Undoubtedly, food is the linchpin of celebrations and Chinese New Year is just another reason to indulge in divinely delicious Asian cuisine. New to this festival? Fret not! We have pulled out a list of lucky dishes that you can both cook at home with ease or try at a favorite Asian restaurant near you!
While understanding the preparation, serving and ways of eating could be a puzzle in itself, the auspiciousness of these dishes lie in their pronunciation and presentation as well.
The fortnight long celebrations melting into music & parades is an important time as families get-together to spend time together at the annual dinner. Steeped in tradition, each dish symbolises a good luck that ensure prosperity for the coming year.
Fruit (Shui Guo)
Tangerines, Oranges and Pomelos are few fruits seen commonly around the time of the New Year. Selected for their round shape and colours close to ‘gold’, they symbolize fullness and wealth. Pomelos,in belief, bring prosperity.
Eating and displaying tangerines and oranges brings good luck and fortune associated with their pronunciation and writing. The Chinese word for orange sounds similar to success. Tradition also has it that the word for tangerine (gut jai) sounds like luck. An interesting belief is that if your fruit has leaves, it brings longevity and it’s a bad omen if they are grouped in four because symbolizes death.
Glutinous Rice Cake (Nian Gao)
Rice cake tradition dates back to nearly 3000 years in Chinese tradition. The Chinese word for rice cake, Nian Gao, fits with the phrase ‘nian nian gao sheng’ translating to ‘increasing prosperity year after year’.
This sweet dessert is made from rice flour/ sticky rice, sugar, chestnuts, Chinese dates and lotus leaves. Though popularly consumed as a sweet, there may be savour versions available as well. This dish symbolizes reaching new heights in career, business, grades, whichever is applicable to the person.
Eating rice cakes also reflects the beginning of the Rice Harvest in Spring.
Whole Fish (Yu)
In Chinese, the word for fish means abundance. An auspicious symbol of the Chinese New Year, the fish has a saying that goes along, ‘nian nian you yu’ meaning ‘may the year bring prosperity’. The fish can be prepared in any way — steamed, fried, baked or cooked!
How you eat a fish holds great importance:
a) the fish should be the last part of the dish in the left over that symbolizes surpluses for coming year
b) In many parts of China, the head and the tail of the fish is not consumed
until the beginning of the New Year expressing Hope. It is also the belief that there will surplus from year start to year end
c) While serving, generally the head of the fish is placed in the direction of guests or elders representing respect
d) Others at the table start eating the fish only after the person facing the fish head eats first
e) The two people facing the head and tail of the fish should drink together. In popular tradition this brings good luck to all
While different fish used have different meanings, it is a popular belief that eating fish brings anything you wish for, in surplus in the year ahead.
Sweet Rice Balls (Tang Yuan)
The last marking event of the Chinese New Year, the Lantern Festival is synonymous with Sweet Rice Balls or Tang Yuan. It is typically consumed on the 15th day of the celebration, also known as the Yuan Xiao Festival.This is the first night of the Lunar Year that a full moon is apparent.
The pronunciation and the conspicuous round shape of the dish are primarily associated with the meaning of reunion and togetherness. They signify the circle of harmony and unity seen in the Chinese families.
The preparation of the dish differs from region to region. In Northern China, these rice preparations are called Yuan Xiao where the filling is made first and then rolled onto flour in am bamboo basket. In Southern China, while making Tang Yuan, the stuffing is the last process. The fillings are traditionally prepared and usually include sesame paste, red bean or peanuts.
The sweet rice balls are served in a soup style.
Ring the Year of the Rooster with fun, frolic and food. Bon Appétit!!