RICE CAKES and noodles, sweets and dumplings. Lunar New Year is full of so many of my favorite things. Whether you celebrate Chinese New Year, Korean New Year, Losar, or Tet, you have somewhere between three days and two weeks to get delicious goods ensuring your good fortune for the coming year. Asian grocery stores will have piles of citrus fruits like tangerines and pomelos waiting for you at the door, but if you want to leave the cooking to someone else, here are some solid choices.
First, grab some friends and go to OM Seafood (7632 SE Powell) and order their version of Buddha's Delight: "assorted vegetable Hong Kong style" (#139), which comes with mung bean (glass) noodles, wood ear mushrooms for longevity, symbolic vegetables for a happy family, and fried tofu and bean curd skin for a harmonious future.
Then get the "braised whole fish" (#38). You'll choose your dinner from the live tank (or let OM Seafood staff handle the task) and it'll come out a short while later braised to succulence in a garlicky brown sauce. Eating a fish with the head and tail still intact is important to begin and end the year right.
Another good option is the fresh "prawns with honey-glazed walnuts" (#45) to bring good fortune to your whole family; pick the liveliest prawns from the tank and have them served whole. If you prefer your seafood without a face, order my go-to, the fried cod fillet in XO sauce hot pot (#40 on the special red menu, which you have to ask for specifically). Your bill comes with fresh orange wedges and fortune cookies, to keep the good luck flowing.
To ensure you're the recipient of good omens, lo bak go (fried turnip cakes) are available from the lumbering dim sum carts of Ocean City (3016 SE 82nd), HK Café (4410 SE 82nd), and Wong's King (8733 SE Division). Kill two prosperous birds with one lucky stone and get your dumpling fix while you're at it, picking from any number of har gow, hum bao, and shumai. Fun fact: Eating meat dumplings is a way to celebrate Tsagaan Sar (Mongolian New Year), too, so you've got all your bases covered. Finish your meal with coconut pudding and pineapple rice cake for togetherness and good luck at gambling, respectively.
If you prefer your good fortune in the grab-and-go variety and are celebrating Tet (Vietnamese New Year), fresh bánh tét and bánh chung—sticky rice, mung beans, and meat steamed in a tidy banana leaf parcel—can be picked up daily at An Dong (5441 SE Powell) or Hong Phat (101 SE 82nd; 9818 NE Prescott). Hong Phat also carries a staggering variety of sweets and desserts—a must for celebrating Lunar New Year—or you can go directly to An Xuyen Bakery (5345 SE Foster) for the coconut raisin swirl buns, Mei Sum Bakery at Powell Street Station (8001 SE Powell) for their pineapple buns, or Meianna Bakery inside the Fubonn mall (2850 SE 82nd) for egg tarts. Get there early, while they're still warm (and before they sell out), and grab one of the cheesy hot dog rolls while you're at it.
To celebrate Korean New Year, you'll need ddeok mandu guk (rice cake stew with pork dumplings) to add one more year to your life. Kim Jong Grillin' owner Han Ly Hwang favors the version served up at New Seoul Garden (10325 SW Canyon, Beaverton). If you can't get out to the Westside (where most of the good Korean food is), Toji Grill (4615 SE Hawthorne) has a perfectly delicious version; you'll pay a little more for the convenience, but you can also have New Years-y haemul pajeon (a scallion pancake with prawns and octopus) and galbi (marinated beef short ribs) while you're there. If you're in a hurry, pick up jhapchae (sweet potato noodles stir-fried with shiitake mushrooms and carrots) to go from Kim Jong Grillin' (SE 46th & Division; NE 26th & Alberta), or hit your friendly neighborhood Korean deli.
My favorites are G-Mart (3975 SW 114th, Beaverton), Boo Han (1313 SE 82nd), and Paldo (6112 SE Foster). Pick up a bottle of sweet, fizzy, milky-white rice booze (makgeolli) while you're there, and if you really want to take it to the next level, make a maksosa cocktail: 60 percent makgeolli, 10 percent soju (Korean liquor, available at Hollywood Beverage, 3028 NE Sandy), and 30 percent lemon San Pellegrino (or Korean "cider," which is more like Sprite or 7-Up).
To your health!