Continue the festive holiday season by joining the commemoration of the Lunar New Year, a one-week festival starting with an evening feast on January 24.
For Chinese, as well as some East Asian ethnic groups around the world, celebrating the Lunar New Year is a time for family reunions, delicious food, and wishing those around us a prosperous new year. Although there are limited choices in Istanbul when it comes to authentic Far East cuisine, especially when you want to try something more than comfort food on the special occasion of Lunar New Year, fortunately, you can enjoy an exclusive Chinese feast at Shang Palace, the signature restaurant of the Shangri-La Bosphorus hotel. Its long menu includes various regional dishes prepared by chefs hailing from a range of Chinese provinces, each with distinct flavors and culinary traditions. For the New Year celebration, we recommend eating some auspicious dishes that will bring you good luck in the year ahead.
Sit down at a big round table with your friends and family, as the round shape is a symbol of reunion and oneness. Start with lo hei salmon, a popular New Year dish among ethnic Chinese in Singapore and Malaysia. It is a cold dish of raw salmon and shredded veggies, and everyone around the table should toss the ingredients with chopsticks while saying greetings aloud. The higher you lift the food, the better the fortune you’ll get in the future. For appetizers that are believed to attract wealth and prosperity, choose any kind of dumplings that look like Chinese gold ingots or buns with round shapes. Another New Year must-eat is fish, but be sure to leave some leftovers, because the Chinese word for fish is a homophone of surplus, symbolizing that you will have some surplus this year. Having a whole fish is the tradition, but you can try Sichuan style chili fish as an alternative. Served after hot oil is poured on a thin layer of dried spices, this dish is famous for its intense, aromatic, and spicy flavor. But don’t worry, Shang Palace has adjusted the heat a little bit so everyone can give it a try.
As performance is a part of Chinese culinary art, Shang Palace offers an authentic visual experience for guests. If you order Peking duck, you can watch the chef finely slicing the crispy duck skin around your table. Wrap the skin with shredded scallions, cucumbers, and special sauce. The other delicious dish that includes a presentation is lamian (Chinese hand-pulled noodles in beef soup), one of our favorites on the menu. Before cooking the dish, the chef will come to your table and show you how he turns dough into thin noodles in a minute. Plus, eating long noodles also means that you will have a long life and good fortune.
Shang Palace – Hayrettin İskelesi Sokak No.1, Beşiktaş; T: 0212 275 88 88; www.shangri-la.com/istanbul/shangrila/
New in town
After its original venue at Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus, Dragon Restaurant recently opened the second branch at Bebek Hotel, where you can enjoy authentic Chinese cuisine by the Bosphorus every evening from Tuesday to Sunday. Located on the basement floor of the waterfront hotel, the indoor dining space is at sea level with an excellent atmosphere and chic, modern Chinese decor. The menu features a variety of delicious stir-fried dishes that have the distinctive aroma, heat, and flavor of wok cooking. It’s also a good place for seafood lovers to try shrimp, squid, and fish dishes cooked in the Chinese way. Small groups (two people minimum) can order a set meal that includes a starter and four dishes of your choice, served with rice and noodles. The restaurant is often fully booked so make sure to call for reservations in advance. Cevdet Paşa Caddesi No.34, Bebek; T: 0212 265 39 39
Far Eastern tastes
Eating Chinese hot pot is another good way to celebrate special occasions with friends and family, especially on cold days. At Tian Xiang Fu (@tianxiangfu_small_hotpot), Tian Fa (@tianfa), and No.1 Hot Pot(@no1hotpotistanbul) in Şişli, you can order a different broth to cook meat, vegetables, and noodles at your table.
The Lunar New Year is also celebrated by Koreans and Vietnamese as national holidays. Although there are no Vietnamese restaurants in Istanbul, you can find many places to try Korean food. Enjoy Korean BBQ and other traditional dishes at Seorabeol Restaurant. Kore Şehitleri Caddesi No.57/B, Şişli; T: 0212 275 25 95
For a modern twist, Isokyo at Zorlu Center offers delicious contemporary Pan-Asian dishes. The innovative starters created by chef Minwoo Yun combine iconic flavors and cooking traditions of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese cuisine, and are ideal to share with a group of friends. I:@isokyoistanbul; T :0212 924 02 44