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Chinese New Year Exploration {Sundays with Shelby}

For the past twenty years, in a round-about way, I’ve celebrated Chinese New Year.  By day (and sometimes night) I manage an import company, who’s core factories are located in Taiwan, mainland China, and the Philippines.  I’ve developed close relationships with my business partners in Asia and love hearing about their family traditions. I really do. However, being completely honest here, I most relate Chinese New Year to factory shut-downs which result in inventory shortages.  There I said it.  It’s my job to manage it I know, no fault of the factories.  Whew…there I said that too.

chicken and cashew lettuce wraps with peanut sauce

This year I’ve decided as a company we will {embrace} Chinese New Year.  We won’t curse it.  We won’t dread it.  We will instead, in true Delaney fashion, welcome it…to our break room.  We shall have a party.  An all-things Chinese New Year Party.  The food we love will be entwined with a bit of history and culture.  The Cantonese word for lettuce is pronounced the same as the term ‘rising fortune.’  So I will share Chicken & Cashew Lettuce Wraps.  May they bring wealth to our lives. 

Shelby and I set out on an adventure Sunday morning (we call these Sundays with Shelby) to ‘experience’ CNY as close to home as we could.  That could only mean one thing, Buford Highway, GA.  Buford Highway is a thriving International corridor running from the North side of Atlanta right into the city.  It’s known to have one of the highest concentrations of foreign-born residents in the country.  This multi-ethnic community has no shortage of authentic Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Mexican, and a wealth of other hole-in-the-wall-give-me-more-of-that-which-I-can-not-pronounce-but-must-have-more-of-goodness.

Canton House

So we did what we thought we should do first and stood 40 deep for an hour to get a seat at Canton House for Dim Sum.  In the spirit of adventure, we said yes to something from the first 4 carts that rolled by and then started to scale back.

Buford Highway

All-in-all we tried 7 different items before our bellies said STOP.  The check was a whopping $23 and we brought home about half of what we ordered.  I want to talk about each of the seven items, mostly for my sister who was so excited for us and coaxed me in to the Chicken Feet…but I think I’ll save our reviews of the day until the end :)

Canton House

When we finished lunch we followed the sound of firecrackers.  The ground was carpeted with firecracker paper and the air smelled of sulfur.  We wound our way into a plaza parking lot where a crowd had gathered.  We worked our way to the front.  A maze of thousands of firecrackers had been set up like one of those Guinness World Record domino stunts.

Buford Highway

In the background was a group of teens in Chinese costumes gathered around large drums and various instruments.  Two young men transformed into a dragon as the fireworks were ignited.  To the delight of the crowd they danced and dodged thousands of mini explosions, as did we.  Wow, they are serious about these firecrackers… When the sulfur, which intrigued us initially, became a little more than we could handle we just ducked into an Asian import store.  Ha.

Buford Highway

We had a few more must do’s on our list, so we cruised the International corridor looking for a good….Foot Massage.  I must say it’s quite therapeutic to just say it.  We actually googled “Best Foot Massage on Buford Highway” before making our decision.  As we made our second u-turn (legal I’m sure) in an attempt to find Treat Your Feet, there in front of us was Buford Highway Farmer’s MarketTHE BHFM.  The foot rub would have to wait.

Buford Highway Farmers Market

As wonderful as Whole Foods is on many levels, the Buford Highway Farmers Market is incredible.  There is an eggplant isle.  And an entire isle for peppers.  Fresh herb and exotic spices galore.  There are rows of fresh fish on ice and then there’s really fresh fish (as in alive) in tanks, most that I’ve never even heard of.  We worked our way up and down the isles, selected several Chinese candies to share at the office on Monday, a pomegranate for a little Valentine cocktail I’m planning, before heading on to our next stop.  Buford Highway Farmers Market, we will be back.

Buford Highway Farmers MarketsBuford Highway Farmers MarketsBuford Highway Farmers MarketsBuford Highway Farmers MarketsBuford Highway Farmers MarketsBuford Highway Farmers Markets

By this time the foot massage was sounding better and better and I was pleasantly surprised when we walked in the front door of this smoked glass storefront business.  It was rather Zen-like.  We were greeted warmly, offered hot tea, and nestled into over-stuffed chaise chairs.  Reviews at the end.

