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Spotlight on Takeout: Lucky foods to ring in the Lunar New Year

10February 2021

Happy Lunar New Year, the Year of the Ox.

For some Asian cultures including Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Korean, the Lunar New Year marks the new moon phase and is a time to wish each other luck, longevity and prosperity. For the superstitious, certain foods are considered lucky and can determine your fate in the year ahead.

This year, the Lunar New Year falls on Feb. 12. Celebrations typically start the evening before the first day of the new year and run until the fifteenth day (Feb. 11-26 this year).

Ahead of the Lunar New Year, we ordered takeout from restaurants in St. Paul in pursuit of foods considered lucky. Also, we have the scoop on a new eggroll-inside-a-spring roll creation from Pho Pasteur that has been getting a lot of buzz.

Here’s to a new year and one better than the last.

Also, have you had some great takeout lately? We want to hear about it. Send us a note (we love photos, too!) at eat@pioneerpress.com

MAGIC NOODLE

Longevity noodles are considered lucky, bestowing happiness and longevity to those who consume them. The longer the noodles, the luckier you’ll be. So I turned to Magic Noodle in St. Paul.

Sichuan wontons in chili oil at Magic Noodle in St. Paul, July 9, 2019. (Nancy Ngo / Pioneer Press)

Several dishes feature what seem like mile-long, hand-pulled noodles at this authentic Chinese restaurant gem. My favorites of the dishes served with long noodles is the Chongqing Spicy soup with minced pork, bok choy and pickled mustard greens that’s worth trying if you can handle some serious heat. Or, for something mild, another great long noodle soup dish is the Taiwanese tomato beef brisket that is also fantastic. In the noodle bowls category, the braised pork belly and egg with long noodles is on the top of my list. Noodle soups and bowls range from $10 to $12.

Dumplings are also commonly consumed when marking the Lunar New Year. That’s because, in Chinese tradition, dumplings signify wealth. The amount of dumplings you eat during this time is an indicator of how much money you will make, so the more the better. At Magic Noodle, the made-to-order Sichuan wontons in chili oil ($5.95) can assist with making that intention come true. Have one of these delicious bite-sized pieces — or all eight pieces that come in an order to increase your luck — that pack plenty of heat. Then repeat.

1337 W. University Ave., St. Paul; 651-369-6688; magicnoodleusa.com

PHO PASTEUR

Pho Pasteur’s Vietnamese Roll Roll creation, an eggroll stuffed inside a spring roll. Photographed Feb. 3, 2021. (Nancy Ngo / Pioneer Press)

Deep-fried spring rolls, golden in color, signify wealth.

So it was the perfect time to head to Pho Pasteur to try a new appetizer dish that is part deep-fried spring roll/egg roll, part fresh spring roll that the kitchen created in hopes of drumming up more business during the pandemic.

And let us say that the Vietnamese roll roll, an eggroll stuffed inside a spring roll, is on its way to becoming a cult hit. For me, it’s the best of both worlds when I can’t decide whether to order deep-fried or fresh spring rolls. At Pho Pasteur, who says you have to choose?

A golden, crisp traditional Vietnamese eggroll hot out of the fryer is the center filling for a fresh spring roll and all of its fixings — rice noodles, cucumbers, pickled daikon and carrots, lettuce and herbs — wrapped around it. The crispiness of the eggrolls, the freshness of the spring rolls … It’s all delicious and executes like a lettuce wrap.

The rolls are giant. So while served as an appetizer, it can easily stand in for a light lunch. An order ($9.95) comes with two rolls and is served with nuoc cham and hoisin dipping sauces for added punch.

When here, I can’t place an order without pho, or beef noodle soup, being part of it. At Pho Pasteur, the Steak Brisket Pho ($10.50) with tender thin slices of beef is my favorite of the varieties offered. And in this most recent takeout order, it once again did not disappoint. Plus it’s a dish that comes with long noodles, so I figured, though not a standard Tet or Vietnamese Lunar New Year dish, it couldn’t hurt in bringing luck going into the new year either.

694 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul; 651-756-8562; phopasteurvn.com

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