Similar to Christmas, Chinese New Year is all about family, fun and most importantly-- Food! On Chinese New Year’s Eve, all members in a family always gather at the dining table to enjoy the most important meal of the year--Family Reunion Dinner (also named as the New Year Eve Dinner). To give you a deeper understanding of the essence of Chinese New Year and Chinese cuisine, here I am going to introduce you some classic dishes with symbolic meaning!
Dumplings (饺子Jiao Zi)
Making dumplings together at Chinese New Year is a tradition shared by almost every Chinese family around the world, especially among the Northern Chinese. Not only does it taste good, it also gives you a sense of union by simply gathering and preparing the dumplings together. Every household has their own recipe for the filling and wrappers. Ground pork is the most popular ingredient in the filling, often blended with shrimp, savory Shaoxing wine, white pepper, and piquant ginger; it can also be mixed with white cabbage, sesame oil, soy sauce, and scallions. It requires practices and patience to wrap the dumplings nicely but it is very rewarding to share a huge bowl of dumplings with your beloved ones.
Whole Fish （鱼Yu）
For the westerners, fish and meat are always served as steaks, fillets or meatball. However, Chinese tended to serve them a whole and it has significant meaning of “completeness” especially during Chinese New Year. Also, a whole fish is symbolic of abundance. As the pronunciation of “fish” in Chinese sounds exactly the same as the word “surplus”, having fish in the new year carries the meaning of having surplus in the coming year! When you eat the whole fish with your family and friends, you may therefore wish them “niannian youyu”, which means having abundance year after year! Also, as a kind reminder, in certain area of China, don’t eat the head and tail of the fish on Chinese New Year’s Eve! It is important to keep them till the New Year to accumulate the “surplus” for the coming year!
Spring rolls (春卷Chun Juan)
I am sure that most westerners are quite familiar with spring roll, as It is commonly found in all Asian restaurants. In China, Spring roll is regarded as one of the festive food for Chinese New Year as the crisp golden rolls are meant to symbolize bars of gold and bring wealth and prosperity in the year to come. The wrappers, made from a hardy dough of wheat flour and water, hide a filling of shredded carrot, shiitake mushrooms, cabbage, bean sprouts, and pork, doused with a sauce of Shaoxing wine, oyster sauce, and ginger. Most spring rolls are deep-fried, for a crackling-crunchy and piping-hot shell that surrounds the tender filling, and it tastes best when it is hot!
Eight Treasure Rice（八宝饭Ba Bao Fan）
Deserving as a dessert, this sweet sticky-rice pudding symbolises great fortune and it is studded with 8 kinds of fruits and nuts, including lotus seeds, almond kernels, jujubes, candied fruits, dried longans, dried plums, red bean paste, gingko seeds, apricot kernels, and goji berries. Drenched in a glistening sugar syrup, it is a feast for the stomach and also the eyes! Despite the calories you consume (Let’s forget about it for a bit), it is definitely a good pick during Chinese New Year.
Mouthwatering already? Stay tuned and I will show you more in the coming article!