8 Auspicious Lunar New Year Foods
Certain dishes are traditionally served during the Lunar New Year for their auspicious symbolism based on their pronunciations or appearance. The selection of dishes varies in different cultures, and in this article, we’ve rounded up 8 essential lucky dishes to be served during the 15-day festival season according to Chinese traditions. With the right way of serving and preparation, these dishes are believed to bring good luck for the coming year.
Don’t forget to observe these customs in a lively, light-hearted, full-of-laughter manner to ensure that the happiness will continue to overflow to the new year! If you don’t feel like cooking, book a table at Rhodes Phoenix Chinese Restaurant - sit back, relax, and enjoy a delicious festive spread!
1. Fish – Prosperity, Surplus and Wealth
In Chinese, "fish" (鱼 Yú /yoo/) sounds like 'surplus'. Fish is the ultimate essential dish for the Lunar New Year. The fish must be served whole, not filleted. Serving two fish is recommended, on Lunar New Year’s Eve and one on New Year’s Day. If you’re only serving one fish, eat the upper part on New Year’s Eve dinner and enjoy the remainder on the first day of the new year. This signifies a surplus and abundant prosperity year after year.
There are some rules related to the position of the fish:
- The head should be placed toward distinguished guests or elders, representing respect.
- Diners can enjoy the fish only after the one who faces the fish head eats first.
- The fish shouldn't be moved. The two people who face the head and tail of the fish should drink together, as this is considered to have a lucky meaning.
The most common way of cooking fish is by steaming. Get your fresh whole fish from Rhodes Seafood and whip up this simple Steamed Whole Fish recipe by The Woks of Life. The other ingredients are available at Tong Li Supermarket and Coles.
2. Chinese Dumplings - Wealth
The dumplings should be shaped in a way to resemble the shape of Chinese silver ingots or traditional Chinese money bags to represent a wish for wealth. Check out the delicious and photogenic Lucky Money Bag Dumplings recipe by WoonHeng. You can also order freshly made dumplings from Mama's Wok and Rhodes Phoenix Chinese Restaurant.
3. Chicken – Unity
Chicken is a homophone for ji (吉, meaning ‘good luck’ and ‘prosperity’). Chicken is usually served whole — head and feet included — to symbolize unity and wholeness, while also signifying a good beginning and end to the year.
Chicken is typically braised or roasted for a reunion meal with simple ingredients such as ginger or soy. Try out The Best Cantonese Whole Roast Chicken recipe by Omnivore’s Cookbook and grab the ingredients from Coles, ALDI and Tong Li Supermarket.
4. Spring Rolls - Prosperity
Spring rolls are typically filled with vegetables and meat and deep fried to achieve a golden yellow colour to resemble gold bars, symbolising a wish for prosperity.
Check out this easy Spring Rolls recipe by RecipeTin Eats. All of the ingredients are available at Coles and Tong Li Supermarket.
5. Noodles – Longevity
Longevity noodles must not be severed and cut off during preparation and the eating process to symbolise a wish for longevity. They can be served with soup of stir-fried like this Long Life Noodles recipe by The Woks of Life. All of the ingredients are available at Coles and Tong Li Supermarket. Don't feel like cooking? order a delicious plat from Mama's Wok.
6. Vegetables – Renewal, Harmony & Wealth
The Lunar New Year’s dinner menu is not complete without vegetables. These are the top three traditional vegetables and what they symbolise:
- Lettuce: In Chinese and Cantonese, a word for ‘lettuce’ sounds a lot like a word for ‘becoming wealthy’.
- Baby bok choy: It can symbolize ‘wealth’ and ‘luck’ for the year as well as ‘good fortune’ for the future.
- Gailan (Cantonese) or jielan (Mandarin), i.e. Chinese broccoli, signifies ‘harmony’.
Replicate the restaurant-style Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce dish by following RecipeTin Eats’ simple recipe here. All of the ingredients are available at Tong Li Supermarket and Farmers Fresh.
7. Fruits – Fullness and Health
Tangerines, oranges, and pomelos are typically eaten during Lunar New Year due to their round shapes and bright golden colour, symbolising wealth and fullness. Orange (and tangerine) is 橙 (chéng /chnng/) sounds the same as the Chinese for 'success' (成). One of the ways of writing tangerine (桔 jú /jyoo/) contains the Chinese character for luck (吉 jí /jee/). Eating pomelos is believed to bring continuous prosperity. The more you eat, the more wealth it will bring. Head to Coles and Farmers Fresh for the freshest fruit selections!
8. Sweets – A Sweet Start & Improvements
Glutinous rice cake (年糕 Niángāo /nyen-gaoww/) is a lucky sweet delicacy eaten on Lunar New Year's Eve. In Chinese, glutinous rice cake sounds similar to "achieving higher things year by year”, symbolising a wish for continuous improvement in all aspects of life. Lunar New Year candies in gold wrappers and auspiciously shaped boxes are also typically served to symbolise a sweet life. Get your sweet Lunar New Year treats from Tong Li Supermarket.
Other festive Lunar New Year dishes include Yusheng, a Cantonese-style raw fish salad designed to be tossed and mixed as a family, or the classic and ultra-delicious crispy pork belly. These dishes are more labour-intensive but don't worry- you can easily order them at Rhodes Phoenix Chinese Restaurant.
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