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Angela Chau-Gado is the co-owner of Rosewood Foods in Edmonton.Megan Albu/The Globe and Mail

Duncan Ly of Calgary’s Foreign Concept, one of city’s premier chefs, has long been celebrated for his modern approach to Asian dining. With both Chinese and Vietnamese family roots, his cooking incorporates influences from both food cultures, among others. This year, he is one of many chefs dreaming up creative dishes to celebrate Lunar New Year, which begins Tuesday.

“I think a lot of chefs who grew up celebrating Lunar New Year want to continue to celebrate it, but also want to add their cooking touches to what is traditionally served,” says the chef. “[It’s an] opportunity to get innovative and create something special while still showcasing [ingredients] that are traditionally served.”

The chef’s Lunar New Year feast this weekend has manifested in the form of a four-course set menu that offers everything from a Dungeness crab soup with caramelized scallops to lemongrass-glazed duck with baby bok choy and cellophane noodles.

In general, dumplings represent prosperity and in the chef’s family, he recalls that his mother would make taro root dumplings during holidays and special occasions. His taro root dumplings are an ode to his mother, of course, but lightly reimagined with a ground lamb filling and served with cumin-dusted lamb chops.

“I always try to keep the integrity of a dish, but then think how can I add my spin or touch to it so it’s not the same dish that you can get anywhere else during [this time of year],” Mr. Ly says. “I am proud of my heritage and proud of where I come from. I’ve not always felt like that growing up, so it’s important for me to remind myself of my heritage … and be able to showcase it through our cuisine.”

He says Calgarians have been very receptive to his Lunar New Year offerings at Foreign Concept over the years and his menu for Year of the Tiger is another sold-out celebration.

Edmonton’s Angela Chau-Gado is the co-owner of Rosewood Foods, a popular casual eatery that places its focus on well-crafted sandwiches, coffee, baked goods (including its especially popular crullers) and natural wine. With her eatery approaching its second birthday in the spring, this weekend marks Rosewood’s second Lunar New Year takeout dinner offering.

As with Mr. Ly’s menu, Ms. Chau-Gado’s is sold out, but also an ode to traditional flavours and dishes that her family has enjoyed at yearly celebrations, yet with a contemporary twist.

Above, Mom's Sticky Rice with Lapcheong and Shiitake. Below, the Black Sesame Cruller.Megan Albu/The Globe and Mail

“It’s part of my culture and it is something that we want to celebrate each year [at our restaurant]. Just like how people celebrate Christmas or Ukrainian Christmas, this is an important time for people in the Chinese community as well as Vietnamese and Korean communities,” she says.

Her mother, Linh Luong, takes most of the reins for the Lunar New Year dishes, which include the longevity symbolic Dan Dan noodles (locally made noodles with preserved mustard greens, ground pork and sesame chili sauce) and prosperity-symbolic spring rolls (with ginger-apricot dipping sauce) and delicious-sounding black sesame crullers.

“Last year our takeout dinners sold out in a week, but this year it happened in just a couple of days,” Ms. Chau-Gado says. “We’re also happy to be donating 10 per cent of our Lunar New Year dinner proceeds to the Edmonton Chinatown Care Centre.”

Chef Eva Chin spent several years leading kitchens in Vancouver before making her way to Toronto. Now, as the executive chef of Avling Kitchen and Brewery, she’s launched a Lunar New Year menu for 2022 that aims to incorporate Canadian ingredients into traditional Chinese dishes.

Five Spice Crispy Chicken Wings from Rosewood Foods.Megan Albu/The Globe and Mail

“Being able to interpret Lunar New Year food through Canadian-grown ingredients truly defines what I perceive as ‘immigrant food’. For many years our previous generations had to adapt to where they’ve resettled and use what was most abundant around them,” Ms. Chin says.

Her takeout dinner is available for order via Avling’s website from Feb. 1 to 8 (must be ordered by Feb. 1) and is comprised of nine dishes complemented by three varieties of barrel-aged beer. A portion of the dinner sales will be donated to the Asian Gold Ribbon Campaign.

For a special dessert for the Year of the Tiger, the chef milled wild rice and sourced small-batch maple syrup to create her own take on nian gao (Chinese New Year cake). Traditionally steamed, the chef has opted to bake it to add additional texture and in honour of a butter mochi crust technique her grandmother used to prepare.

“Today I find joy in rediscovering [my ancestors] footsteps by encouraging myself to learn how I can integrate my family’s culture and traditions with Canadian-grown ingredients.”

With a busy week ahead in the kitchen, the chef says she is still making time to celebrate the new year with friends and colleagues.

“Even after working all week I will still find the most joy in cooking and feeding those closest to me,” Ms. Chin says. “For Lunar New Year at home I will most likely be wrapping dumplings and steaming fish for my friends in Toronto.”


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