From a spit-turned suckling pig and an assortment of dim sum to a mountain of fortune cookies, R&DE Stanford Dining ushered in the “Year of the Rat” with a delicious Asian-inspired feast and cultural celebration on January 30. Because Lunar New Year is one of Stanford Dining’s most popular themed events, doors at Wilbur Dining opened at 5 p.m. to a long line of excited students and Stanford community members.
As guests entered, they were greeted with a refreshing glass of tart passionfruit lemonade and a red envelope filled with a gold foil-wrapped chocolate coin following the Chinese tradition, hóng bāo symbolizing good wishes and luck for the new year ahead.
Inside the servery, colorful paper umbrellas hung from the ceiling and a table featured an elaborate tropical fruit display with lychees, mangoes and dragon fruit. There was even a cute, floppy-eared creature carved into the pink and green flesh of a watermelon by Schwab Dining’s chef Raul Lacara, senior associate director of executive conferences and catering services, in honor of the year 2020’s Chinese zodiac animal.
Diners continue coming back every year for the feast. This year, the Stanford Dining team united to pull out all the stops. At the hot station, selections included Thai curry with chicken and Kabocha squash, and Bangkok Chinatown fried rice studded with Lap Cheong Chinese sausage. Guests also enjoyed a plethora of vegetarian dishes such as “Ants on a Tree” noodles with mushrooms and Sichuan peppercorns, and fire-roasted eggplant.
Mai Pham, cookbook author and consulting chef for Wilbur Dining’s Star Ginger @Stanford, joined the culinary team and oversaw staff as they prepared made-to-order pad thai for diners, the smell of ginger and garlic wafting from the woks. Pham traveled to The Farm from her acclaimed Lemon Grass Kitchen in Sacramento, “My team looks forward to Lunar New Year every year and enjoys collaborating with the R&DE culinary team. There’s a real sense of comradery at this event and of course, the students are on cloud nine right now.”
As if on cue, Lyron Co Ting Keh, ’24, stood in the middle of the servery and looked around in amazement. “This is insane,” he said. “The food reminds me of all the Chinese restaurants we go to back home in L.A. and also the Philippines.” First stop on his list was “The Pig Station.” After receiving a steamed bao filled with tender chunks of suckling pig carved on the spot, he stopped at condiment table where he tucked hoisin, green onions, and picked carrots and cucumbers into his pillowy bun.
Wilbur Dining executive chef Mychel Brewster was delighted to see the positive reaction. “This is our biggest event. We will serve 1,300 undergraduate and graduate students, as well as Stanford community members. This year, we focused on making everything bigger and better. Staff from all the dining halls came out. Even the Schwab Executive Services Team lent a hand. Our focus was on food quality and ambiance — all to make our students happy.”
The delicious food, coupled with entertainment provided by Stanford Chinese Dance, O-Tone, Stanford Taiko, Mua Lac Hong and Stanford Wushu, made it an evening students will not soon forget and one that they will eagerly await next year.
Bessie Zhang, ’24, samples the selection of dried fruits including dates, apricots and pineapple. “This dinner is so wonderful,” she said.
Wearing Ao Da, traditional Vietnamese robes, Ryan Chen, ’21, Dwight Hua, ’24, and Ben Nguyen, ’24, enjoy dinner before performing with Mua Lac Hong, Stanford's Vietnamese dance group.