HOP LEE: Perfect for Chinese New Year’s Eve Dinner (or any night)

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Dear Food Diary:

Today is Chinese New Year’s Eve, a night where families gather, from far and wide to share a extravagant meal. Not all of us can be home with our loved ones tonight, so a dinner with close friends aka “Chinese New Year Orphans” will take it’s place. There’s a chinese saying, “friends are your family away from home” this couldn’t be more true in a night like tonight. 
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Hop Lee is one of those no fuzz, traditional Cantonese Style places you can count on for quality and taste. There’s usually a wait, service is fair and somewhat friendly, plus you can BYOB. Enough reason to make this a great place for Chinese New Year’s Eve… well, actually any night you crave good and solid chinese at fa prices.

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Your meal starts off with complimentary soup. Usually pork based with yellow soy beans. Not my mama’s soup, but this isn’t too shabby and it’s free, so no complaints.
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For a traditional Chinese New Year’s Eve meals, your served dishes for their meaning and good luck. I don’t follow it all, but fish is a must. The chinese word for fish also sounds like “plenty”. Therefore, in the new year, you eat fish so that during the new year you’ll always have plenty of everything. I usually go for the Crispy Fried Flounder. Crispy on the outside, delicate on the inside, covered with a sweet soy sauce and scallions. 
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My friend says these deef fried tofu squares look like gold bricks, so obviously appropriate for the occasion. I love sauteed conch. They have a bite to them, a slight crunch and chew, yet tender and naturally sweet. Some like to dip them in pungent shrimp sauce, I prefer them solo. 
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Their salt baked chicken is so fresh and tender. Love the scallion, ginger concoction, I could eat that with everything. After fried chicken, this is my next favorite way to eat the bird.
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Not all lobster are sauteed equally. Their sauteed lobster with eggs, black beans, minced pork, ginger and scallion is sexy. The egg sauce or topping if you will, is thick and chunky. Mixed with the juices from the lobster, head, roe and all, the pork, the egg, this is a dish in itself over white rice. But over lobster and it’s even better. The juicy, succulent and sweet lobster has spent just the right amount of time in the wok. Along with ginger and scallions you get no 2 bites alike. 
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Vegetables are always a must. Helps cut a little of the grease from the rest of the dishes. Simply sauteed with garlic. Restaurants have an industrial stove that generates a more potent fire, great for sautees. The wok gets hotter and therefore as the chinese put it, the food comes out with enough wok “hey” or kissed by fire wok taste. So even though this is quite easy to make, vegetables taste different here than at home. 
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Dinner ends with complimentary “tong sui” (which translates to “sweet water” meaning dessert). The typical red bean soup is brought to the table. Sweet! Another bowl please! They cook it with orange peels so there’s a slight fresh citrus tone in the background. Just the right amount of sweetness. Perfect ending to the meal.


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At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what’s for dinner, but more so who you’re having it with. Sharing a great meal with awesome friends, whether it’s the holidays or a random night always brings joy to the heart and tummy. 
Happy Chinese New Year’s Eve everyone! See you next year… 


P.S. Chubby’s RATING: 
Hop Lee
16 Mott St.
212.962.6475
Hop Lee Restaurant on Urbanspoon