A Celebration of Foods:
Traditional Chinese New Year Dishes
A Feast for All Senses
Because Chinese New Year is the most important traditional holiday in China, spending time with family and friends is expected. Generally, when we think of gatherings, we think of food. In the Chinese culture, the same holds true. Family festivities include a bevy of dishes sure to excite your palette and warm your belly.
Traditional Foods and Their Meanings
As with most cultures, the menu for any festival or party is an important part in planning the event. Careful consideration is taken in the selection of the foods that will be served to guests. In most cases, certain foods are prepared only for specific holidays; the same holds true for Chinese New Year. Below is a short sampling of dishes that would typically be included in a traditional Chinese New Year Feast menu; we invite you to pay close attention to the symbolism each dish holds to the Chinese culture and traditions.
Feel free to add these to your menu as you consider how you will be celebrating Chinese New Year with your family and host student.
Fish Offers Prosperity
Carp and catfish have the most symbolic meanings from good fortune to having plenty of food and money year after year. Don’t forget to eat the fish correctly! When serving a fish dish, place the head toward your guests as a sign of respect.
Longevity Noodles Symbolize Long Life
These noodles are used specifically during Chinese New Year because they are longer than the typical Chinese noodle to remind them of their long lives.
Dumplings Bring Wealth
Be sure to make a lot of these! The belief is that the more you eat, the wealthier you will become. There are rules to making dumplings: if they are too flat, one is said to become impoverished; don’t arrange the dumplings in a circle as that will lead to a life going nowhere. Instead, arrange them in lines to keep from leading a stagnant life.
Sweet Rice Balls Keep Family United
Notice that these popular treats are round; which symbolizes unity or being together. They are quite yummy so make plenty of extras!
Spring Rolls Also Symbolize Wealth
Coincidentally, spring rolls are also named for the Spring Festival which follows Chinese New Year. When spring rolls are fried they look like gold bars which stands for prosperity.
Rice Cakes Honor Higher Positions/Income
The lucky saying for eating these delicious treats (consisting of: rice, sugar, chestnuts, lotus leaves, and Chinese dates) is, “Nyen-Nyen Gaoww” which means, “Getting Higher Year by Year.”
Sample Chinese New Year Feast Menu
Now it’s time to host a Chinese New Year Celebration in your own home! We have provided you with a sample menu to help you plan your special feast. Feel free to use all the dishes listed, mix and match as desired, or create your own specialized menu. Don’t forget, you can also add the ones listed above to your menu. The choice is yours!
Spring rolls, dumplings, bok choy (Chinese seaweed), egg drop soup, pot stickers, and cold cucumber salad
Peking Duck (see October 2017 “Cooking Corner”), sweet and sour pork, Szechuan shrimp, Lobster Cantonese, and roasted pig or chicken (or both!)
Stir fried vegetables, long noodles, fried and traditional white sticky rice
Rice pudding, almond cookies, fresh fruit, rice cakes, egg tarts, and mooncakes
Whatever you decide to prepare, everyone involved will have lasting memories enjoying family, traditions, and friends. Don’t forget about all the wonderful main dishes that we have showcased in 2017; some of those dishes may be a perfect addition to your Chinese New Year Feast menu. Happy planning and cooking to you in the Year of the Dog!
- The Spruce: https://www.thespruce.com/top-dishes-for-chinese-new-year-694281
- China Highlights: https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-food/chinese-new-year-food.htm
- Good Food: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/how-throw-chinese-new-year-celebration-meal