The bright red Chinese New Year cake topped with black sesame whipped cream at Maison Alyzee in Mountain View. (Photo courtesy Maison Alyzee)
The Lunar New Year has arrived, and it's time to enjoy juicy dumplings and banh tet stuffed with glutinous rice, aromatic mung bean, and pork. While these savory dishes command most of the attention, every feast needs its dessert too. If you're headed to a celebration this weekend or just want a treat to take home, here are some sweets to enjoy ranging from traditional dishes to modern, multicultural creations.
Sigona's Farmers Market Redwood City: Fresh and dried fruit
Sigona's might seem like a strange way to start this list, but sharing fruit is a New Year tradition shared across Asian cultures. The communal act of peeling and cutting fruit is a way of expressing love, and many fruits have symbolic meanings. Mam ngu qua, a tray of fruit offered to ancestors during the Vietnamese celebration of T?t, might contain a bunch of green bananas that resembles a hand and conveys protection. Golden pomelos serve as a sign of abundance in many Chinese households. Meanwhile, dried fruits help fill candy boxes, trays of sweets shared with guests and family members.
Visit the open-air Redwood City location for a large selection of essential fruits, including persimmons, kumquats, and more.
Sigona’s Farmers Market, 2345 Middlefield Road, Redwood City; 650-368-6993. Instagram: @sigonasfarmersmarket.
EWHA DANG Rice Bakery: Yaksik and other rice-based sweets
Ddeokguk, savory rice cake soup, is the most important food at most Seollal celebrations in Korean homes. However, EWHA DANG Rice Bakery focuses on sweetened rice cakes and other rice-based desserts ranging from traditional yaksik, sticky glutinous rice mixed with jujubes and crunchy pine nuts, to multicolored baeksolgi, steamed rice cakes flavored with strawberry, chocolate, and pumpkin.
Preorders are required, and the menu lists over 15 different sweets to choose from.
EWHA DANG Rice Bakery, 1076 Kiely Blvd., Santa Clara; 408-244-4566.
Hong Kong Chinese Bakery: Fa gao, nian gao, and more
Hong Kong Chinese Bakery is busy restocking ingredients in order to meet a weekend rush for two traditional desserts. Fa gao, a steamed cake, rises and bursts open like a flower, and customers hope that the eruption signifies a similar increase in their wealth. Nian gao, literally meaning year cake, is a sticky round of steamed glutinous rice flour sweetened with sugar. Usually bought ahead of time and often shared as a gift, nian gao is often sliced and reheated in a well-oiled pan in order to crisp up its sides. While you're at the bakery, you might as well also pick up some jiandui, fried sesame balls, when you smell their nutty aroma. The way they expand when cooked also symbolizes prosperity.
Fa gao and nian gao might come in and out of stock these next couple of days, but the bakery expects to be prepared for this weekend. Order ahead for large quantities.
Hong Kong Chinese Bakery, 210 Castro St., Mountain View; 650-969-3153.
Hanabi Cakes: Strawberry shortcake
This online bakery started by Sunny Yan, a pastry chef with experience in Michelin-starred restaurants including Madera at Rosewood Sand Hill, offered a special edition red velvet cake during the previous Lunar New Year. Now, Hanabi is building upon this tradition by adding vibrant red strawberries to the chiffon cake base. Handmade sugar cookies in the shape of a smiling tiger or maneki-neko (welcoming cat) wave from the top of each individually sized dessert.
Available for preorder and pickup at Stanford Shopping Center.
Hanabi Cakes, pick up at 78 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto; 415-530-0502. Instagram: @enjoy_hanabi.
Maison Alyzee: Chinese New Year cake
Also marking the Chinese New Year with a bright red creation (the color brings luck and prosperity), Maison Alyzee has created a limited-edition cake based around flavors of sesame and citrus. A sesame biscuit and almonds provide crunch, and smooth yuzu cremeux and a slate gray black sesame cream provide a decadent richness.
The cake is available in individual portions or in a gorgeous sphere-like shape that serves six to eight. Call ahead or order online if picking up a whole cake.
Maison Alyzee, 212 Castro St., Mountain View; 650-960-1212. Instagram: @maisonalyzee.