My partner Patrick grew up in Flushing, Queens, New York in a Taiwanese immigrant household, where Lunar New Year is a huge celebration across the city. In his family, preparations for New Year’s dinner started days before and his dad would prepare a feast with a variety of meat and fish for abundance, noodles to represent longevity, dumplings for prosperity, and at least a few different vegetables to complement the main courses followed, of course, by dessert.
As a couple, we bonded over our love for food and once I was introduced to his family’s New Year’s festivities, we decided to keep the tradition alive. Anytime we are in Flushing to celebrate, we start with food tours, walking around the neighborhood and stopping at food courts for soup dumplings (xiaolongbao) and egg and scallion crepes (ji dan bing). We have kept the celebrations just as festive each year but we’ve had to make a few changes as we’ve moved around. And since our cooking skills are not nearly as good as our parents’, our preparations start days before by looking through Yelp, Instagram, and food vlogs on Youtube for inspiration.
Our typical New Year’s menu includes fish, roasted duck from Sun Hong BBQ in Windsor, buns and Chinese pastries from Tai Pan Bakery, usually some desi food and a few options for dessert. I have a sweet tooth and finding a good dessert feels like I’ve done well with preparations for our celebrations.
This year, in addition to our usual menu, we decided to place an order from Warda Pâtisserie. I was scrolling through Instagram and saw this beautiful creation — a take on the Paris-Brest — that the shop is calling Paris-Shanghai.
According the New York Times, Paris-Brest was invented in 1910 by pastry chef Louis Durand. It’s shaped like a bicycle wheel and was also named after a bike race that runs between Paris and the French city of Brest. The traditional Paris-Brest consists of a baked ring of Choux pastry that’s cut horizontally, and then filled with praline mousseline. Warda Bouguettaya, pastry chef and owner of the shop, tells me for her interpretation of the French classic, she recalled a favorite snack that she enjoyed during her time living in Shanghai that she described as a thin crepe with black sesame praline and roasted peanuts, creating a savory and sweet outcome. For her Paris-Shanghai, Bouguettaya incorporated roasted peanuts into her mousseline cream and used black sesame praline and ground black sesame nougatine to offer a twist on an icon, based on her lived experience.
I placed my order to pick up on Saturday, in between a quick run to Windsor to grab few last minute items. Intrigued by the artistry and story behind the creation, I stopped by Warda on the day before pickups — with my Nikon D810 camera on my hip. I asked Bouguettaya about the inspiration behind the Paris-Shanghai.
“I wanted to go to capture a memory, and so that was the starting point for me: How do I capture that and how do I translate it into pastry?” says Bouguettaya. For her, that meant drawing from her personal experience living in Shanghai.
Long before Bouguettaya’s financiers, madeleines, and other culturally informed pastries catapulted Warda Pâtisserie to score a James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2022, her husband’s career brought their family to Shanghai for three years. It was there that she became enthralled by how the city transforms during Lunar New Year, and where she deepened her appreciation for the seasonality of food — a signature of her offerings.
“To be aware of that [seasonality] and, that [there are] literally whole celebrations that come with the sorts of foods that are in season, like with mango season or with the Mid-Autumn Festival, with persimmon everywhere. It was just beautiful,” says Bouguettaya.
Here, Eater Detroit provides the scene of Warda Pâtisserie’s kitchen on Friday, February 9, during the Paris-Shanghai-making process in the gallery below.
Additional writing and reporting by Eater Detroit editor Serena Maria Daniels.
Fatima Syed is a freelance photographer and contributor to Eater Detroit.