One more stop, or so we thought.  The Vietnamese Bakery.  As we circled the Asian Square over-flowing parking lot, in what was now a mild down-pour, we spotted one empty parking spot.  Wouldn’t you know it just happened to be in front of THE restaurant where Shelby first experienced ‘Pho’ (a classic Vietnamese street food consisting of beef broth with rice noodles, a choice of meat, and a variety of greens, herbs, and assorted vegetables). That’s it, that’s the one.  So we pulled in.  Why not?!  What’s one more flavor experience when that’s what our day IS/WAS all about.  Pho to-go.  Oh wait, you have Bánh mì‘s (crazy incredible sandwiches loaded with flavor), for $2.00 each.  Shut up (I didn’t say it, but thought it) so we ordered two of those and some Vietnamese Egg Rolls to take with us.

And now on to our last stop, the Vietnamese Bakery.  As I’m writing this, it’s after 10:00 pm, 4 hours after I visited this ‘Vietnamese Bakery’ and I’m still a little full of emotional yum about it, as in WOW.  Oh my.  Really.  Why has no one told me…and if you did, you didn’t really deliver how Awe-mazing a Vietnamese Bakery is.  Needless to say we brought home a sampling.

Vietnamese BakeryVietnamese BakeryVietnamese Bakery

So, if you are still reading, you are certainly related to me and most likely one or two of my closest family members.  But here is the review of our CNY crawl.

Discovery #1 ~ Canton House for Dim Sum.  It was okay.  Having no other Dim Sum experience to compare it to, but coming off of fresh homemade dumplings last week…I’m not sure.  We had Sui Mai (Chicken), Har Gau (Shrimp), Fun Gor (Pork), Stuffed Eggplant (stuffed with shrimp paste), Sesame Seed Balls (filled with red bean paste), Fung Jeow (Chicken Feet), Fried Rice (made with rice patties), and Jasmine Tea.  The steamed dumplings (Mai, Gau, Gor) were good.  The eggplant was eggplant yummy which I love, Shelby wasn’t sure.  The sesame balls were very good and slightly sweet.  Chicken Feet – I was coached on how to eat chicken feet.  After the first one, I thought surely that was not how they’re supposed to be….so I tried another.  What on earth.  I love good crisp chicken skin with the best of them, but mushy chicken fat drenched in Chinese marinade with bones inside….blahK!  Sorry Sarah :)  One disappointment for sure was that we filled up before ordering spring rolls.

Discovery #2 ~ impromptu Firecracker Dragon Celebration.  Very cool.  Perhaps the most authentic portion of they day which made us a little giddy!  Followed by the Asian gift store for some trinkets for the girls in the office.

Discovery #3 ~ Buford Highway Farmers Market.  Incredible.  B and I will have to revisit and take our time really exploring each isle.  To begin, I’d like to discover one new produce item each time we go and incorporate it into a dish.

Discovery #4 ~ Asian Foot Massage.  At $25 for an hour it can’t be bad and it wasn’t.  But it wasn’t life changing either.  It did serve as a ‘rest’ and ‘digest’ period before we began the second half of our CNY Exploration.

Discovery #5 ~ Vietnamese Pho and Bánh mìWe bow to you.  For $10.62 we left with a huge serving of Pho, 2 Bánh mì sandwiches (one meatloaf – not what you think and one chicken) with a giant bundle of fresh toppings (lettuces, crazy Asian basil, pickled carrots, and cucumber slices), and an order of Vietnamese Egg Rolls.  Oh how I wish you were closer to home.

Discovery #6 ~ Vietnamese Bakery.  Wow.  Starbucks get back.  This little gem had the coffee house cafe feel but with hand crafted bakery items, each with an authentic hard to describe yum factor.  We chose a totally random assortment.  Each one amazing.

As we left Buford Highway and made our entrance onto I-285 we agreed, CNY Crawl…Done.  Check that off the list.  Same goes for Asian Foot Massage.  However, Vietnamese Food & Bakery we’ll be back.  Likely at the start of our next Sunday’s with Shelby adventure.

May the year of the snake bring you health, happiness, and prosperity.  Happy New Year!

Chinese New Year Banner

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