I recently returned from a visit up North to spend the Lunar New Year with my family. I ate tons of good food the day before, spent quality time with family and received some very hefty red envelopes. My mom asked me what my favorite holiday was while I was home and I half laughingly replied Lunar New Year of course. Its a fun, profitable holiday while you are young and not married as you should start handing out the red envelopes once you get married.
So a must for celebrating New Year's with my family is a visit to the local Buddhist temple to burn incense, give offerings and receive blessings of fruits, flowers and charms. I'm always down for the eating the vegetarian meal at temple as well. Heck its fried and we all know that anything ladened with grease and oil is going to taste awesome.
My family traditionally eats vegetarian meals on the 1st and 15th of the lunar calendar so of course Lunar New year is the big 1st. The vegetarian Buddhist population in San Jose is pretty substantial so you can find several tofu shops like Dong Phuong Tofu around town specializing in making tofu, soy bean milk and all types of tofu inspired vegetarian foods.
We picked up a gallon of pandan flavored soy milk freshly made, a party platter of fried vegetarian rice noodles and 2 orders of xio bap.
Freshly made soy milk is something I've treasured since I was very young and I'd peer over the giant vat as my mom made it. However, it's quite labor intensive so my parents just purchase it from this store and it tastes just as great. They offer both sweetened and unsweetened as well as plain and pandan flavored. They don't sweeten it too much so I prefer to get that to save me the work and the fragrant scent/taste of pandan just enhances the taste of the soy milk.
The fried noodles are mixed with carrots, cabbage, some mushrooms and comes seasoned with salt, pepper and some sweet soy sauce on the side to flavor as you wish. It's one of my vegetarian comfort foods and since the oil is on the light side I feel somewhat less guilty filling up on this.
My baby sister walked in on me eating an order of xio bap and demanded that I share some with her... before I knew it she ate most of the order and I can't blame her. The combination of sweet rice, hominy, mung beans, crispy shallots and SUGAR is goodness that all ages can enjoy. The flavors all play against each other not making it too sweet or too salty, the hominy and sweet rice makes it pretty hearty so it makes a tasty breakfast yet I enjoy it at all times of the day.
What Lunar New Year is complete without some firecrackers. I insisted that we pick up some to set at my parent's shop to bring in luck for the new year so we got a modest 3 ft string and attached it to a mop stick. It startled quite a few of the neighbors and the customers but they were in good spirits since they realized it was a holiday.
Dong Phuong Tofu
2359 Mckee Rd.
San Jose, CA 95116
Pao-Hua Buddhist Temple
2946 McKee Road
San Jose, CA 95127