Category Archives: Food Holidays

Japan’s Take On: Valentine’s Day

Today is the day restaurants will be packed with loving couples that can’t cook for themselves, or prefer not to, leaving the heat on in other areas of their house. It may be a “manufactured, Hallmark holiday” as many critics will contest, but it’s a standard holiday for those in love in America. Your restaurant should be packed tonight, but things aren’t the same everywhere.

In Japan, things are a bit different. On our side of the globe, couples give each other gifts, kids get their whole class stuff, and those practicing Single Awareness Day surf the Internet looking at cat pictures. In that island nation, Valentine’s Day comes in two parts, with the first coming today.

On February 14th, custom tends to be that women employed in offices (colloquially known as “office ladies”) give their male coworkers chocolate, and many younger people will take this opportunity to profess their love or crush on a male student. The better the chocolate (homemade being the best, followed by quality store-bought), the better the romantic or friendship interest. The cheaper and lower quality chocolate remains for people you don’t share much of an interest in, but don’t want them to be left out. This chocolate is known as “giri choco” (courtesy chocolate) or “honmei choco” (love chocolate).

One month later, on March 14th, men return the favor. If they don’t return any sort of gift, it’s perceived as “being above”, unfairly. If they return in equal kind or amount, it’s seen as a curt way to cut ties. Men are expected to double or triple the quality or quantity of the gift in a romantic relationship. This day, known as “White Day,” returns the favor. There’s a much more crass version of this day in America starting with “Steak”, but we won’t cover that here. Common items to be given in return on White Day are white color, such as white chocolate, marshmallows, or even white lingerie. Notably, March 14th is also known as “Pi Day,” so if you can figure out a white pie, you’re set for two holidays.

To round out Valentine’s Day and White Day, there’s a particular South Korean tradition one month after White Day. On April 14th, it’s time for men who didn’t receive or give any gifts on the previous two days to meet up and eat jajangmyeon, a dish of white noodles in black sauce.

What do you think of how Japan handles the holiday? Would you be able to do the math and figure out how much chocolate you should get your loved one? As a restaurant, how can you take inspiration from this foreign tradition? If anything, you might want to look into buying some white noodles and black sauce for those unlucky.

February Food Holidays

February is here, and we’ve got a look at all the food-focused holidays during the month.

February 1

Don’t set fire to the 49th state, but do enjoy Baked Alaska.

February 2

Have no idea what “Heavenly Hash” is? It’s what some people call Rocky Road ice cream.

February 3

Not a fan of carrots? Toss a few into some sweets and end up with Carrot Cake.

February 4

Take some leftover carrots, mix them with some other veggies and stock, and make your own Homemade Soup. If you’re going to put mushrooms in the soup, save a few for Stuffed Mushrooms.

February 5

Enjoy chocolate with a bit of hazelnut kick, melted and dripping? Combine Nutella with Chocolate Fondue and celebrate the day in style.

February 6

Want to train your brain and fight off alzheimer’s? Practice using Chopsticks.

February 7

You can use yesterday’s skill for today, and eat a big plate of Fettuccine Alfredo.

February 8

In time for a sugary tweet? Get your fingers sticky with Molasses Bars today.

February 9

Wake up early today and enjoy Bagels and Lox. and finish it off with a Pizza Pie.

February 10

If you have some leftover cream cheese from yesterday, craft yourself a batch of Cream Cheese Brownies.

February 11

Charlie Brown may cry over missing the football with his friend Peppermint Patty, but Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk. Oh, wait, it’s a food holiday for Peppermint Patty, not the Charlie Brown character.

February 12

Hate plums? Try some Plum Pudding then. There will be no plums in it (in Victorian times, raisins were called “plums”)

February 13

My personal, childhood favorite variation on pasta, Tortellini, gets attention on this day (although I will fully admit to still loving Spaghetti-Os on a cold day).

February 14

Everything’s better stuffed, so Creme-Filled Chocolates are obviously better than regular chocolates. I think there might be some other holiday this day as well…

February 15

Other countries call them “American Hard Gums”, but we’ll know them as Gumdrops.

