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.
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!
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 babaofan 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.
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!