Eight Symbolic Chinese New Year Dishes to Welcome the Year of the Tiger
Chinese New Year (aka Lunar New Year and Spring Festival) is the most important festival in China and a significant event in other Asian countries. More than a billion people celebrate it. Before the novel coronavirus pandemic, it was known as the world's largest annual migration, with people making their way home to celebrate with family. The holiday symbolises a “season of renewal” and the advent of spring.
According to Betty Liu, the author of My Shanghai: Recipes and Stories from a City on the Water, “The lunar calendar is based on the movement of the moon, a method of timekeeping used, in part, because of China's agrarian society. The start of a new cycle, the Lunar New Year is perhaps one of the most anticipated festivals in China.” This year, the 16-day celebration begins on Tuesday, February 1, and 2022 is the year of the tiger.
Food plays a vital role in Chinese New Year celebrations. People eat certain dishes as they are symbolic and promise good luck and wealth. Traditional celebratory Lunar New Year foods are deemed “auspicious” based on their pronunciations or appearance. The dishes, the preparation, how they are served and eaten all mean a lot. Here are eight (considered the luckiest number in Chinese culture) essential Chinese/Lunar New Year dishes and the symbolism behind them.
FishIn Cantonese, “fish” soundslike “surplus” and representsan increase in prosperity. Thehead of the fish is to be placedtoward the most importantguest or the eldest person inthe family as a sign of respect.This person eats first, andthe two people who face thehead and tail should drinksimultaneously to bring moregood luck.
2. DumplingsAccording to Chinese folklore,the more dumplings you eatduring New Year celebrations,the more money you will make inthe coming year. When makingthe dumplings, “there should bea good number of pleats” andavoid making the grooves flat asthis is thought to attract financialdifficulty.
3. Spring RollsSpring rolls are another harbinger of wealth. They get their name as traditionally, they are eaten duringthe Spring Festival. Before eating spring rolls, diners would say: “A ton of gold!” This “lucky saying” is a wish for prosperity as spring rolls, when fried, look like gold bars.
4. Glutinous Rice CakeIn Cantonese, niángão (glutinous rice cake) sounds like “gettinghigher year by year”. For the Chinese, getting “higher” can meanearning a more considerable income, getting a promotion, orbecoming more prosperous in business pursuits.
5. Sweet Rice BallsSweet rice balls are a staple ofLunar New Year celebrations astheir round shape is associatedwith reunion and being together.
6. Steamed ChickenA whole steamed chickensymbolises family and unity.It's tradition to offer the cookeddish to ancestors first, asking forblessings and protection.
7. LongevityNoodlesLongevity noodles are longerthan regular noodles and uncut— the longer, the better. As thename suggests, eating this dishduring the holidays symbolises awish for longevity and happiness.
8. Fruit“Good fortune fruits”, such astangerines, grapefruit, muskmelon(similar to canteloupe) andoranges, are eaten during ChineseNew Year celebrations as theirround shape and “golden” colourrespectively symbolise “fullness”and “wealth.”Photos: Milled, Stake to Win,Roti and Rice, YouTube, Pinterest,Food Gawker, Wok of Life, andDiscover Singapore.