A guide to Chinese New Year signature dishes
Prepare for the rest of the year with these auspicious dishes
Jan 24, 2020
Kung hei fat choi, depending on when you’ll be reading this!
On the first new moon from Jan. 20 to Feb. 21, the Chinese calendar being a lunisolar one determined by the movement of the moon, we celebrate the Chinese New Year. It’s a holiday that’s inextricable from tradition; the Chinese New Year’s practices are steeped in centuries-old customs that dictate how the rest of the year is going to be. A huge part of this is what you choose to set your dinner table with. Do you prepare yourself for prosperity? For good luck? For wealth? In all those cases, that is set with specific auspicious dishes.
To help you plan, here are dishes you should have on your dinner table (and the folklore behind them) come the new year.
Dumpling School! I’ve started a new series of videos on YouTube on how to make different kinds of dumplings. The first video is up now and it’s on the most basic of all dumplings – jiaozi. Video covers skins, filling and why “folding” is overrated. https://t.co/CaBbjDPSsC pic.twitter.com/rsVh3505jS
— Adam Liaw (@adamliaw) June 11, 2019
Jiaozi dumplings, the crescent-shaped dumplings with pressed edges, are arguably one of the most important dishes on a Lunar New Year table. These dumplings symbolize wealth as their shape is similar to Chinese ingots, an early form of currency used during imperial China.
Noodles, specifically the long and thin longevity noodles, symbolize long life. As such, these noodle strands are not supposed to be cut when they’re served for the Chinese New Year. In fact, it’s customary to slurp them down without chewing so they remain intact.
Glutinous Rice Cake (nian gao)
Nian gao is considered good luck to eat during CNY bcs homonym for “higher year.” 粘糕 nian gāo=sticky cake offered to the Kitchen god was believed with the aim that his mouth will be stuck so that he can’t badmouth the human family in front of the Jade Emperor 哈哈哈哈哈哈 pic.twitter.com/XoPrZt4HM1
— Sharon ❤️ 알렉스, 면토끼 & 엑소 (@tmimi8316) January 23, 2020
The glutinous rice cakes associated with the holiday are called nian gao. The name sounds similar to the Chinese phrase for “higher year” (or getting a promotion or becoming more prosperous), which is why the sticky sweet snack has become an auspicious snack.
Steamed fish served whole is important. The Mandarin word for fish sounds similar to the word for surplus, which is an indicator of wealth. To ensure that you’ll have an abundance of wealth and food in the coming year, there are rules as to how you should serve and eat fish like it should be the last remaining dish on the table and its leftovers be eaten the next day to symbolize the year’s wealth spilling into the following one.
Like fish, chicken is served whole (head and feet intact) for the Chinese New Year. It’s meant to symbolize rebirth and togetherness.
Round fruits like oranges, tangerines, and pomelos are musts for a Llunar New Year feast because of their color and shape: roundness symbolizes unity, while their golden color is believed to attract wealth. Aside from that, these fruits are considered auspicious because their names are homophones for wealth, luck, and success.
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