Disneyland Lunar New Year Foods, Ranked Worst To Best

Disneyland is starting 2022 off with a bang as the resort's annual Lunar New Year celebration returns to California Adventure. The festivities, which kicked off January 21 and run through February 13, offer plenty of family friendly fun, including Mulan's New Year Procession, live entertainment, and character appearances from the likes of Mouse House power couple Mickey and Minnie, last dragon pal Raya, and Tigger (it is the Year of the Tiger, after all), and, of course, plenty of food. California Adventure strives to up its dining game with each new event and this year's Lunar New Year spread is no exception.

As is the norm for large scale food events at California Adventure, visitors to the park can purchase a Sip and Savor Pass which we highly recommend. The pass includes six tabs that can be redeemed for small bites and non-alcoholic beverages available at the four pop-up marketplaces scattered throughout the park, as well as select items from permanent dining spots such as Paradise Garden Grill and Lucky Fortune.

While the selection for Lunar New Year is fairly limited compared to the wide bounty of treats served up during the Festival of Holidays and the Food & Wine Festival, the menu of Vietnamese, Korean, and Chinese-inspired specialties offers plenty of culinary firepower. From sweets and sandwiches, to cocktails and dim sum spins, we're ranked the most popular eats and drinks starting at meh and making our way up to magical.

20. Spicy Kung Pao Tofu

Paradise Garden Grill, which is adjacent to Goofy's Sky School, tends to be one of the main hubs of Disney California Adventure's seasonal festivities and that is indeed the case for Lunar New Year. Throughout the day, you'll be treated to character meet-and-greets, live music, and, of course, a wide variety of dining options — there are plenty of tables available so you can sit down, relax, and enjoy your meal.

While some of our favorite items can be found at Paradise Grill, the Spicy Kung Pao Tofu is not among them. The signature protein is absolutely not at fault here. The team at Paradise Grill clearly knows their way around a fryer (more on that much later), and in this case, the tofu remains soft and supple while encased in a delicately crunchy crust.

But the cubes are overwhelmed by an unremarkable vegetable fried rice studded with a mélange of sweet, sour, and spicy zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli, and red peppers. While we enjoyed the garlic chip addition, it also distracted from the main attraction. Beyond the tofu, the quality of this plant-based dish is of your garden variety Chinese takeout, which is fine, but there are better bites to be had. Hopefully, the dining team will keep the fried tofu around for future menus, but find another vehicle for it so the crispy coagulated soy milk can truly shine.

19. Lunar Cocktail

There is a reason reservations at Lamplight Lounge, which is located on the boardwalk at the entrance of Disney California Adventure's Pixar Pier, are becoming harder and harder to come by. It's tough to beat the combination of those fantastic waterfront views and a menu of sophisticated yet broadly appealing bites and beverages. In particular, the restaurant offers a killer cocktail program, which is why their seasonal concoction was near the top of our must-try list.

Another reason we were drawn to the Lunar Cocktail was the inclusion of baijiu, the clear Chinese spirit which you rarely come across at bars restaurants in the United States despite being the most popular alcohol in the world. Distilled from sorghum, baijiu imparts a fruity and floral flavor profile, but the inclusion of a smoked orange syrup seemed to overwhelm those notes. The cocktail, which also featured orange bitters and lemon juice, reminded us of a paloma with mezcal, and orange providing a citrus substitution for grapefruit. While we're certainly not opposed to smoky cocktails, this one was a bit too one note for our tastes.

18. Korean-style BBQ Chicken

Here's another Lunar New Year dish you can find at Disney California Adventure's Paradise Garden Grill. Since this is a permanent dining spot, you can order food and drinks in advance via the app and allow you to skip the line which can get long (our wait was an excruciating 45 minutes), but there are some caveats: Your earliest pickup may be at least an hour after you order. You're going to need to pre-pay for everything you order, so If you want to use your Sip and Savor tabs, the line is your only option.

The Korean-Style BBQ Chicken is available as both a full-sized entree and in a taster portion. We exchanged a Sip and Savor tab for the taster portion, which included a few slivers of chicken marinated in a sweet sauce. The result was solid but fairly pedestrian. You may have better luck with the full-sized version which includes a half chicken (we tend to prefer bone-in meats over boneless as it adds more flavor). While we enjoyed the accompanying puckering pickled cucumbers, the kimchi lacked the layer of funk that we've come to expect from the classic Korean fermented cabbage dish. But the steamed white rice was cooked to perfection.

