Food and Drink

Chef Uno Immanivong's Guide to Celebrating Lunar New Year in Dallas

The Red Stix Asian Street Food chef dishes on Dallas' top Asian restaurants and how she's carrying on her family traditions.

Photo by James Gates
Photo by James Gates
Photo by James Gates

Dallas chef Uno Immanivong has been feeding hungry locals since her first restaurant, Chino Chinatown, touched down in December 2013. After several years of success at Trinity Groves, she sold the business (which has since closed) and launched the even more popular Red Stix Asian Street Food. The fast-casual concept is slated for an exciting upgrade when a new location in Farmers Branch opens in the coming weeks with an expanded menu-both in the kitchen and behind the bar.

If you haven’t tasted her cooking, then you might have caught her competing on Anthony Bourdain’s team on ABC’s The Taste, or more recently as a regular guest on local morning shows sharing recipes and know-how on Asian ingredients and culinary traditions. Whether she’s serving you a bowl of her mind-blowing Damn Damn Hot Noods or peering at you from the other side of a TV screen, Immanivong’s vivacious personality and light-up-a-room laugh warm the soul just as efficiently her fiery ramen, duck fat fried rice, and gigantic bánh mì sandwiches.

Immanivong’s journey to star chefdom wasn’t necessarily one her parents wished for their daughter, but food was always an important part of her family life, and something she simply couldn’t ignore forever. Before she was born, her parents had fled their native Laos in search of a better life, and Immanivong made her earthly debut in a Nong Khai, Thailand refugee camp. The facility was operated by the United Nations Organization-the acronym for which, UNO, inspired her name.

When the family reached America, they settled in Houston before eventually making their way to the Dallas area. After her parents divorced, she assisted her mom as she juggled several jobs and side hustles, including a catering business. As a child, Immanivong often helped her mother by gathering vegetables from their overgrown backyard garden and prepping ingredients so she could focus on crafting traditional Laotian and other Asian dishes for her clients. Immanivong eventually grew up and went into finance, excelling in the banking industry for 16 years before her love for cooking finally caught up with her. She subsequently decided to ditch the corporate world for the kitchen, once and for all.

Lunar New Year is celebrated by numerous Asian cultures and falls on February 1st this year, marking the beginning of a new calendar year based on the moon cycles. For Immanivong, and many others, the holiday is all about family traditions. “For me, whether it’s Lunar New Year or later on in April for Lao New Year, it’s all about celebrating and capturing the essence of our ancestors. But when I think about Lunar New Year, I think about the food,” says Immanivong. To help you get the most out of the upcoming Year of the Tiger, we spoke to chef Uno Immanivong to get the low down on holiday traditions, what to eat for wealth and prosperity, and other delicious ways to mark the occasion this year.

Photo by Manny Rodriguez
Photo by Manny Rodriguez
Photo by Manny Rodriguez

“I actually read the Tiffany Moon story from last year and I agree with her about dim sum at Kirin Court. It’s one of my favorites. Asian families would spend days making these little dishes of different things while different families probably bring different items, as well, so it emulates the abundance of Lunar New Year.”

Red Stix Asian Street Food
Red Stix Asian Street Food
Red Stix Asian Street Food

Canton Chinese Restaurant

Richardson
“When my parents got divorced, we didn’t really do the whole thing at someone’s house for Lunar New Year anymore. Instead of 30 people crammed into 1500-square-feet, we’d celebrate at a place called Canton Chinese Restaurant. It’s still there. We’d order the whole fish-my dad would eat the eyeballs. We’d get salt and pepper chicken, and the duck. It was a lavish dinner, the one time each year we could splurge and eat until we couldn’t eat anymore.”

