Last night as Andy and I feasted on crispy duck in steamed buns following the Chinese New Year’s Parade in Los Angeles’ Chinatown, we looked back over the day’s events and discussed our favorite moments. Mine, as always, were the same two:
1. Admiring the dragons in the parade. There were more this year, all fearsome and frolicsome and resplendent in an array of colors and designs. I loved every one of them, from the gargantuan ones powered by at least two dozen people whose legs were all we could see beneath the flashy, satiny bodies, to the tiniest, being tugged and tossed this way and that by small children who had yet to understand what all the fuss was about.
2. Feasting on red bean paste cakes and sweet sesame balls when we first hopped off the Metro and strolled up the hill into Chinatown. While the meal of Peking duck and braised tofu was tasty, there’s nothing quite like the “welcome back to Chinatown” feeling I experience when I stop by one of its numerous bakeries for these simple pastries which have no Western counterparts. They’re uniquely Asian and quite good. The red bean and lotus pastes are so richly, sweetly dense that once you have a mouthful, you have to stop for a moment to savor before swallowing. And while you’re doing so, you pause and look around at this chip of real estate that transports you to another country, across the ocean. It’s a great way to slow your step and begin to breathe in the atmosphere that pervades Chinatown. Plus these protein-packed sweets carried us through the rest of the day, shopping, sightseeing and parade watching, until it was time for dinner.
As much as I look forward to those sweet, dense pastries, I could return to the bakery and pick up more for dinner, and just forget all about a sit-down meal. To my mind, they’re a great way to begin a new year, Chinese or otherwise.