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In 2019, the Lunar New Year falls on February 5th. For those who are unfamiliar with the holiday, Lunar New Year marks the beginning of the new year based on the lunar calendar. It is widely celebrated in East Asian countries such as China, Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam. Since we have so many orthodontic patients at Orthodontics LA who partake in Lunar New Year, we wanted to make sure their braces are safe throughout the festivities. There are tons of tasty treats to indulge in, but not all of them are safe for orthodontic appliances, so here’s a list of what to eat and what to avoid when you ring in the new lunar year.

Every culture has different customs when it comes to Lunar New Year, but something they all have in common is amazing food! The dishes may be different, but there’s sure to be feast prepared for lunar new year no matter where you’re celebrating it. Here’s what we recommend for orthodontic patients:

Tteokguk: A traditional dish served in Korea on Lunar New Year is tteokguk, a rice cake soup. The rice cakes are sliced into thin pieces reminiscent of cylindrical coins. They represent purity, light, good fortune, and a prosperous new year. Best of all, patients with braces can easily slurp up the soup and eat the bite-sized rice cakes. To avoid overly chewy rice cakes, boil them a little longer than you usually would and make sure to cut them into small pieces. If you’d rather go out than cook your own soup, Kim’s Kitchen on Colorado Street in Glendale has a killer rice cake dumpling soup on the menu.

Yu Sheng: Cantonese raw fish salad is a traditional dish served in Malaysia and Singapore for both New Year and Lunar New Year. It typically consists of carrot strips, daikon radish, cucumber slices, yam strips, ginger, spices, and raw fish. All of the ingredients in this refreshing salad are finely sliced, making it perfect for anyone who has braces to munch 

Sticky Rice Cake: Most Asian countries have their own version of the sticky rice because it’s so filling yet simple. There are both sweet and savory options filled with meat or beans. The rice is usually packed densely in a banana leaf and filled with meat or beans. Our orthodontic patients can eat these cakes guilt-free because they’re so soft and easy on the braces. If you’re in the Glendale area, Din Tai Fung serves a savory Kurobuta pork sticky rice wrap.

Nian Gao in Coconut: Sticky rice is extremely popular for holidays and nian gao is yet another form of the glutinous delight. It is a steamed sticky rice concoction made with sugar, almond extract, and coconut. Braces lovers will really enjoy this squishy treat

Moon cake: Last but not least, moon cake is one of the classic Lunar New Year desserts. The pastry is made of a flour-based cake stuffed with ingredients like taro, mung bean, red bean, and lotus seeds. Some cakes have a whole egg yolk in the center to symbolize a complete cycle of the moon. These cakes are usually soft, squishy, and flaky on the outside as long as you choose fillings without any crunchy nuts or seeds. While they are completely braces-friendly, we don’t recommend having more than a few slices at once because they’re quite devoid of nutrition.

Moon cake is so popular now that you can even pick up a package of them at your local Costco! At 85 Degree Bakery on Brand Blvd, there is wide variety of Taiwanese and Cantonese style moon cakes for customers to choose from, such as red bean, dong-po, taro mochi, pineapple, walnut date, and almond lotus seed.

Now that we’ve reviewed all the braces friendly items, here are a few that you’ll want to be a little more cautious about. Better yet, avoid them altogether and

Yaksik: Another popular form of sticky rice cake is yaksik. It’s a popular Korean snack made of sweetened glutinous rice, nuts, dried fruit, and honey. Although rice, even sticky rice, is fairly safe for braces, nuts and dried fruit could damage your brackets and wires.

Candy Tray: During the Lunar New Year, dried fruits, seeds, candy, and nuts are often assembled on a tray in the Vietnamese culture. There are tons of naturally preserved treats, like dried coconut, persimmon, lotus seeds, ginger, water chestnut, and more. While these may be tasty, they tend to be hard and chewy, which is a terrible combination for braces. Stay away from them and opt for fresh fruit instead.

Sesame fritters: Sesame seeds provide a delicious, nutty flavor that’s perfect for savory and sweet foods alike. Around Lunar New Year, people often purchase sesame “fritters” or deep fried cookie balls made with sesame. While they may be delicious, they’re a bit too crispy for braces, so we recommend staying away from them. Go for a sweet mung bean soup or coconut jelly instead!

Fish: Fish is a common dish served in many cultures for Lunar New Year. It symbolizes good luck and prosperity and it can be prepared multiple ways. White fish like carp and catfish are usually fried and served with rice and fish sauce. While the meat is cooked until it’s tender, patients with braces should be careful about chewing or choking on bones. It’s easy to pop an elastic off or get a bone stuck in the wires when you’re eating fish.

If you don’t have plans for Lunar New Year yet but would like to participate, the Americana at Brand in Glendale is hosted a celebration last year and will most likely be having similar festivities in 2019! The Pasadena Buddhist Temple also recognizes Lunar New Year. Visitors can stop by to pay their respects as well as participate in the new year activities.

Orthodontics LA is an orthodontic practice located in Glendale run by a husband-wife orthodontist duo. We want our patients to have a positive orthodontic experience and part of that is being able to engage in regular activities and eat food without worrying about their braces too much. Feel free to give us a call if you have questions or need to come in for an appointment. We’re here to help!