Jeng Chi Restaurant and Bakery
Jeng Chi Restaurant and Bakery
Jeng Chi Restaurant and Bakery

Jeni Chi

Richardson
“Another place I love is Jeng Chi. They have these wonderful pineapple cakes-it’s like a shortbread on the outside with jammy pineapple in the middle. They have different flavors, but I always get the pineapple. Sweets are another good luck food. You can also go right there to Good Fortune Supermarket where they have trays of preserved sweets, like kumquats that taste like candy and these dried coconut jellies that are coated with sugar. It’s just wonderful.”

Royal China - Dallas, TX
Royal China – Dallas, TX
Royal China – Dallas, TX

Mr. Dumpling at H Mart

Carrollton
“Dumplings are also very lucky. The more dumplings you eat on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, the more fortunate you’ll be in the coming year. It’s always a competition. I love the dumplings at Mr. Dumpling at H Mart in Carrollton. A lady has a small stall there with the best dumplings and xiao long bao, the soup dumpling. Royal China and Fortune House have good dumplings, too, but I happen to think hers are really great.”

Happy Lamb Hot Pot, Plano
Happy Lamb Hot Pot, Plano
Happy Lamb Hot Pot, Plano

Happy Lamb Hot Pot

Plano
“There is an amazing hot pot place that I go to in Plano called Happy Lamb Hot Pot. They have the best broth there, it’s not spicy but makes your mouth tingly if that makes any sense. It’s one of those places where people bring out little Sterno stoves for the table and you put a pot on it and dip different meats and vegetables and noodles in there.”

Asia Times Square
Asia Times Square
Asia Times Square

Asia Times Square

Arlignton
“I’ll tell you, Asia Times Square in Arlington is a lot of fun-oh, and there’s a Happy Lamb there, too. From January 28th to 30th, Asian Times Square will have live performances and vendor booths, but on February 5th and 6th, they’ll have fireworks and the lion dance. A lot of Asians go there, but you’ll see white people and others, too. You can feel every molecule of your body, just being happy, jumping with the other folks, and you just kind of become one, you know?”Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Steven Lindsey is a contributor for Thrillist.

Food and Drink

The Best Ways to Dress Up Your Summer Beers

From micheladas to shandies to fruit infusions, the power is in your hands-and kitchen.

Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Today, just about any flavored beer a person could dream up already exists in a can, from micheladas to shandies to, yes, pickle beers. But there’s still much to be said for the DIY versions of these dressed-up beers.

For one, they’re fresher (you could squeeze your own lemonade for a shandy right this instant). For another, they’re customizable: spiciness, fruit choice, how strong you’d like the final drink to be-all those are in your hands. And perhaps more importantly, they’re fun. Whether you want to spend two minutes constructing a beer-lemonade shandy or spend an hour infusing your IPA with real chunks of pineapple, there are plenty of ways to get creative in gussying up your beer this summer.

Embrace red beer

A brunch staple across the western half of the U.S., “red beer” is essentially a stripped-down michelada: just your preferred light lager of choice, plus tomato juice. But the devil’s in the details-folks can get mighty particular about their red beer specifications.

My preference is Coors Light with just a splash of Campbell’s tomato juice. It’s a pet peeve of mine when bartenders go too heavy on the tomato juice; it’s called red beer after all, not tomato juice. To make this yourself, start with your light lager of choice, then add just a splash of tomato juice so that the beer has a strong orange hue. Sip, taste, and add more if necessary.

Upgrade your salt rim

Another component of some micheladas, salt rims are more versatile than they might seem-and they complement several styles of beer. Just coat the rim of a beer glass with lime juice or water, then dunk the glass in a shallow dish of salt. Try the following combos:

• Mexican lager with a Tajin rim: Try substituting Tajin seasoning for straight salt for a bit of a chilli-lime kick. Pair this with a red beer for a michelada-like vibe.
• Gose with a herbal-salt rim: Goses are a beer style with a light salinity already, so pouring them in a glass rimmed with a rosemary salt or basil salt can add an additional flavour that doesn’t clash. Try mixing and matching fruited goses with herbal salts-how about a watermelon gose with a basil-salt rim?
• Dark lager with a smoked salt rim: Smoked salt is a surprisingly versatile ingredient because it’s way less powerful than liquid smoke. Try a dark lager (like Modelo Negro or a bock) in a glass rimmed with smoked salt for a subtle campfire vibe.

