carried on some traditions that made our ancestors silently nod in humble pride. Pomelos, tangerines, and oranges would invade our house like a modern art citrus museum. Random relatives and family friends I barely knew would come by the house with the same circulating box of Danish cookies from two years ago. But the best was all the well-wishes you formally spoke aloud to your elders and vice versa. It was a special moment in and of itself, but became next level awesome as a kid (and a part of annual budget as a single adult now) when those red envelopes fell upon my chubby hands. COLD. HARD. CASH. And it was usually new bills because Chinese people read all the indirect messages in gift-giving. We kept those red envelopes under our pillows and opened them the next day, letting its luck radiate through the night.

MAKE IT RAINNNNNNNN Credit: Tumblr

Now that I have made a home 2000 miles away from my family, keeping such traditions is difficult in the Midwest. Even though I’m not superstitious or Buddhist like my parents are, there is a way I love honoring that care and thought that goes into this special occasion. So this year, I thought I’d go ahead and make a small feast for one. The best Chinese grocery store in town is a tiny establishment only five minutes away from me. It’s also a gas station. The staff there all speak Cantonese. The corner of the store also holds a BBQ station of roast duck, roast pig, and bbq pork. And it is one the very few places in town that I can go full Canto.

The Garden Asia Market.
The Garden Asia Market.

The key is to have nine dishes because the nine has a similar pronunciation as the word ‘everlasting.’ So in thinking about what I could reasonably consume as one person with leftovers, here is what a single Chinese-American woman like myself whipped up:

Lunar New Year Dinner Map

 

THE FEAST

Go through the gallery to learn about why I made each dish:

May you all have an amazing new year and discern what family traditions to keep in any season you’re in.

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My buddy Kylene and I flirt with gluttony often. We decided to spend a Saturday afternoon doing a mini food crawl of Downtown Madison’s State Street area. We hit up the following places:

We hoped to end at Mad City Frites, but unexpectedly came across HopCat’s “crack fries”–Food Network voted these bad boys into their “Top Ten French Fries in 2015” list. How could we resist? And they were simple and delicious. Next time frites. Next time. Follow our culinary adventure here:

I saw her once. It was a moment so brief, yet so powerful.

Bangkok, Thailand - Night
Pradipat Road, Bangkok, Thailand. July 2014.

I was in Bangkok, waiting to cross the street on Pradipat Road. There she was, riding backseat of a motorcycle. One hand was clutched to her dashing male companion with amazing abs (the details are a bit foggy nowadays), the other held none other than: a chicken wing. As the two passed me, she managed to finish that wing in lightning speed and toss the bone on the street. I gasped in amazement. Who was this woman that I wanted to bow down and give all my respect to? Where did such liberation come from? How could I get on HER LEVEL? That Thai woman gave zero f***s that day because she was living the dream–she had a bag of poultry’s best offerings on her lap, a beautiful man to guide her through the city, and the kind of confidence that made me question everything.

On that day, Thai Chicken Wing Woman became one of my greatest heroes. Inspired by Janelle Monae’s “Q.U.E.E.N.,” a new life mantra was birthed through two hashtags:

eatdemwangzthrowdembonez

Today I pay tribute to the chicken’s ulna, humerus, radius, hinge joint, and all the meaty goodness attached. Yes, I’m turning on the overdramatic meter to max.

Chicken wings represent the respect I have for the living things I eat. This Buzzfeed article expressed one of the most disrespectful acts of this world. If you are guilty of this, I implore you to reconsider eating bone-in, traditional wings. You don’t deserve them.

An entire chicken, usually averaging a few pounds, only has two wings. ONLY. TWO. PRECIOUS. WANGZ (Helpful tip: If you find more than one, I don’t recommend you eat that chicken). So if you want to just take a bite out of the middle and throw the rest of the very things that gave that chicken any hope of flying, then go for a roasted drumstick or fried boob. Five chickens did not need to die so you could play sick games with that 10 piece wings meal. Don’t you even dare think I want you at 50 cent wing night with me.

Eating a chicken wing takes immense care, time, patience, and actual enjoyment. Embrace the cartilage. Detach some bones. Suck some marrow. When you are done, I want to see your plate hold a pile of bones ready to be an exhibit at the history museum:

wings museum

God gave us these glorious cuts of meat ready to be deep fried for 8 minutes. Or baked for 45. Or grilled for 30. Or dipped in lava for three seconds. And then finished in a bath of seasonings, rubs, and sauces to create the glorious CHICKEN WING.

I am a woman in her late twenties with ambitions, dreams, and wide feet. I have visions that one day I will ride on the back of a motorcycle, holding onto the abs of a man I’m attracted to with a lovable personality and deep convictions, eating delicious wings, and throwing the bones to all the stray dogs we pass like a rich and charitable princess.

That’s the dream. Until then, I will #EatDemWangz and proudly #ThrowDemBonez sitting on my couch re-watching episodes of 30 Rock.

wings collage

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