Delicious foods to eat during Chinese New Year. Chinese Lunar New Year traditionally marks the first day of the new year in the Chinese lunisolar calendar. This calendar is based on the phases of the moon, as well as the time of the solar year, and therefore begins on a different day each year.
Lasting for 15 days, the Lunar New Year is the time to visit relatives and eat delicious treats traditionally only found during the festive period.
New Year’s Eve is reserved for reunion dinner with close family members, sharing elaborate dishes specially prepared for the occasion. It doesn’t matter if you’re stopping by a relative’s house or sitting down for a proper meal, here are some foods to enjoy this Chinese New Year.
A healthy start to the New Year! Also known as offsetting all the other calorific Chinese New Year foods. Mandarin oranges (柑) are the most abundant fruits during the festive season. They are usually exchanged with family and friends in pairs, as a sign of wishing the other party good luck and abundance. One reason for this is because the Chinese word for gold (金) and orange (橘) sound the same.
Many other Chinese dialects, such as Cantonese and Teochew, reflect synonymous meanings. It is good practice to always have two mandarins ready when you visit, lest you be not interested in receiving red packages from your elders! View: 9 Oranges-Lemons-Limes-Tangerines for Chinese New Year-Prosperity-Cure-Abundance-Good Luck.
Bakkwa or rougan (肉干) is a sweet and salty roasted and roasted meat product, very similar to jerky, popular in Southeast Asian countries. It is prepared by air drying the meat and roasting it over a charcoal flame, which gives it a more smoky flavor that makes it very difficult to resist.
Due to advances in preparation techniques and widespread popularity, bakkwa chain stores sell the product year-round. Now there is a wide variety of bakkwa items, where previously there was only minced or sliced pork, now you can get pork chili, glazed honey, cheese, chicken, beef, and even mock meat bokkwa. Some stores even sell bakkwa in vacuum coin form for easy consumption. Dangerous.
Also known as lo hei, yusheng (余生) is literally translated as ‘raw fish’, but is interpreted to mean prosperity or abundance. Eaten more often only in Singapore and Malaysia, yusheng usually starts the reunion dinner. It consists of a variety of shredded vegetables, such as carrots, green radishes, and white radishes, followed by oil, sesame seeds, and a sweet plum sauce.
Depending on who you ask, the star of the dish would be the accompanying raw fish (in most cases salmon sashimi) or the crispy and fried flour pillows – every kid’s favorite. Mounted on the dining room table, New Year’s greetings will be greeted with the addition of each ingredient. After assembly, everyone at the table digs their chopsticks to toss out the giant ‘salad’. The higher you go, the luckier you will get in the coming year!
Jau gok (油 角) is a classic meatball dish traditionally served during Chinese New Year. It is typically found in Cantonese cuisine and originated from Guangdong province in China. The dumpling wrap is made from a glutinous rice dough, filled with sweet or savory fillings and deep fried. The shape of these meatballs is reminiscent of gold bars, therefore the more the merrier. Other types of meatballs, such as jiaozi (饺子), mimic the same idea.
Buddha’s Delight, or luohan zhai (罗汉 斋), is a delicious vegetarian option during the Chinese New Year holidays. It requires extensive preparation due to its long list of ingredients.
Not to be confused with the non-vegetarian poon choi (盆菜), the dish was traditionally intended for Buddhist monks who maintain a vegetarian lifestyle, but is now found everywhere from Chinese restaurants to homes during Chinese New Year. As with many other holiday dishes, each entry in the endless list of ingredients is assigned a meaning.
Favorite ingredients are those that are not commonly found outside of the festive period. These include fat choy (), a vegetable that looks like strands of black hair (but it’s really good!), And an arrowhead (慈菇). The large plate is a main feature of gathering dinners, with something everyone will love.
No reunion dinner can be complete without fish. Whether steamed, fried or braised, there should always be a whole fish during the gathering dinner. Fish in Chinese is yu (鱼), which sounds a lot like ‘surplus’ () another indication of abundance and prosperity. This has resulted in countless Chinese sayings related to fish and prosperity, many of which are used as Chinese New Year greetings. Many Chinese New Year paraphernalia also have pairs of fish.
Another Chinese New Year food with many geographical variations, nian gao (年糕) can also be had throughout the year. It is popular during the Chinese New Year due to its symbolic meanings; the Chinese word nian gao means “highest year”, and eating it has the symbolism of rising each year higher.
There are both sweet and savory versions of the food, and it comes in many different shapes and colors. Shanghai-style nian gao is a thick, white, and soft stick made from non-glutinous rice, which can be cut into chunks and sautéed. Northern Nian Gao is sweet and can be steamed or fried. There are a variety of glutinous rice foods in similar forms throughout Asia, such as mochi in Japan and tteok in Korea.
Tangyuan (汤圆) is usually eaten during Yuanxiao Jie (元宵节), or Lantern Festival, but it can also be prepared to round off the reunion dinner. The dish consists of balls formed from glutinous rice flour and water, with a touch of food coloring to color it. It can also be made with other flour.
Each ball can have fillings, which differ regionally in China. Sweet southern tangyuan can be filled with sweet sesame, peanut or bean paste, or osmanthus flowers and tangerine peels. These are most likely to be had for dessert, while their northern counterparts can be filled with minced meat or vegetables. It is commonly served in a clear broth. The balls and bowls in which they are served symbolize family togetherness, and are therefore served quite frequently throughout the year.
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