As a third-culture kid, I felt an instant connection to Jackrabbit Filly, a new Chinese American restaurant in Charleston helmed by owners Shuai and Corrie Wang. Here Lunar New Year is celebrated with a special menu that pays homage to family celebrations full of food, fireworks, and mahjong. Traditionally, Lunar New Year meals involve several dishes that are meant to bring luck, happiness, and prosperity in the upcoming year. For chef Shuai Wang, that means a lineup of childhood classics that are inspired by his mother and grandmother. Here’s a breakdown of the significance behind each dish on the menu.
During Lunar New Year, long noodles represent longevity and happiness. Wang stir-fries his lo mein with beech, oyster, and shiitake mushrooms grown by local farmers, topping them with a generous dollop of butter and crispy garlic aonori—an unseasoned seaweed powder that gives the noodles a deep green-tea flavor. “Never bite down on the noodle,” Wang instructs. Eating each strand in one slurp without breaking it is believed to maximize your good fortune.
The Pork Trotters
“Trotters are about wealth,” Wang says. “My mom always told me they’re meant as another foot or hand to grab more money for next year.” Traditionally, for Lunar New Year pork trotters are served whole, but the chef ’s reimagined version involves braising, shredding, and shaping them into cakes that get breaded with panko and fried to form a crispy katsu.
Dumplings also symbolize wealth due to their likeness to yuanbao, an ancient form of Chinese currency. Wang fills his with Napa cabbage and rich Mangalitsa pork (sustainably sourced from Holy City Hogs on nearby Wadmalaw Island) seasoned with Chinese cooking wine and soy sauce. Once boiled they’re garnished with vinegar, chili oil, cilantro, and peanuts.
For continuous prosperity in the new year, Wang says you have to serve a whole fish: head-on, bone-in. Here he opts for flounder caught off the coast of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, by local fishery Abundant Seafood. Steaming brings out the fish’s natural sweetness, so seasoning is kept light: Chinese cooking wine with a bit of soy sauce and fermented black beans. Raw julienned leeks and ginger finish off the dish, with a ginger-scallion chimichurri on the side.