Students celebrate Lunar New Year at Wilbur Dining

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 refreshing passionfruit lemonade and red envelopes filled with gold foil-wrapped chocolate coins 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 pink. This artistry came compliments of Schwab Dining’s chef Raul Lacara in honor of 2020’s Chinese zodiac animal, the rat. 

Diners continue to come back every year for the feast. As usual the Stanford Dining team went above and beyond to offer a variety of flavors and cuisines from regions across Asia. At the hot station, selections included made-to-order pad thai with shrimp and sweet radish, 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. 

Lyron Co Ting Keh, ’24, looked around in amazement. “This food is insane,” he said. “It reminds me of all the Chinese restaurants 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, Keh 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 to lend a hand. Our focus was on food quality and ambiance — all to make our students happy.”

As the smell of ginger and garlic wafted from the woks, Mai Pham, consulting chef for Wilbur Dining’s Star Ginger @Stanford, oversaw staff as they prepared made-to-order pad thai for diners. Pham traveled to The Farm from her Lemon Grass Kitchen restaurant in Sacramento. “My team looks forward collaborating with the R&DE Culinary team every year,” she said. “There’s a real sense of comradery at this event and of course, the students are on cloud nine right now.” 

The authentic food, coupled with entertainment provided by Stanford Chinese Dance, O-Tone, Stanford Taiko, Mua Lac Hong and Stanford Wushu, made it an evening guests will not soon forget and one that they will eagerly await until next year.