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This Lunar New Year might look different compared to years past, but one aspect of the holiday must go forth, pandemic or not — a delicious spread of celebratory eats. Your gathering might just be with your household this year — and notably quieter and less smoky in the absence of the usual firecrackers and boisterous festivals — but that doesn’t mean you can’t ring in the Year of the Ox through a cozy celebration with takeout foods from local restaurants. (Just make sure to explain Venmo to your uncles and aunties so you can still cash in on that sweet, sweet red envelope money.)
This year, the holiday starts on Feb. 12, and Nosh has pinpointed several spots in Berkeley and Oakland offering traditional and not-so-traditional Lunar New Year’s fare from various cultures. Take note that some businesses require advance ordering for special items.
Named for the coastal city in Northern China that its owners hail from, Berkeley’s Da Lian is serving up specialty seafood dishes that were made to be the centerpiece of your Lunar New Year spread. Order classic braised whole fish for cod, fried head to tail, then carefully simmered in a Chinese soy-wine sauce for a delicate, fall-off-the-bone bite. For those looking for a little heat, the dry-fire whole fish is fried cod simmered in a spicy and sweet sauce. Serve either meal with a simple side of white rice to soak up every last bit of that herb- and vegetable-infused marinade. Both fish entrees are $32.95. Da Lian is open for takeout Tuesday to Sunday, 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Da Lian, 1674 Shattuck Ave. (between Virginia and Lincoln streets), Berkeley
Songkran, or Thai New Year, takes place in April, but Thailand’s large Chinese population celebrates Lunar New Year. Farmhouse Thai, which has East Bay restaurants in Jack London Square, Montclair Village (Daughter Thai) and San Leandro (Farmhouse Express), offers a Lovely Lunar Tea Set ($89.99), a bountiful array of sweet and savory bites — such as shrimp har gow, pork shumai and pig-shaped buns with custard filling — and hot tea for two. The set comes with its own three-tiered party stand. Takeout and delivery via DoorDash and UberEats. Farmhouse Kitchen, 336 Water St., (near Webster Street) Oakland; Daughter Thai Kitchen, 6118 Medau Pl. (near Moraga Avenue), Oakland; Farmhouse Thai Express, 16695 E 14th St. (at Elgin Street), San Leandro
While duck isn’t a traditional Lunar New Year food, it’s a beloved staple in Asian households for special occasions and holidays. Berkeley’s Great China is renowned for its Peking roast duck, thick cuts of tender and fatty meat blanketed by layers of impossibly thin, crispy skin. The entree is served with scallions, sweet plum sauce and 24 steamed flour wraps so you can craft your perfect bite. For a slightly deeper flavor, the half tea-smoked duck features tender meat under a layer of decadent fat served with two fluffy steamed buns. It’s sure to please even the pickiest Asian grandma. Peking roast duck is $46.95; half tea-smoked duck is $21.95. Great China offers takeout or delivery via Caviar. Hours are 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Wednesday through Monday; closed Tuesday. Great China, 2190 Bancroft Way (at Fulton Street), Berkeley
Moo Bong Ri
Moo Bong Ri is best known for its soondae (Korean blood sausage), but it’s also home to tteokguk, a rice cake soup traditionally eaten to commemorate Seollal, or Korean Lunar New Year. Moo Bong Ri’s version includes dumplings and shredded beef in a light beef broth, topped with egg and scallions for a comforting and lightly savory meal. If you’re looking to indulge, order galbijjim for a generous serving of fall-off-the-bone pork short ribs braised in a spicy, rich marinade with chewy rice cakes, onion and cabbage. Tip: Add cheese (an additional cost of $5) for a satisfyingly stretchy complement to the spice. Tteokguk is $15.99; galbijjim is $50.99 for a medium and $61.99 for a large. It’s well worth the price. Moo Bong Ri is open for takeout and delivery (via DoorDash and Postmates) from 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 4 p.m.-10 p.m., Monday to Friday; 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Moo Bong Ri, 4390 Telegraph Ave. (between 43rd and 44th streets), Ste. K, Oakland
Napoleon Super Bakery
If you’re looking for warm and fresh Lunar New Year pastries, this Oakland Chinatown go-to has you covered. Napoleon’s holiday offerings include nian gao ($7), a sweet and sticky glutinous rice flour cake thought to ring in a prosperous year, and jok gai/jau gok, a peanut puff pastry with carefully crimped edges (4 for $20). And while egg tarts aren’t traditional Lunar New Year fare, it wouldn’t be a visit to a Chinese bakery without a box or two of those creamy, flaky delights. Cash only. Napoleon Super Bakery is open 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily. Napoleon Super Bakery, 810 Franklin St. (near Eighth Street), Oakland
Nomad Tibetan Restaurant
Although Losar (Tibetan New Year) is a separate affair from Lunar New Year, the two holidays overlap this year. That means it’s the perfect time to get your momo fix from Nomad in Berkeley, which features five different types of Tibetan dumplings: beef, chicken, vegetarian and sho-kho (potato). All are plump, filled with savory broth and meticulously hand-wrapped with a thick skin meant to cradle all of their very generous stuffings. We recommend the sho-kho momo, stuffed with mildly curried potatoes, and the vegetarian momo, a texture-rich dumpling filled with fresh greens. Momos are $11.95 for eight pieces and can be fried for an additional cost. Nomad is closed on the first day of Losar, Feb. 12, but is open for the remainder of the holiday, Feb. 13-14, from noon-3 p.m. and 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Order online for takeout or delivery. Nomad Tibetan Restaurant, 1593 Solano Ave. (near Tacoma Avenue), Berkeley
Oakland’s Asian-inflected cocktail and dessert bar is crafting unique Lunar New Year cakes for the perfect end to your holiday feast. Inspired by Garden Lucky Candy, a strawberry-flavored Chinese candy typically eaten during the new year, Viridian’s Lucky Candy cake is a Maqaw pepper-almond cake with strawberry condensed milk and strawberry buttercream frosting. Its Yuzu Black Sesame cake is a lighter choice, featuring yuzu and osmanthus-flavored cake and black sesame pudding. For a sweet and savory option, the Salted Egg Yolk cake is a yellow, vanilla-infused cake flavored with brined duck egg yolks, layered with salted egg yolk pastry cream and topped with creme fraiche buttercream frosting. And for our tea-loving readers, the almond hojicha cake is filled with a pastry cream made with the roasted green tea, then frosted with salted caramel buttercream. Each cake is garnished with gold flakes so you can ring in the new year with extra prosperity. Choose between double cake layers with a single filling layer ($55-58), or triple cake layers with two filling layers ($85-88). Cake orders must be submitted at least one week in advance of pick-up; Lucky Candy cake is available starting Feb. 12, all other cakes are available through Feb. 11. Viridian is open for 3-9 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday. Viridian, 2216 Broadway (at Grand Avenue), Oakland