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Best Lunar New Year Desserts in San Diego 2022

In China and other Asian countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and South Korea, the new year doesn’t begin until the new moon appears in late January or early February. This year, we’re entering the Year of the Tiger, one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, beginning February 1. Every year, San Diego hosts a Chinese New Year Fair and you can visit the San Diego Chinese Historical Society and Museum if you’re interested in learning more about Chinese culture and traditions.

San Diego’s local Asian communities continue to grow, encompassing more than 16% of residents according to the latest census. Visit the Convoy District, known as San Diego’s Asian Restaurant Row, for a collection of Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Korean restaurants, along with supermarkets, bars, spas, and a great speakeasy. Dessert is an important part of any Lunar New Year feast, from Babao Fan eight treasure rice to Nian Gao sticky rice cakes. Here are seven of our favorite sweets to celebrate Lunar New Year in San Diego this year:

gelato
@ansdrycleaning

Lunar New Year Gelato

An’s Dry Cleaning
North Park and Del Mar
Special February flavors at Asian-owned An’s Dry Cleaning gelateria are inspired by the Lunar New Year. Tang Suit is a red bean and sesame gelato topped with candied sesame seeds, while Sedge Hat is a brown sugar and citrus zest gelato swirled with chunks of housemade fa gao, a steamed cupcake-like rice flour cake that symbolizes good fortune. There’s also qipao peanut brittle gelato and hanfu, a vegan pomelo sorbet with pomegranate jam, both auspicious fruits for the new year that symbolize family reunion and prosperity.
How to order: Walk in or order online for pickup. The Del Mar location will carry a couple of the flavors but not all four.

tea
PARU

Tea Tasting

Paru Tea Bar
La Jolla and Point Loma
Co-founders and tea connoisseurs Amy Truong and Lani Gobaleza recently opened their second tea shop in La Jolla, and this flagship location hosts tea tastings paired with sweet treats like Yoku Moku Cigar butter cookies and vegan-friendly Matcha Raspberry Chocolate by chocolatier Deux Cranes. “We want the shop to feel like a museum that celebrates tea,” Truong says. The sleek, minimalist space certainly does that, with dozens of tea blends. For Lunar New Year, there’s a limited osmanthus blend, and the Pandan Waffle is a perennial favorite, like dessert in a glass.
How to order: Matcha raspberry chocolate bars and tea milk jams can be ordered online and private tea tastings can also be booked online, ideally at least one week in advance.

tikoy
Photo courtesy of White Rice

Tikoy

White Rice
Point Loma
Tikoy is a steamed glutinous rice flour cake, traditionally given as a gift to symbolize prosperity and good luck during the Lunar New Year in the Philippines. Filipino-American chef Phillip Esteban’s rice bowl food stall at Liberty Public Market will be making Tikoy with a layer of ube and topped with toasted salted peanuts to celebrate their first Lunar New Year since opening in September 2021.
How to order: You can pre-order for pick-up online or order delivery through third-party apps like UberEats, Doordash, and Postmates. Each order comes with five pieces and if there are extras, they’ll sell the tikoy rolls in person too.

dessert
Animae

Sesame Thumbprint Cookies

Animae
Marina District
To ring in Lunar New Year, Animae is dropping complimentary Sesame Thumbprint Cookies with the check, inspired by Chinese sesame balls. “We’ve taken the classic flavors and transformed them into a shortbread cookie with toasted sesame and red bean paste,” says executive chef Tara Monsod. Each cookie will be topped with edible gold flakes to symbolize prosperity and good fortune for the new year.
How to order: These sesame cookies will be complimentary for all diners from February 1-5 to mark the beginning of the Lunar New Year celebrations. Make reservations online.

yam mochi
Kenishirotie/Shutterstock

Yam Mochi with Red Bean Filling

Mongolian Hot Pot
Clairemont Mesa
Hot pot is an immersive and engaging style of dining that’s great for celebrating the Lunar New Year. For dessert, this family-owned and operated restaurant serves a pancake-like Yam Mochi with textured red bean filling. The subtly sweet treat is similar in taste to Nian Gao, a classic dessert often enjoyed during Lunar New Year, and Mongolian Hot Pot makes their mochi from scratch using rice flour and freshly steamed red sweet potatoes. Owners and brothers, Peter Yang and Mike Wu were both born in the inner Mongolian province of China and spent their early years living in Hainan, China, before moving to the United States in 1995.
How to order: No reservations are required and walk-ins are welcome. Order ahead for pick-up by calling the restaurant at (858) 274-2040.

MNGO cafe
MNGO cafe

Black Sesame Kakigori

MNGO Dessert & Coffee Bar
Convoy District
Kakigōri Japanese shaved ice is one of the most popular desserts at this Asian dessert shop and mango is naturally a bestseller, but for Lunar New Year they’ll have a limited edition Black Sesame Kakigōri as well, with black sesame-flavored ice topped with black sesame balls, milk pudding, signature cream, black sesame sauce, and condensed milk.
How to order: Walk in or order pickup and delivery online. This special dessert will be available February 1 through February 6.

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Amber Gibson is an LA-based journalist specializing in luxury travel, food, wine and wellness. Her work also appears in Conde Nast Traveler, The Telegraph, Saveur and Fodor’s. Follow her on IG @amberyv.