By Valerie Lum
Once again, it’s that time of year when Chinese communities around the world celebrate the Spring Festival, more commonly known as Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year. Unlike the Gregorian calendar, the Lunar New Year is celebrated during the New Moon, which can occur at any point between January 21 and February 20. The official start of the year of the rooster will be celebrated on January 28. And a few select Nobu Restaurants are primed for the celebration.
Traditionally in China, Lunar New Year is a national holiday celebrated over seven days. It used to be a time for families to gather for large reunions. Lately, however, the trend has shifted, with the younger, more affluent generation taking the opportunity to travel the world.
Dorothy Wong, General Manager of Nobu Beijing, said that the local population typically leaves town the week before the holiday and returns the week after. This year, the restaurant will be closed from January 27 through the 30th, in observance of the holiday. Most of the staff with family living outside of Beijing goes on vacation, and the staff with local families works the restaurant.
The kitchen at Nobu Beijing is proud to offer a few special dishes in honor of Lunar New Year, including the Crispy Seaweed Taco with Foie Gras. Wong said the dish was created because the richness of the foie gras compliments a traditional Mandarin Lunar New Year’s greeting: 家肥屋潤--Jiā féi wū rùn--which translates to “May your family have a rich year.”
Nobu Hong Kong
In Hong Kong, Lunar New Year is still a very family-oriented holiday event. The Lantern Festival, various parades and dragon and lion dances occur all over the city. All of the festivities culminate in a world-class fireworks display over Victoria Harbor on the second night of celebration. And one of the best places to view the pyrotechnics is the InterContinental Hong Kong, home of Nobu Hong Kong.
In anticipation of the holiday, Nobu Hong Kong offers an innovative, 8-course Chinese New Year Omakase menu, priced at HK$ 1,888. The number 8 appears everywhere during this holiday because it’s considered lucky for its similarity to the spoken Chinese word for “wealth.” The Omakase menu is full of luxurious dishes with a Nobu-Style twist such as Botan Ebi, Uni Sashimi, Awabi Caviar, Truffle and Tamago Sauce.
Nobu Hong Kong Executive Chef Sean Mell said that seasonality was key in selecting the highlighted ingredients. “We want to showcase seasonal items that are at their freshest and most flavorful point over the Chinese New Year holiday,” Mell said. “I feel these are luxury culinary items that should be enjoyed during times of celebration.”
Nobu Kuala Lumpur
In Malaysia, the Lunar New Year is celebrated by the Chinese in the country for 15 days as a family reunion with festivities and fireworks. They also prepare one special dish for the celebration that is traditional only in Malaysia and Singapore, called Yee Sang.
Yee Sang, which loosely translates to Prosperity Toss, is essentially a salad of raw fish, shredded vegetables, condiments and sauces. Each of the 27 ingredients symbolizes a positive attribute. For example, fish is used because it sounds similar to “abundance” in Chinese, while a green radish symbolizes being forever young. The dish is traditionally served family-style, with the host or server adding additional ingredients while shouting auspicious wishes. The guests then take their chopsticks and toss the Yee Sang as high as they can--because the higher the toss, the greater your chance for wealth, luck and abundance.
Philip Leong, Executive Chef of Nobu Kuala Lumpur, enjoyed creating a Nobu-Style Yee Sang for the first time at the restaurant with assorted sashimi, ponzu jelly, yuzu honey sauce, fried yuba skin along with more traditional ingredients like pomelo, cucumber, carrot and daikon. “In Nobu Kuala Lumpur, we like to use some of the local ingredients and infuse them with Nobu-Style,” Leong said. However, the restaurant is a little more conservative when it comes to the shouting and tossing.
“We don’t encourage the toss, because it will look messy on the table,” Leong said. “After all, we are a fine dining Japanese restaurant and our clientele are mostly expats and royalty.”