By Christine Mouser
With Chinese New Year just around the corner (Monday, January 23), many locals throughout town are looking for just the right meal to celebrate this holiday. And the Chinese New Year celebration pays tribute to some pretty interesting and delicious foods that represent aspects of Chinese culture. Check out these spots in town that serve up some great Chinese food all-year round.
Soba is a great local restaurant that seems to offer every different type of Asian cuisine you could think of—like Vietnamese, Korean, Thai and Chinese. The menu changes often, but the quality doesn’t. Two Chinese staples can be found on this menu at reasonable prices: pork dumplings, served with sweet vinegar dipping sauce and the shrimp and vegetable spring rolls, served with hot mustard sauce. All different types of fish dishes popular in Asian cuisine are scattered throughout the menu: cod, tandoori grilled salmon, scallops, shrimp, mussels and sea scallops, just to name a few.
Soba annually celebrates the Chinese New Year by creating a special menu program that successfully highlights some major staples of this Chinese holiday. Last year’s menu was a creative concept, influenced by the “Year of the Rabbit” designation. Some highlights included the braised rabbit leg, pork dumpling (served with fermented black bean-lime sauce), the shrimp spring roll, and the sea scallops, served with taro root cake and mixed choy.
But the menu pairing is not just thrown together for the sake of it. The Chinese New Year holds special meaning to those who celebrate it, and the food is no different. The pork dumplings represent wealth and strength, while the shrimp spring roll symbolizes happiness. Soba’s menu also includes some great desserts, like the Meyer lemon panna cotta, served with candied kumquats and whipped coconut. Kumquats traditionally symbolize gold or wealth, while coconut represents togetherness among each other, an important aspect of Chinese culture. Soba plans on having another Chinese New Year celebration from January 23-26, so look out for an updated menu featuring a new year of perfected delicacies.
Soba is one of the highlights in the area when it comes to a great Chinese New Year menu. But Pittsburgh has plenty of other options for locals to celebrate this holiday.
For Sichuan style Chinese food:
Sichuan style Chinese food is for those who love some spice in their meal, and How Lee really does it really well… and really hot. This Squirrel Hill favorite has a great menu featuring some Americanized options as well as some traditional Chinese grub. But most people come here for the back page of the menu, which features Sichuan-style food.
New Year Favorites: Chongqing fried dry hot chicken, double cooked pork belly with spicy capsicum, Szechuan Kung pao chicken with peanuts, chili pots and the seafood hot and sour soup (not Sichuan style).
For some Asian Fusion:
Of course, most people are after Chinese food on the Chinese New Year, but a mix of several different Asian cuisines can also be fun. Plum Pan-Asian Kitchen covers it all, from Thai, Asian and Japanese to Chinese and Vietnamese. The dishes are imaginative, and the menu is huge, featuring over 50 combinations of fish. A sushi bar is also available for those craving spicy and vegetables rolls or fatty tuna, yellowtail, snapper or even eel. Chicken and beef dishes are also highlights. With its modern décor and huge menu, it’s a perfect Chinese New Year outing.
For more Chinese food, read our picks for Best Chinese Restaurants in Pittsburgh.
Christine Mouser is currently living in the Pittsburgh area, where she is an editorial intern for Pittsburgh Magazine. She has written for HappyValley.com, Town&Gown magazine and Penn State’s Valley magazine.