The Best London Restaurants for Lunar New Year 2022

This year’s Lunar New Year festivities fall on 1 February, and it’s no surprise that food and drink are central to the celebrations – both are said to play a big part in bringing good luck and great prosperity. Families reunite to feast for days during East and South East Asia’s biggest annual holiday; each food has its own time-honored tradition, and represents special traits for the coming year.

This Lunar New Year is also significant because it is the first in two years where, in London, life feels at least somewhat closer to normal. Whether aiming higher with a nian gao (year cake); elongating life by slurping some longevity noodles; or wondering exactly to what extent the culinary tropes of LNY represent the reality of the diaspora communities of the UK, one thing is certain: the Year of the Tiger is going to be delicious.


Lo Hei / Yusheng (Prosperity salad)

Chinese culture is big on similar phonetics to auspicious phrases, which is why “yusheng” meaning “raw fish” sounds a lot like “abundance.” This communal Cantonese-style raw salad is served at the start of a Lunar New Year Banquet and symbolizes abundance, prosperity and vigor. It’s typically made up of various shredded vegetables and assorted toppings, a sweet plum sauce, and slices of raw fish. The saying goes; the higher the toss, the more luck brought into the new year. Gather the gang around the dining table with chopsticks at hand and work those arms out by mixing and raising ingredients together all whilst shouting auspicious wishes and “Lo hei, lo hei!” (scoop it up, scoop it up).

Where to get it:
Rice Guys x Sambol Shiok on Pezu: Kick start the new calendar year by making a mess. A lightly smoked salmon-topped Prosperity salad packed with fresh vegetables, grapefruit, marinated seaweed, prawn crackers, and wonton crackers. There’s even the option to go hyper luxe with abalone and jellyfish. Mandy Yin’s return to an in-person LNY meal has already sold out, so here’s how to avoid FOMO.

Tao Tao Ju, 15 Lisle St. Part of its Year of the Tiger celebration set menu or as a standalone dish for two to four persons. Beautifully arranged cucumber, carrot, pepper, lettuce, radish, onion, ginger, grapefruit, salmon and fried wonton strips on a platter. Sprinkled with sesame seeds and peanuts.


Dumplings

The number of dumplings eaten at New Year is said to symbolize the amount of money one will have in the coming year, so eating one’s weight in “gold” by gorging on a mountain of dumplings comes highly recommended. The reason behind the wealth connection is that the shape of the dumplings is said to resemble ingot-shaped coins, an ancient Chinese currency. Some people may even choose to hide a coin inside one of the dumplings – the person who finds the coin is said to receive good fortune. But: let it be known that the origins of this tradition are regionally contested, prone to debate, and, perhaps, exaggerated by political media.

Where to get it:
My Neighbors the Dumplings, 165 Lower Clapton Rd and 170-180 Victoria Park Rd. Get your fill of mighty fine potstickers and plump dumplings that are made in-house and available either for dining in or finishing at home.

Dumpling Shack, Old Spitalfields Market, Brushfield St. Shack up with a tray of juicy shengjianbao which have been pan-fried and steamed to perfection. A word of warning though, the scorching hot broth will squirt everywhere once bitten into.

Noodle and Beer, 31 Bell Ln, Spitalfields. Eat the dumpling rainbow at this fashion-forward Chongqing and Sichuan noodle restaurant. All handmade and comes in three different flavors: purple kale, scrambled egg with fresh prawns, and assorted meat.

Din Tai Fung, 5 Henrietta Street. 18-plate steamed soupy perfection. There’s a reason why these Taiwanese treasures are so sought after around the world.

Dumpling Shack's shengjianbao - & nbsp; some of the best dumplings in London, available for take away this Lunar New Year as London is in coronavirus lockdown

Dumpling Shack’s shengjianbao
Michaël Protin / Eater London

Steamed whole fish

In Cantonese the word for fish – “yu” – sounds similar to the words wish and abundance, going hand-in-hand with “leen leen yow yu” – another traditional Chinese saying meaning to have abundance, success and wealth year after year. As a result, it’s customary to serve fish at some point during a New Year meal. For bonus luck points, the fish should be served whole, with head and tail attached, which symbolizes a good beginning and ending for the coming year. A word of warning, though: an old superstition says it’s a big no to flip the fish whilst eating, as this symbolizes belly’s up, or in Chinese, “fan tow” – a capsizing boat, or death.

Where to get it:
Chu Chin Chow, 7 Cat Hill, East Barnet. Oakleigh Park’s hidden gem bringing the goods. Choose from sea bass, dover sole, or turbot steamed in ginger and spring onions, black bean sauce, pan-grilled with soy sauce or Malaysian assam sambal sauce.

Golden Dragon, 28-29 Gerrard St and Bang Bang Oriental Food Hall 399 Edgware Rd. Part of the six-course Year of the Tiger set menu. Order the show-stopping whole steamed turbot with ginger, spring onion, and chillies.