17. Impossible Lion's Head Meatballs

Innovative plant-based options are becoming the norm on menus across the country with wide ranging degrees of success. It should be noted that Disneyland was far ahead of the curve, initiating in 2018 a large-scale plant-based initiative throughout their park ecosystem, according to Chowhound. Items have included everything from meatless kefta at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge to the sensational Impossible Arepa Encantada, which was served at the Disney Festival of Holidays.

The Impossible Lion's Head Meatballs, which can be found at the Red Dragon Spice Traders marketplace, continues Disney's trend of serving up high-quality plant-based meat stand-ins. (KFC Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets, this is not.) The golf-ball sized meatballs, or more specifically, "meat"balls, are indeed impossibly juicy, and could easily be confused for being prepared with actual pork or beef flavorwise, though the texture is more like a matzo ball hybrid. Our issue, however, isn't the main protein, but the lack of the accompanying cabbage and shaoxing wine reduction, a small pool of which can be found at the bottom of the dish. It was almost as if they were so proud of the Lion's Head Meatballs themselves, the sauce became an afterthought.

16. Spicy Pork Dandan Noodles

Before moving onto our next item, we'd like to share some time-saving tips when it comes to ordering at the marketplaces, which are located between the boardwalk entrance to Pixar Pier and Paradise Garden Grill at Disney California Adventure. Waits for food can be an issue, especially for limited availability menu items such as these. Each marketplace utilizes a two line system: one for putting in your order, the other for picking up your food. Is it important to note that at any marketplace, you can place an order for food and beverages that is available at any of the four marketplaces. (Paradise Garden Grill and the other eateries are on a separate system.) Since your order doesn't need to be picked up right away (simply show your receipt at the pickup line when you're ready), we highly recommend plotting out your eating and drinking itinerary in advance.

On with the Lunar New Year menu rankings! The Spicy Pork Dandan Noodles, which are fittingly served at Longevity Noodle Co., certainly bring the heat. Rather than the tingly Sichuan pepper burn that we're accustomed to, the sauce was dominated by an aggressive smokiness that reminded us of chipotle in adobo (the menu merely notes a "tri-chile blend sauce"). We also would have liked more ground pork, but the thin pan-fried noodles made up for the sauce's shortcomings with a pleasant chew. The Sip and Savor portion was just the right size for this.

15. Green Tea Raspberry Parfait

The Disneyland Lunar New Year menu is lighter on the sweet stuff relative to what's available during the other California Adventure food festivals. While kids obviously love to indulge their sweet tooth, this dessert is probably better suited for an adult palate. Available at Paradise Garden Grill, the Green Tea Raspberry Parfait is eye-grabbing to all ages, with colorful layers and an elegant topping of candy pearls.

Our first bite which consisted exclusively of the upper green tea was a bit of disappointment, as the creamy mousse was a bit too bitter for our taste. But the pro move here is to dig deep and get everything in a single spoonful. The bitterness of the green tea is drowned out by the tangy raspberry jelly, and we're glad to have white sponge cake and white chocolate mousse in on the fun. Just remember to snap your photo before you plunge in.

14. Tiger Milk Tea

Boba tea (or bubble tea) continues to boom in popularity stateside — it's such a sensation that there was a shortage of the tapioca balls in early 2021. A lot of the appeal of the Taiwanese export are the chewy pearls at the bottom of the beverage which are sucked up using an oversized straw. The tea comes in a wide array of fun flavors, often of the fruity variety, but Tiger Milk is highlighted by a brown sugar base.

This version, prepared at Disney California Adventure's Paradise Garden Grill, is made with black tea and condensed milk. Keeping with the theme of the Tiger Milk, the drink is supposed to include brown sugar boba. Sadly, by the time we ordered our beverage in the early evening, the boba stash had been depleted, and we were served ice instead. This is basically the equivalent of riding Star Tours and hoping for a Boba Fett segment but ending up getting saddled with Jar Jar Binks.

The plus side is that without the boba-sucking distraction, we were able to focus on our liquid refreshment which hit the spot, bringing just enough sweetness without overpowering the tea. Now that Americans have gotten behind boba, they need to amp up their tea and milk fusion in general.

