With humans, it always comes back to food. We love our feast days, and most of our celebrations have some kind of special food associated with them.
New Year is no exception. I celebrated new year recently with a friend for whom sour cream and cheddar chips are an integral part of the evening. He also cooked us a Chinese roast duck; much closer to my ideal celebration.
We spoke to a couple of Bay Area experts about two specialties that are close to us at the museum: Japanese mochi and Buddha hands.
Last weekend, we celebrated the new year here at the museum with mochitsuki (mochi pounding). Local Japanese teacher Yoko Hara writes:
I am from Tokyo, but I’ve never seen mochitsuki there. We bought freshly made big square mochi (Tokyo style) and my father used to cut it into small rectangular pieces. So mochitsuki by Kagamikai was a surprise and delight.
We used to live pretty close to the old site of Asian Art Museum so when my children were still young, we used to enjoy the mochitsuki with Taiko drumming every year. Being a Japanese Teacher, I now spread the word about this lovely event to all my students and friends.
Buddha’s hand has become a common sight at Heart of the City Farmers’ Market, which takes place on Wednesdays and Sundays right behind the museum. Former curator Terese Bartholomew, now a board member of the San Francisco Botanical Garden, shares her knowledge of this funny-looking cousin of the lemon:
One interesting citrus that has appeared in the farmers’ markets in recent years is the Buddha’s hand citron (Citrus medica ‘Sarcodactylis’). This yellow citron with wavy tentacles takes its common name from the shape of its fruit, which resembles the idealized fingers of the Buddha. This fragrant fruit is used as an altar offering during Chinese New Year. The fruit runs completely to rind, and is not edible unless preserved with salt or sugar. Sliced into pieces, the fruit can be prepared the same way as candied citron; dipped in chocolate, these make a most delicious snack. The Buddha’s hand citron is beloved by the Chinese because its name, foshou, puns with blessings and longevity.
Tell us what’s on your Lunar New Year table – or share your recipes for Buddha’s hands.