Turbot with spring onions and ginger at Chu Chin Chow in East Barnet, one of the best places to order takeaway this Lunar New Year while London is in coronavirus lockdown

Turbot with spring onions and ginger at Chu Chin Chow in East Barnet
Jessica Wang

White cut chicken

White cut chicken is a whole chicken that’s been poached in a broth; it may not look like much, but it’s moist, tender and packed with heaps of flavor. Serving a whole chicken during the celebration symbolizes completeness and rebirth. In Chinese culture, chicken forms part of the symbolism of the dragon and phoenix, both mythical creatures bursting with luck, and the origin of the rebirth meaning. Again, extra luck points for keeping the whole chicken intact; having its head, tail and feet attached represents wholeness.

Where to get it:
Gold Mine, 102 Queensway. Its famous roast duck gets all the attention, but the steamed chicken with ginger and spring onion sauce boasts an unreally soft butter-like texture.

New Tastes, 183 Mare Street. Order the Imperial Steamed chicken topped with a mountain of julienne spring onions and ginger. White meat that’s so silky and soft it practically slides down your gullet.

Longevity noodles

Do not even think about cutting the strands of noodles short: the longer the noodle, the longer the lifespan. Noodles are the key to longevity and harmony in Chinese culture and they’re not just limited to lunar New Year celebrations, they can be a part of birthdays as they mark every passing year.

Where to get it:
Chang’s Noodles, 35-37 New Oxford Street, Bloomsbury. Thanks to the hand-pulled technique and no use of machinery, Chang’s noodles are some of the most elastic and chewy in the business.

Four Seasons, 23 Wardour St and 84 Queensway (Gerrard Street branch closed). The roast duck specialist might be known for its glossy hanging birds, but the braised yee mein noodles with crab meat are bouncy strands of delight covered in a thick gravy-like oyster sauce.

Mandarin Kitchen, 14-16 Queensway. Signature lobster noodles are the name of the game at this legendary Queensway joint, but try the homely braised e-fu noodles, a delightful springy chewy texture loaded with luxurious umami seafood and shiitake mushrooms.

Spring rolls

Say goodbye to winter and say hello to spring with some delightfully crunchy spring rolls. Spring rolls get their name from the Spring Festival in mainland China and they’re served to represent the new beginning of the year. Typically filled with vegetables or meat, these crisp little cylinders of joy are a symbol of wealth because of their likeness to golden bars.

Where to get it:
Maxim Ealing, 53-155 Northfield Ave, West Ealing. A west London institution that needs no introduction. Instead of the signature old-school Pekingese dishes try the crispy crackling spring rolls filled with rainbow julienned veggies.

Tang yuan (Sweet dumplings)

These chewy, multi-colored glutinous rice balls in sweet syrupy ginger soup are associated with family togetherness. The round shape and pronunciation also symbolize union, so they’re often eaten throughout the New Year period when families get together for meals.

Where to get it:
Five Friends Dessert, 12 Little Newport St. Chinatown’s new dessert shop on the block. Slurp up a range of refreshing dessert bowls such as sago, bean paste soup, double skin soup or sweet yet fiery clear ginger broth. All are accompanied with a choice of toppings, including ‘QQ’ texture glutinous brown sugar black sesame rice balls.

Tian Tian, 166 Mile End Road. Balls to the wall. Choose from an assortment of flavors including black sesame, red bean, or peanut in a green tea soup.

Nian gao (glutinous rice cake)

Nian gao literally translates to “year cake,” which also sounds a bit like the Cantonese homonym for “higher year.” The sweet dessert is supposed to help the person that eats it climb the social ladder and achieve new heights. For this reason, some believe that the sticky steamed cake leads to a richer and sweeter life. Typically made with glutinous rice flour and cane sugar, it’s usually served as a dessert, but in different parts of Asia it can come in many shapes, sizes and varieties.

Where to get it:
Royal China, various locations. Eat good and do good with this Year of the Ox fundraising box. The regal Chinese restaurant has teamed up with Goldsmiths University to create a special jiggly nian gao with all proceeds going towards helping Arts and Humanities students in critical need of financial support.

Mama Chen’s Kitchen. A glutinous rice cake made with love and hand-pounded care. A laborious process, but chef Ivy and her mum promise extra bounce and chew than the standard fare.

Good fortune fruit

Load up on vitamin C, as auspicious fruits are said to bring wealth, good health and fullness.

There’ll be plenty of lucky oranges and tangerines being passed around, as the Chinese words for orange and gold sound similar, while the word tangerine sounds like “luck.” Pomelos are also considered lucky, as the large grapefruit cousin signifies abundance; the Chinese word for grapefruit sounds like the word for “to have.”

Where to get it:
Plum Valley, 20 Gerrard St. Technically not an actual orange, but finish on something sweet with these oh-so cute limited edition New Year custard buns shaped like the lucky citrus fruit.

20 Sidworth St, Hackney, London, E8 3SD

4 Duchess Walk, London, SE1 2SD

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