13. Pork Banh Mi Sandwich

Disneyland's sky-high food standards are both a blessing and a curse. Most of these dishes would be candidates for best in show compared to the food offerings at any of its theme park competitors. But it's obvious that the folks at Disney want their food to be judged beyond the standard of roller coaster terrain, and so we shall oblige.

Did we enjoy this Pork Banh Mi Sandwich stuffed with grilled belly, pickled daikon, carrots, cucumber, jalapeño, cilantro, and seasoned mayonnaise? Sure! Our mini Sip and Savor version that we snagged over at Paradise Garden Grill offered multiple satisfying bites. The issue here is that just a few short miles from California Adventure is Garden Grove, home to Little Saigon and some of the best banh mi in the country. Held up to that lofty sandwich standard, the grilled pork belly is a bit too salty, the mayo is lacking, and the "crispy baguette" is, well, too crispy.

But again, to be clear, though this may not have been the best banh mi sandwich we've ever had, it was certainly well above average.

12. Beef Bulgogi Short Rib

One of the joys of the Korean barbecue experience is sitting around a grill and donning a chef's hat (metaphorically speaking). While we missed going DIY, the Beef Bulgogi Short Rib at Disney California Adventure's Lucky 8 Lantern was left in more than capable hands. While bulgogi, which translates to "fire meat," is usually prepared with thin slices of steak (tenderloin, top sirloin, and ribeye often make the cut), we were happy with the short rib swap. The meat was expertly cooked with the proper balances of tenderness and chew, though we did miss the opportunity to gnaw around the bones of the flanken strips. The sweet and savory bulgogi marinade (traditionally made with sugar, soy sauce, and sesame oil) also didn't disappoint, nor did the bed of white rice that the meat rested on. The green onion salad, which also included some slivers of red onion, had us reaching for a mint.

This one falls under the category of satisfying, but left us wanting more considering some of the more creative dishes we encountered on our food tour as well as the relatively skimpy portion of short rib slices we were served.

11. Garlic Noodles

If you're not familiar with Garlic Noodles, it's a San Francisco treat that originated in the kitchen of Bay Area Vietnamese restaurant Thanh Long in the late 1970s, according to KQED. The East meets West fusion is a surefire crowd pleaser and it makes perfect sense that the dish was drafted onto Disneyland's Lunar New Year menu.

This version consists of "long noodles" (prepare to slurp!), tossed in butter that is heavy on the garlic. A sprinkle of parmesan cheese may be unconventional for an Asian dish, but that hit of umami is consistent when it comes to cooking from across the globe. A few twists of pepper and the noodles would be veering into cacio e pepe territory. As is, the noodles offer the chew you're looking for and the sauce is pure creamy, garlicky goodness.

If you happen to have a picky eater in your party (perhaps a young one whose culinary boundaries don't tend to go beyond buttered pasta), the Garlic Noodles, which you can find at Longevity Noodle Co., should definitely be able to satisfy them.

10. Soju Cocktail

You would think that with all that is going on in this Paradise Garden Grill boozy beverage, it could have been granted a more ear-catching name than "Soju Cocktail." Apparently the Disney mixologists assumed the highlighting of "Korean vodka" was a big enough selling point but there is a lot more to this cocktail than just the clear, low ABV spirit.

Ginger beer, lemon, basil, and Fresno chile make the cut, adding notes of tartness, sweetness, and spice with a gentle herbal touch. While we missed the brown sugar boba in the Tiger Milk Tea, the lychee flavor-filled boba were swimming in this drink as advertised. The soft, juicy bits brought us back to the days of snacking on fruit Gushers while watching The Disney Afternoon, and we appreciated the taste of nostalgia. Savor this one at the end of the evening or use it to beat the heat as a midday reprieve.  

By the way, our cocktail name pitch: The Seoul Mule.

9. Korean-style BBQ Nachos

If you haven't indulged in nachos at the upstairs al fresco Boardwalk section of Lamplight Lounge, you haven't truly been to Disney California Adventure. The Lobster Nachos, which chunks of the pricey crustacean, are legendary, but the restaurant has another rotating "Spotlight" version on the standard menu as well (currently it's barbacoa). But if it's festival season (which it is most days at California Adventure) you can expect a speciality-themed nacho dish on the menu.