Marcos Elihu Castillo Ramirez/iStock/Getty Images
Marcos Elihu Castillo Ramirez/iStock/Getty Images
Marcos Elihu Castillo Ramirez/iStock/Getty Images

No shame in a shandy

Radlers and shandies are often used interchangeably to refer to a light-coloured beer blended with fruit juice (typically lemonade or grapefruit). Packaged versions exist, but with so many fruit-flavoured non-alcoholic beverages on the market, it’s worth playing around with some creative combos in your own kitchen. A good rule of thumb is to start light with the base beer, either a pale lager, cream ale, blonde ale, or (if you’re really a hop head) a pale ale. From there, most people blend in a splash of their favourite juice.

But here’s my preference: Use a fruit-flavoured soda. I find that adding straight fruit juice to beer often makes it too sweet and a bit flat. A high-quality fruit-flavoured soda, like the ones from Sanpellegrino, adds carbonation and fruit flavour with too much sweetness. Also, go easy on the ratio of soda to beer to start, because you can always add more soda. I find a ratio of about one part soda to three parts beer is ideal.

Infuse your beer with fruit

Your French press isn’t only for coffee-it can also act as a device for infusing fruit or other flavours into beer. If you end up with a bumper crop of strawberries or melons from the farmer’s market, this is a great way to use them.

1. Start with a new or perfectly clean French press to avoid coffee flavour leaching into your beer (unless that’s what you’re after).
2. Pour in your beer of choice. Almost any style could work here: light lagers, blonde ales, saisons, IPAs, even porters and stouts. Pour the beer into the French press, leaving a couple inches empty at the top.
3. Add some cut-up fruit. The possibilities are limitless: porter and raspberry, IPA and pineapple, blonde ale and mango, wheat beer and oranges, saison and cherries…
4. Allow the fruit to infuse. How long to leave the beer in contact with the fruit is up to you, knowing that the longer the mixture sits, the more pronounced the flavours will be. Start with 10 minutes, push the plunger down slightly, pour and taste some of the beer, and wait longer for a more intense flavour.
5. Push the plunger down all the way. Pour your infused beer into a glass and enjoy!

Make a mighty michelada shrub

Micheladas are typically a mixture of Mexican lager, lime juice, tomato juice, and salt. But recently, premixed michelada shrubs (like those from Pacific Pickle Works and Real de Oaxaca) have popped up, adding some vinegar tartness and other ingredients like Worcestershire sauce and spices to the mix.

A shrub combines vinegar with fruit or, sometimes, vegetables, and they’re easy to experiment with at home. Michael Dietsch, author of Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times, suggests that if you’re creating a shrub to mix with beer and tomatoes, beginning with a base of apple cider vinegar or malt vinegar (to match the malt in beer) plus lime is a smart start. From there, savoury additions like soy sauce will lend a Bloody Mary feel-just be sure to use a light hand with those umami-packed additions. Because vinegar and soy or Worcestershire sauce are tangy and savoury, Dietsch notes that you may want to add just a pinch of sugar to your shrub for balance.

From there, the sky’s the limit. Swap apple cider for white balsamic if you’re feeling bold, or add orange juice as well as lime. But regardless of what ingredients you use, Dietsch says it’s important to let a shrub sit and mellow for a couple days before using it. That time will let the intensity of the vinegar mellow and will ensure all the flavours meld together in perfect harmony. Once the shrub has sat a few days, give it a taste, then add a few splashes of it to your favourite Mexican lager.

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Kate Bernot is a certified BJCP judge and freelance reporter whose work regularly appears in Craft Beer & Brewing, Thrillist, and Good Beer Hunting. Follow her at @kbernot.

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