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今天是大寒,也是火猴年最後一個節氣了。緊接下來就是立春,金雞年即將來到。

We’ve entered the last solar term of the year, Major Cold. This means it’s the very end of the Fire Monkey year. In one week, it will be Chinese New Year, and we will enter the year of Golden Rooster.

我相信大家都正在忙著吃尾牙,並準備春節的大小事務。無論是要返鄉,出國旅遊,還是備好好年貨及大小紅包,所有在台灣的人這星期應該都非常忙碌。

I’m sure everyone in Taiwan is very busy this year. Whether it’s attending end-of-year holiday company dinners, prepping traditional goods for lunar new year, prepping for a trip back to your hometown or out of the country, or getting all the red envelops ready, there must be a lot to do!

大寒傳統節氣飲食中包括八寶飯,而它總是讓我想起童年。八寶飯是爸爸最喜歡的甜點之一,我們三姐妹從嬰兒時期就經常跟著爸媽在信義路上的鼎泰豐本店吃飯。鼎泰豐還只有那一家店面,只有兩層樓時,老闆娘親手在收銀台旁包餛飩還不忘和客人寒暄聊天時,我們就是鼎泰豐的常客。每次桌上一定會有小籠包、元盅雞麵,還有酸辣湯。鹹食用完,甜食也總有爸爸喜歡的八寶飯,姊姊喜歡的豆沙小包。直到了出國以後,美國許多大城市的中國城餐廳都吃過一遍後,才知道鼎泰豐口味的珍貴,因此每一次回國都還是會要求爸媽陪我們去吃鼎泰豐。

Generally, there are specific traditions to perform and food items to consume for each solar terms, for we eat with the season, to optimize health. For Major Cold, one of the food items always reminds me of my childhood, it’s called babaofan. It’s one of my dad’s favorite desserts, my sisters and I have been going to the original Din Tai Fung store for dinners with my parents since infancy. We were regulars back when there was only one location, when there were only two stories at the location, when the owner’s wife made wontons by hand while chatting with customers. Now it’s got international locations all over the world.

Every time we go there, we would order the signature xiaolongbao (soup dumplings), chicken noodle soup (chinese sytle), and sweet and sour soup (very different from your Chinese takeout). For dessert, there is always a babofan for dad and some red bean dumplings for my older sister. Only after I came abroad, and after I tried endless restaurants in Chinatowns of several major cities, did I understand how precious those flavors are. Whenever I go home to visit now, I still ask my parents to dine with us in Din Tai Fung.

小時候覺得八寶飯上的彩色「珠寶」部份不能吃,天生不喜甜食的我也不太吃豆沙餡,所以總是挖旁邊的糯米飯吃上兩口。再過一個星期就要回台灣陪爸媽過年了,相信又會看到八寶飯上桌,畢竟那是一家團圓的代表性食物之一,非常期待!

When I was little, I always thought the “jewels” atop the babaofan don’t look edible. Being born without a sweet tooth, I didn’t get into the red bean paste filling too much either. So I would literally get a couple bites of the sweet glutinous rice and be happy about that. It was good memories. I’ll be in Taiwan in another week, I’m sure I’ll be sharing babaofan with my family again. Because when I see it, I know I’m home, I absolutely cannot wait!