For Lunar New Year, you can have the pleasure of digging into Korean-style BBQ Nachos. At $23, it's a relatively pricey plate but the hot, delicious mess is well worth it. The meaty star of the show are meltingly tender chunks of pork belly which deliver the perfect proportion of flesh and fat. In lieu of sour cream, there is a gochujang crema which gives a hint of spice which doesn't quite rise to the level of the Ghost Pepper Nachos offered during Halloween Time. For extra creaminess, the tortilla chips (made in-house, by the way) are slathered in cheesy corn sauce, a nod to the side of mozzarella and corn that's served as a side at modern Korean barbecue joints. Fresh radish and spicy cucumber raise the all-important crunch factor.

Keep in mind that the Korean-style BBQ Nachos aren't served in the main dining room and that the upstairs closes before sunset. We also advise that you try and make a reservation to Lamplight Lounge — Boardwalk Dining in advance.

8. Mickey Chinese Hot Dog Bun

Unlike the Green Tea Raspberry Parfait, this tasty treat from Prosperity Bao & Buns is definitely suited for the whole family. While a hot dog bun may not scream "Chinese food" beyond the sesame seeds and scallions, according to Food Network personality Molly Yeh, it was one of her "favorite things ever to get at a Chinese bakery." She goes on to note that a flower-shaped version of the hot dog studded snack has become an Instagram sensation and there is no doubt that this Mickey-shaped bun offers plenty of social media appeal.

The hot dog pieces come standard but it's the fluffy brioche-style bun that steals the show. Portable, filling, fun, and tasty — what more can you want out of theme park food? Disneyland is renowned for its corn dogs, but in a head-to-head battle, the Mickey Chinese Hot Dog Bun may just be the weiner.

7. Prosperous Tiger

When we first laid our eyes on this creamy concoction, we knew we needed to get our imbibe on. There's nothing wrong with a little Disneyland day drinking, especially when the crowds are growing and the SoCal sun is beating down on you. Speaking of, we had just downed our order of Spicy Pork Dandan Noodles and that tri-chile blend sauce had set our mouths ablaze. We needed a cool refreshment stat to extinguish the fire and we knew just where to find it.

A few steps away at Prosperity Bao & Buns, we handed over our receipt for a Prosperous Tiger and as soon as we got a hold of the beverage, we started sipping. Sweet and tropical, slightly creamy but cloying, it was like drinking a boozy Orange Julius. In other words, it was pure magic. If you happen to have vodka, cream of coconut, bitters, triple sec, mandarin purée, and vanilla bean paste stocked in your kitchen and bar, go ahead and make a batch. Otherwise, you now have yet another excuse to go to Disneyland.

6. Spicy Three Cup-Chicken

If you're not familiar with three-cup chicken, rest assured it comes in a single bowl — no juggling required. According to The Woks of Life, the name is a reference to the preparation for the dish's fragrant sauce which is made using a cup of rice wine, a cup of soy sauce, and a cup of sesame oil. The sauce, which is reduced until thick, permeates the expertly cooked chicken resulting in a major flavor explosion.

The version of the dish served at Red Dragon Spice Traders for Disneyland's Lunar New Year celebration comes equipped with a blast of fiery heat. It's not quite a tear-jerker but it's definitely a mouth scorcher. It is a scientific fact that spicy food is craveable in warm weather (according to Healthline, the capsaicin actually helps to cool down your body), and that was certainly the case here. We just couldn't get enough of the Chinese and Taiwanese speciality. Served on a bed of jasmine rice, Spicy Three-Cup Chicken fires on all cylinders.

5. Char Siu BBQ Pork Bao

Popularized in the United States by David Chang at his flagship New York restaurant Momofuku Noodle Bar, gua bao is the perfect two biter. Also known as an Asian taco or a tiger bite pig (because, as restaurateur Jack Lan told CNN, "it looks like the jaws of a tiger biting into a pig"), the Taiwanese snack consists of a steamed bun stuffed with pork though other proteins sub in on occasion. While unctuous slices of belly is often the porcine cut of choice, this version employs what we believe to be chunks of the shoulder. 

