Monday, February 8, 2016

Celebrating Lunar New Year in Texas

My parents left last week to celebrate Lunar New Year as it should be celebrated - in Asia. Weeks of preparation culminate in a festive occasion young and old look forward to every year. It truly is the biggest holiday of the year, one where the entire country celebrates. So, if you are not in Asia right now, exchanging well wishes and giving/receiving lucky money bags, how can you participate in the festivities?

For much of the festivities, people will do things specifically for luck. For the superstitious, there is nothing more ominous than a bad start to the New Year. First, clean everything! You want to start New Year on a clean slate. That means not just cleaning your house but taking care of your debts and mending any relationships. To prepare for New Year, my mom makes sure the entire house is clean. Like the Elf on the Shelf, the Kitchen God, Zhao Zun will report to the Jade Emperor of the activities he witnesses in your household. My mom sends him off on his trip to the emperor a little over a week before actual New Year. During this time, we are on our best behavior!

My mom always advises us to buy a coconut, papaya and mango. These fruits together symbolize good fortune because their names in Vietnamese literally mean "enough to spend." You can add cherimoyas because their name means "to wish" so it can be "to wish for enough" but those delicious cherimoyas are hard to find where I live so we often exclude them.

For drink, you have to have good tea! My parents always prefer jasmine but recently, I have been a big pu-erh fan. Pu-erh has such wonderful health benefits, I think drinking it for New Year can only bring prosperity and good health. This bamboo pu-erh from Silk Road was recently in stock and I jumped at the chance to try it. I love anything in a good storage vessel. The green tea leaves are compacted inside fragrant bamboo harvested from the Mangshi area. The tea leaves are hand compacted into the bamboo and coal fired. Being encased in bamboo lends a particular sweet flavor with notes of bamboo to this pu-erh.

So how did I get it out? There is no easy way (that I have found). I split open the bamboo with a large knife. Then I used a fork to pick out bits of tea. Was it worth the trouble? You bet! It was definitely a new way for me to enjoy tea but I much prefer the mini tuochas. So easy to unwrap and plop in a tea pot.

I think this particular pu-erh was quite dusty (even after rinsing). The tea is a beautiful clear gold.  As for taste, it was slightly acidic, which is different from other pu-erhs I have had the fortune of tasting. It is a little funky, like many pu-erhs but I found the acidity somewhat refreshing. I like pairing this tea with a bit of candied ginger and sugar coated peanuts (thats what those pink and white balls are).

Of course, I would recommend drinking any kind of tea for good health and luck for the New Year! Best wishes for a wonderful New Year!

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