February 16

The tree it comes from shares the same name as the seed of it. What is an Almond, Alex?

February 17

Indian Pudding was popular during wartime, due to it’s cheapness, availability, and the fact that it left “wheat for our soldiers”.

February 18

It’s time to have a fancy dinner; enjoy Crab-Stuffed Flounder while you Drink Wine this evening.

February 19

End up sleeping off last night’s wine at a hotel? When you return to your room, enjoy the Chocolate Mint on your pillow.

February 20

Hostess may no longer be around to make them portable, but you can still enjoy a Cherry Pie today.

February 21

The best ones come coated in brown sugar and walnuts. What am I talking about? Sticky Buns.

February 22

It may be a little early in the season, but pour yourself a Margarita.

February 23

Treat yourself and your best friend with both Banana Bread and Dog Biscuit Appreciation.

February 24

You have to have bags of Tortilla Chips left over from the Super Bowl, right?

February 25

The weather outside is frightful, so an nice and hot bowl of Clam Chowder will hit the spot. For dessert, enjoy some Chocolate-Covered Nuts.

February 26

Hailing from Iran and Iraq, grab a heaping handful of Pistachios.

February 27

It might be an odd combo, but you could try to take care of both Strawberries and Kahlua in one drink.

February 28

Finish the month off with a Chocolate Soufflé, if you have the skills.

Food For The Feast: Chinese New Year

As the Chinese calendar is “lunisolar” (where the date indicates both time of the solar year and the moon phase), the New Year is actually arriving next Friday, January 31st. While you may have just thrown a New Year’s celebration a month ago, Chinese New Year is a different affair.

Much like the title implies, Chinese New Year is primarily important to citizens and descendants of those from China. For Chinese restaurants, this is a boon and a chance to share Chinese culture with customers who may not have even considered celebrating the culture of another.

If you run a Chinese restaurant, sell Chinese food, or even just want to come up with an interesting fusion concept for your restaurant, you might want to bone up on the history and culture associated with it. Panda Express has decided to take advantage of the holiday, offering a free single serving of Firecracker Chicken coupled with a red envelope.

Why a red envelope? Read on to find out.

Timeframe

While the Chinese New Year starts next Friday, it continues for 15 days. The celebration starts on a different day each year, but always runs for 15 days; this time period is the perfect time to possibly try out a limited menu, giving customers little over two weeks to come in and try something new.

Foods

In the days leading up to the celebration, sweet foods (like candy and cake) are offered up for deities to report good things about them. On the first day of the celebration, using knives and lighting fires is considered to be bad luck, so most food eaten this day would be prepared previously. The 13th day leads to a purely vegetarian diet, to clean out the stomach from over-eating in the past few days.

Certain foods are associated with the celebration, all with meaning.

  • Chicken is boiled, with the belief that any family should be able to afford a chicken.
  • “Buddha’s Delight” is a traditional vegetarian dish served on New Year’s Eve and the first day.
  • Fish is a homophone with “surpluses,” indicating prosperity.
  • Leek is a homophone for “money,” indicating financial success.
  • Jau gok, a dumpling, resembles ancient Chinese gold ingots.
  • Jiaozi, another dumpling, resembles a silver ingot, and preparation resembles packing luck inside of it.
  • Mandarin oranges are plentiful, and are a homonym with “luck.”
  • Seeds, primarily melon seeds, indicate fertility.
  • Noodles, uncut, symbolize longevity and long life.
  • Bakkwa is a salty-sweet dried meat, smoked and intended as a gift.
  • Taro cakes and turnip cakes are generally enjoyed without symbolism.

Practices

The red envelopes are given from married couples and elders to unmarried children, usually containing an even amount of money. Gifts are exchanged between friends and relatives. Open-air markets are set up for purchasing such items. Finally, firework displays are a popular way to celebrate.

How To Integrate

Chicken dishes are a popular plan, alongside fish. Any sort of sauce or flavoring from Mandarin oranges, seeds, and even leeks could be adapted for parts of your menu. If anything, remember to be respectful of the holiday. Make sure all marketing is encouraging to have customers come in and celebrate the holiday with you.