The impressive mound of sweet and juicy pork reminded us of a Chinese version of Carolina barbecue which, rest assured, is a terrific thing. The Prosperity Bao & Buns offering was nice and fluffy, slices of a jalapeño added a touch of heat, which a pickled onion addition helped cut through the richness of the meat. This is an ideal grab and eat on the go item, and we would have downed a few more if there weren't so many other Disney Lunar New Year dishes on our plate.

4. Peach Yuja-ade

We have a tendency to gravitate towards items that you likely won't find anywhere else, and the Peach Yuja-ade definitely fits the bill. Balance is the key to this beverage, which is available at Disney California Adventure's Lucky 8 Lantern. There are four fruits at play, starting with a peach syrup, which helps to bring out the sweetness of the stone fruit. But if you're going to do sweet, you need a sour component and that's covered by way of lemon and yuja (or yuzu), a citrus that's popular in Korean and Japanese cooking which tastes like a hybrid between a lemon and mandarin orange. Rounding out the roster is dragon fruit, and we're not exactly sure what it's adding to the beverage, but we're happy to roll with it.

That fruity combination would have been just fine on its own, but a final drizzle of butterfly pea flower tea brings a vibrant purple pop and a floral note that meshes spectacularly with the sweet and sour sipper. If you want some more "oomph" to this beyond refreshing drink, you have the option of adding a shot of soju but the drink is plenty great sans spirit.

3. Mickey Purple Sweet Potato Macaron

It's no secret that the Disneyland culinary team is obsessed with macarons. You're bound to find an oversized, Mickey-shaped version of the French confection on every festival menu. We've sampled quite a few Disney macarons over the years and this treat for Lunar New Year, which you can pick up at Red Dragon Spice Traders, just might be the best yet. There's the obvious visual appeal, starting with the bright red cookie with a brush of gold that seems to mark how special this dessert is. Then you have the purple sweet potato (aka ube) which rest assured, isn't merely a novelty — the velvety buttercream is remarkably luscious. At first, we were worried that the crackling cookies and cream combo would be a tad too sweet, but lo and behold, a tangy crème fraîche center keeps that sugar rush in check. Just remember to handle with care because the delicate macaron shatters easily

Considering the Mickey Purple Sweet Potato Macaron, the Peach Yuja-ade, and the pandemonium caused by the Figment popcorn buckets over in Orlando, purple seems to be a color that suits Disney foods well.

2. Shrimp Fried Rice

Sandwiched between some rather innovative and exciting eats, Lucky 8 Lantern's Shrimp Fried Rice may seem rather mundane. But there is a reason this earned the number two spot on our Disney Lunar New Year foods list. As much as we enjoy fancy food flourishes, simple can be spectacular and this is comfort food at its finest. As we've already noted, the culinary team is well-versed in the ways of rice and the toothsome grains are the anchor to this dish. The shrimp are nice and plump, and unlike the blah veggie mix with the kung pao tofu, the greenery is kept simple here with a sprinkle of edamame, plus a light carrot touch and plenty of garlic.

But it's the welcome addition of bacon that steals the spotlight with a boost of smoky, porky goodness. Perhaps remarkable of all, the combination of fried rice and crispy pork belly strips somehow manages to avoid being a complete grease bomb (otherwise known as "Grease 2.") This indulgence is well worth the caloric sacrifice.

1. Whole Fried Fish

The prodigal fish has returned! Out of the 30-plus eats on the Disneyland Lunar New Year menu, none can touch this absolute stunner. This was our first experience with the Whole Fried Fish, and the longtime festival favorite more than lived up to the hype. It was a bold move to serve this dish at Paradise Garden Grill rather than a sit down spot like Lamplight Lounge but the kitchen team successfully pulls it off. The fish (and it is indeed served whole, from head to tail) is fried to order, which means it takes about 10-15 minutes to prepare, but it's well worth the wait. The crispy batter offers a sublime crunch that houses the firm and flavorful flesh of the white fish. A drizzle of sweet and sour sauce provides a pleasant punch to your taste buds. The dish is recommended for two people, but it's big enough that the whole family can partake. With a price tag of $24.99, it's a relative bargain (the spread also includes chicken soup, steamed rice, and stir fried vegetables).

During a media event for Lunar New Year, Disneyland Resort Executive Chef Jeremiah Balogh mentioned his initial trepidation when he put the Whole Fried Fish on the festival menu a few years back. Well, needless to say, we're glad he stuck with his instinct.