Tết in L.A.: 4 Ways to Celebrate the Lunar New Year at the Farmers Market (Recipe)
Diep TranBuddha's Hand Citron
Tết marks the beginning of the new year in the lunar calendar and its attendant rituals read like a list poem. A spray of peach blossoms for the returning spring; a platter of satsumas to invite wealth; a garland of firecrackers to chase out misfortune. To insure that your own year is a good one, look no further than the Hollywood farmers market, which abounds with metonyms and metaphors for courting the triplets felicity, prosperity and fortuity.
Diep TranPaperwhite Narcissus from Peter Lee
Spring Posies, for a prosperous year
Peter Lee's bit of asphalt is a carpet of plantlings. There you'll find narcissuses with white petals and canary yellow hearts. Choose buds that will break out of their spathe by month's end - flowering paperwhites on New Year's Day are emblems of luck.
Surrounded by flora at Peter's, give yourself permission to mix in a bit of Victorian tradition and pick up a few pansies. Victorians, afflicted by the inability to say what they mean and mean what they say, developed an extensive language of flowers for conveying emotions that range from the chaste to the illicit. In the Victorian language of flowers, pansies signify thoughts.
Arrange the two flowers next to each other on your nightstand, so that intention may be coupled with fortune in the coming year.
Diep TranPomegranates from Mudd Creek Ranch
Nuts & Seeds, for fecundity
Stop by K&K Ranch for red walnuts and check Mud Creek Ranch to see if they've still pomegranates. Take care to gift these symbols of fertility only to your friends who wish to be with child.
Diep TranCarrots from Underwood Family Farms
Pickles, for digestion
Tết involves a lot of fatty pork either braised in coconut juice, steamed inside sticky rice or sautéed with woodear and formed into headcheese. Underwood Family Farms' purple carrots, pink radishes and orange cauliflower make for a colorful dưa góp that will act as intermezzi between all the meat courses. Think of them as a vegetal Norman hole - you know, so you can eat more pork.
Diep TranBuddha's Hand Citron from Bernard Ranches, candied
Candied Citrus, for a sweet year
At Bernard Ranches, Friend's Ranch and JJ's Lone Daughter Ranch are Oro Blanco grapefruit, Meyer lemons and perhaps the last Buddha's Hands citron of the season. Simmer the peels in sugar until they're translucent like stained glass and give them a coating of sanding sugar for a Taoist approach to the year ahead.
Candied Buddha's Hand Citron
From: Diep Tran
Makes: about 50 candied slices and extra smaller pieces.
2 lbs. Buddha's Hand citron
3 lbs. sugar
5 cups water
1 lb. sanding sugar for coating the Buddha's Hand pieces
1. Clean the Buddha's Hands by soaking them in water and using a vegetable brush to scrub off any grime from the surface, paying extra attention to the crevices where the "fingers" sprout.
2. Starting at the stem-side of the Buddha's Hand, slice into 1/3-inch slices. You'll wind up with large flower-shaped slices (from the base of the citron) and coin-shaped pieces (from the "fingers" of the citron).
3. Rid the Buddha's Hands of bitterness: put the slices in a pot and add water until they're in 2 inches of water. Let simmer until slices are translucent, about 1½ hours.
4. Drain the slices (take care not to break the flowers) and discard the liquid. Return the citron slices to the pot and add 3 lbs. of sugar and 5 cups water.
5. Bring the pot to a boil, then simmer until the slices turn translucent again, about 2 hours.
6. Take the pot off heat and use a spider strainer to transfer the citron slices to a colander. Let the slices drain for 30 minutes before tossing them in sanding sugar.
7. Shake off excess sugar and lay the slices on dehydrator trays. Set the dehydrator at 110ºF and dry the citron for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
Note: Andrea Nguyen's Into the Vietnamese Kitchen is an excellent resource for Tết recipes, should you have neither a patient and knowledgeable cook nor a family commonplace book.
Diep Tran is the owner and chef of Good Girl Dinette in Highland Park. Read about her and her restaurant on her blog, follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.
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