Happy New Year! Now Go Eat Some Dumplings

This past Saturday, we spent the better part of the afternoon at the Chinese Community Center in Alief, celebrating the Lunar New Year with about 10,000 of our friends. While the Center's annual festival was filled with spectacles of all shapes and sizes -- from a massive, thundering lion dance to a Vietnamese man in his nineties making miniscule toys from clay for all the children -- the real draw was the food.

Food stalls made up about half of the booths at the festival. Long lines formed as people queued up to get fish balls on a stick, sweet milk tea with fat tapioca balls, cartons of fresh sushi, sauteed eel with sesame seeds, piping hot egg rolls, roasted corn on the cob, crab-filled wonton puffs and the two most ubiquitous festival foods: sausage on a stick and turkey legs.

Behind the booths, men and women stirred vegetables in giant woks or immersed shrimp into vats of hot oil as children (and a few adults) watched, mesmerized. Orders were yelled out in Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Japanese and -- occasionally -- English. The sizzling sounds could be heard inside the auditorium, and the smoky smell of cooked seafood, chicken and pork drifted tantalizingly on the breeze. But despite the overwhelming sense that we had stumbled into some wonderful pan-Asian, open air, food marketplace heaven...there were no dumplings to be found.

Perhaps, distracted by the giant inflatable pig that hounded us at every turn, we missed them. But no Lunar New Year is complete without eating some dumplings to ensure much-needed prosperity for the coming year, so after catching the Peijing Opera we headed out into Chinatown in search of our dumpling fix.

But that's a tale for another day...

For more photos, check out our slideshow.

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Katharine Shilcutt