Enter the Year of the Rabbit!

The Year of the Rabbit hops in today, Feb 3rd, with a 15-day party involving a feast of symbolic food, visits to relatives and friends and general merry making with age-old traditions such as lion and dragon dances. All around the world, folks of Chinese descent will celebrate (or not, as the case may be) in different ways, depending on which region in China they trace their lineage from. (more…)

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February 3, 2011. Tags: , , , . Asian, Chinese, Stories, Stories. Asian. 2 comments.

Thinking of Vietnam: Huong Viet in Nutley, NJ

(Published on Baristanet, March 8, 2010)

The sudden closure of Little Saigon in Montclair late last year disappointed many, and raised curiosity as to why. The restaurant had been a familiar sight on the otherwise uninspiring Elm St. for four years, having moved there from Nutley, where it recovered from fire damage in 2003 and plugged on bravely for a couple more years.  It was great to discover that Little Saigon was alive and kicking, and basically resurrected back in Nutley in January under the new name, Huong Viet, which means thinking of Vietnam.

Nestled among the stores on Passaic Ave was Huong Viet, whose owner, Mr Quan Hua, explained that he closed shop in Montclair in November after its lease had expired.

“It (the rent) was too expensive in Montclair and there was no parking,” said Mr Quan, a Baristaville resident for more than a decade. “We decided to come back to Nutley where it is cheaper.”

(more…)

March 7, 2010. Tags: , . Asian, Restaurants, Reviews, Stories, Stories. Asian, Vietnamese. 3 comments.

Chinese New Year: Stories, Sights, Scents (and More Dumplings)

The Year of the Tiger began on Feb. 14th and festivities are wrapped up a good 15 days later with the Lantern Festival.

Here are some snippets of Chinese new year traditions and celebrations contributed by friends in Singapore, Thailand and Wales. Do feel free to add your own in comments! (more…)

February 17, 2010. Tags: , , . Asian, Chinese, Cultural Feasts, Festive, Stories, Stories. Asian. 5 comments.

Sushi (Always) On Our Minds

Japan celebrated their New Year’s Day, or gantan, along with the rest of the world who follow the Gregorian calendar, on January 1st. But they’re already one up on everyone else with holidays – on the 11th, Japan observed Coming of Age Day,  seijin no hi – in honor of the youngsters turning 20 this year.

The Japanese have several new year customs and traditions, including eating osechi – comprising boiled seaweed, fish cakes, sweet potato with chestnut and sweet black soybeans – along with sushi and sashimi and non-Japanese food, which were added in the modern era. Practices include sending new year postcards, giving money to children, making sticky-rice cakes, and paying heed the first time something is done that year, such as watching the first sunrise, visiting the temple the first time, the first tea ceremony, the first sale at the shops, and so on.

As I bid my lovely Japanese friends a belated akemashite omedeto gozaimasu, I am grateful to the nation that gave the world sushi and have finally said Yes to my kids who have begged me for weeks to make it. This is something we used to do regularly together, when I realized that having an entire family of Japanese-food enthusiasts wasn’t going to do our bank balance any favors.

We introduced the boys to sushi after their first birthdays, and instantly, they were hooked. (more…)

January 15, 2010. Tags: , , . Asian, Cultural Feasts, Dinners, Festive, Fish, Japanese, Kids, Kids Cuisine, Melting Pot, Stories. Asian. 5 comments.

Pahang Adds Sizzle To Verona Restaurant Scene

(Review published on Baristanet on Sept. 24th)

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As someone who was born in Malaysia and has widely traveled and eaten her way through Southeast Asia, I was delighted to hear a restaurant called Pahang, after Malaysia’s third-largest state, had set up shop on Bloomfield Ave in Verona. With readers asking to know more about it, I was only too happy to oblige, even as I appreciated the surrealism of the task – little-known Pahang (plucked out of Malaysia), in the thick of Verona (ditto, out of Italy), in New Jersey. A neat microcosm of the three continents I’ve lived in. Serendipity? No matter, I was ravenous.

First, some context. Pahang the state, which comprises one million ethnic Malays and indigenous people (known as Bumiputeras), is also a fifth Chinese and seven percent Indian – factors which hugely shape the spicing and variety of the state’s cuisine, and of Malaysian food in general.

The visit to Pahang restaurant was a nostalgic one for me culinarily; for objectivity, I brought along a born-and-bred New Yorker friend who lives in Montclair and, thank goodness, was as motivated as I to find another Asian-food winner in the area. We had recently risked life and limb on Rt 10 to visit Penang on East Hanover, only to come away somewhat let down by our choices that day.

So, with renewed appetite, we walked into the cantaloupe and avocado-themed tropical-style interior of Pahang, which has been open since May, having parked easily across the restaurant and bought ourselves an hour at the meter for a mere 25 cents.

We made no reservations for lunch, indeed the restaurant was quiet, being as it was a Monday. More food for us then. I ask if we can have smaller portions as it was our first visit and as we were eager to try a number of dishes. Beyanka, the chef’s cheerful wife, politely obliged.

Perusing the impressive lunch and regular menus, we notice an entire section with several pages of Japanese food, including sushi, wraps and salads. As keen on Japanese as I am, I focus on the cuisine relevant to the restaurant’s name.

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We start with Roti Canai (pronounced cha-nai) – an Indian-inspired flaky bread which also goes by the name of prata, served with chicken curry. This is typical of street food in Malaysia and Singapore, and I felt it could be a benchmark of things to come. The bread was perfect, hot off the griddle, light and fluffy, not greasy, and the tasty chicken curry had tender chunks of the bird in it. Big thumbs-up there. (more…)

September 27, 2009. Tags: , , . Asian, Chinese, Restaurants, Reviews, Stories. Asian. Leave a comment.