If you prefer to celebrate at home, I humbly suggest a nice Chinese New Year’s dinner of jai (Buddha’s Delight). Many Chinese people (not just the Buddhists) abstain from consuming meat on the first day of the New Year in hopes of achieving longevity. Some of us will also note some familiarity with another tradition: avoiding cleaning duties on New Year’s Day (so as not to sweep away good luck for the year). For more information about the celebration's traditions and customs, check out the Wikipedia entry. Or this nifty blog post over at Chow that the nice folks at the Interasian Market and Deli tweeted earlier this week.
If the Interasian Market and Deli seems familiar to you, it may be because your friends have been raving about the banh mi (said to be the best in the city) or perhaps you saw mention of them in last month’s Food and Wine magazine, in which Erik Anderson of The Catbird Seat noted that the sandwich was the perfect banh mi from the city’s “primo family-owned Southeast Asian market.” I haven’t had the banh mi (or the pork belly that’s also been heralded), but I can tell you that despite being a fraction of the size of a certain international supermarket, it has a fantastic assortment of specialty foods. Not only is it the only place I know of in the city with agar powder, I was also able to get the green jackfruit I need for my faux barbecue (fauxbecue), fresh chow mein noodles, and pandan flavoring.
I also bought all the items necessary for my jai, based loosely on this jai recipe from Chow. Though I purposely refrained from some ingredients (don’t need any more kids, so I’ll avoid the lotus seeds mentioned in the Chow blog post, thank you very much). I was also very pleased to find the agar powder, which is plant-based gelatin. Vegan Jello shots for everyone! Um, I mean vegan Jello sweet treats for my kid. They also had a nice selection of New Year's decorations toward the back of the store. Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái!
Interasian Market and Deli
2160 Nolensville Pike (just south of Wedgewood)
Monday - Wednesday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Thursday - Saturday 9:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Cash only; credit and debit cards are not accepted (but they will kindly direct you to an ATM nearby)