January 19, 2023 GMT

Each Lunar New Yr with out fail, Kat Lieu’s mom would make her steamed nian gao, which is a candy rice — or mochi — cake. It was a tasty custom of getting dessert for breakfast.

The Seattle-based creator of the “Trendy Asian Baking at House” cookbook and founding father of the Refined Asian Baking on-line group switches issues up for her 9-year-old son. He will get mochi waffles made with shiny inexperienced pandan the primary morning of the brand new 12 months.

“This 12 months once more I’m going to make the waffles,” mentioned Lieu, who’s half Chinese language and half Vietnamese. “I’m additionally going to make the steamed nian gao and issues like that, and attempt to have him admire it extra, too.”

Not like Thanksgiving, when pie is a given at many households, desserts and confections at Lunar New Yr are as diversified because the Asian diasporas all over the world that commemorate it.

Households from China to the U.S. to Vietnam will mark the brand new 12 months on Sunday with the standard customs corresponding to elaborate dinners and purple envelopes with cash for youngsters. There might be customary candy snacks like nian gao. However on this age of social media, meals savviness and cultural satisfaction, youthful generations of Asians are also getting extra impressed to have dessert programs which might be whimsical and artistic — from black sesame financiers to peanut butter miso cookies.

In Beijing, residents have been flocking to the flagship retailer of Daoxiangcun, one of many metropolis’s best-known bakeries, for brand spanking new year-themed dessert reward packing containers through which among the pastries had been formed like a rabbit, the animal of the upcoming 12 months’s Chinese language zodiac.

On Saturday, folks stood in line exterior the shop for hours for the possibility to purchase baked items, in accordance with a staffer. Even at a much less standard department half a block away, prospects nonetheless needed to wait 40 minutes.

For Lexi Li, it was about bringing slightly one thing to family members although it meant ready within the line for seven hours in sub-freezing temperatures.

“I don’t actually like desserts and pastries, however I simply need to carry one thing house as a present,” mentioned the 30-year-old, who walked out with a stack of eight packing containers for family and friends in her hometown Taiyuan, in central China’s Shanxi province.

Identified for its numerous meals tradition, China gives quite a lot of Lunar New Yr desserts which might be often rice-based or flour-based. They embrace tang yuan, that are mochi-esque rice balls with black sesame or peanut paste in soup, in addition to sesame balls, almond cookies, candied lotus seeds and fats goh — steamed muffins also called prosperity muffins.

Nian gao stays some of the standard choices. Its key ingredient is glutinous rice flour, together with different issues corresponding to taro, dates, jujube and purple bean paste, relying on the variability. Its identify is a homonym for “larger 12 months” in Chinese language, which means a extra affluent 12 months forward and expressing needs for youngsters to develop taller.

The well-preserved custom performs an important function in passing on Chinese language tradition as a result of it retains alive a meals tradition honoring grains and reminding folks of how festivals are celebrated going again to the seventh century, in accordance with Siu Yan Ho, a Hong Kong-based professional in Chinese language meals tradition.

“Meals is reminiscence, and this reminiscence is related with festivals,” Siu mentioned.

In Vietnam, which is celebrating the Yr of the Cat, sweets additionally differ by area. Vietnamese folks eat nian gao, which they name banh to. Additionally they eat che kho gao nep, a pudding made with sticky rice and a combination of water, ginger and both sugar or molasses. Different delectables embrace che kho dau xanh — a mung bean pudding made with coconut milk and sugar — and banh tet chuoi, a glutinous rice cake with bananas.

“On Lunar New Yr, for 3 days you go go to household, mates and academics,” mentioned Linh Trinh, a Vietnamese meals historian who’s getting a PhD within the topic on the College of Michigan. “So all people has to retailer a variety of snacks of their home for folks to return go to and have tea. It turns into just like the satisfaction of the family to serve their conventional snacks.”

Extra U.S. corporations are discovering a candy spot in incorporating Lunar New Yr parts. Cupcake chain Sprinkles, in collaboration with the pan-Asian cultural assist nonprofit Gold Home, is promoting purple velvet cupcakes with an almond cookie crust and almond cream cheese frosting. At Disney California Journey Park, company can order milk tea cheesecake with taro mousse.

Judging by the 150,000-plus membership of the Refined Asian Baking Fb group, a variety of Asians are extra about exhibiting off one thing they made for the vacation reasonably than purchased. The neighborhood has come a good distance from when Lieu began it in 2020. For the third 12 months, there was a digital Lunar New Yr bake-off on Fb and Instagram the place members share images of gorgeous macarons, chiffon muffins and different pastries.

“You’re innovating. You’re bringing appreciation to all these superb components,” Lieu mentioned. “And you then’re you’re making it your personal traditions, which is superb.”

Kelson Herman, of San Francisco, crafted a sourdough boule with an illustration of Miffy, a woman bunny from a well-liked Dutch youngsters’s ebook sequence, for the Lunar New Yr. Already an avid baker, the 44-year-old received impressed by seeing on-line what different folks had been doing.

“I see a variety of boundaries being pushed, folks attempting to not simply one-up one another however be extra inventive,” Herman mentioned. “I really feel prefer it all the time comes all the way down to flavors that carry again sort of familial reminiscences. … It may very well be issues that simply evoke dialog and household.”

In Queens, New York, Karen Chin made a two-tier cake frosted in coconut buttercream topped with a white chocolate rabbit. One layer was vanilla with purple bean paste. The opposite was spiced cake with cardamom and mango curd. It’s a far cry from the fats goh her grandmother makes.

“I advised my grandma that I used to be going to make a cake. And he or she’s like, ‘Don’t make it too sophisticated,’” Chin mentioned, chuckling.

But, Chin’s creativity yielded some particular household moments.

“I used to be so touched as a result of final time when she got here and he or she ate one thing, she’s like ‘You make good meals.’ I used to be like, ‘Wow, that’s the primary time she complimented me,’” Chin mentioned.

Sue Ng, who was born and raised in Canada however now lives in Hong Kong, likes to “cute-ify” pastries for particular events. In the course of the pandemic, she discovered a ardour for combining baking and her love of Asian popular culture. Previous Lunar New Yr creations included a rolled cake that seemed like a White Rabbit Creamy Sweet, a Chinese language model as iconic because the Hershey bar.

Ng mentioned that as a result of her two school-age daughters have grown up in Hong Kong, they’ve realized the significance of the Lunar New Yr, together with the meals. However she additionally likes to throw in one thing totally different, corresponding to black sesame financiers and salted egg yolk cookies.

“A Lunar New Yr dessert to me is one thing made utilizing Asian parts as regards to traditionally-made items throughout this time,” Ng mentioned in an e mail. “Now we will be inventive and make one thing like nian gao-filled cookies and the concepts are limitless! Candy treats are a should throughout this time as a result of it symbolizes a candy life.”


Related Press information assistant Caroline Chen in Beijing contributed to this report.


Tang is a member of The Related Press’ Race and Ethnicity group. Observe her on Twitter at @ttangAP.