Food plays a central role in Chinese culture. That’s why during the Lunar New Year, the whole family comes together to usher in a prosperous year ahead with a spread of dishes that are considered to bring luck and good fortune.
You might be asking: what makes certain Chinese food lucky?
It can be a lot of things! The way the one says the food’s name, how it’s prepared, or served gives it extra meaning.
Just like any holiday, each family celebrates Chinese New Year uniquely. Some families might go all out and have an elaborate reunion dinner, while some can have one or two representations of luck on their dining tables.
In the Chinese zodiac calendar, February 12, 2021 kickstarts the Year of the Metal Ox. It’s predicted to be a year where work will get rewarded to those who will double their efforts in accomplishing anything. Who wouldn’t want that kind of luck this year, huh?
Let Karman help you attract prosperity with these lucky Chinese New Year food ideas for yourself and the whole family:
Jiao Zi / Dumplings
Dumplings symbolize togetherness as most families spend Chinese New Year preparing and hand-wrapping these goodies. It also represents prosperity because its shape resembles ingot or ancient Chinese money. On some occasions, a coin is placed inside the dumplings for a lucky person to find. Dumplings are usually enjoyed with a side of spicy chili oil or soy dipping sauce.
Yu / Whole Fish
In Chinese, the word “yu” can both mean abundance or leftover. Eating a whole fish signifies an abundance of food and wealth that’s enough to carry over to the next year. It’s also steamed with ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and sesame oil rubbed in its skin then served whole, with the head and tail intact, to symbolize a good start and end of the year.
Ji / Whole Chicken
Just like dumplings, serving and enjoying a whole chicken with your complete family is a symbol of wholeness and prosperity. The chicken simmers and sits in plain broth then dunked in iced water for a tender and juicy finish. Garnish with green onions with red vinegar on the side.
Spring rolls are also a symbol of prosperity as they resemble the shape of gold bars. The filling is usually made with minced pork, shrimp, or veggies seasoned with oyster sauce, rice wine, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Once deep fried, it’s usually dipped in spiced vinegar or mustard.
Lo Han Jai / Buddha’s Delight
This vegetable dish comes with many symbolisms. In Buddhist tradition, one must practice a vegetarian diet for the first five days of the new year as a form of self-purification. There’s no fixed recipe for Buddha’s delight but the commonly used ingredients for this dish are black mushrooms, fat choy, cellophane noodles, bamboo shoots, tofu, arrowhead, and more. These are then stir-fried in a savory sauce of mushroom sauce, rice wine, soy sauce, and sesame oil.
As the name states, longevity noodles symbolizes a long and prosperous life. These noodles are also eaten during birthdays where celebrants ensure not to cut the noodles when enjoying them.
Tray of Togetherness
There’s also plenty of room for desserts during the Lunar New Year. The Tray of Togetherness is a platter filled with different types of sweet and fruity snacks. It either has six compartments to symbolize luck or eight to symbolize fortune. The snacks may include different types of nuts, dried fruit, peach or sunflower seeds, and even tangerines and pomelos. Together, they all signify abundance and prosperity.
Nian Gao / Rice Cakes
Rice Cakes is called “nian gao” in Chinese where “nian” means year and “gao” means tall or high. Together, it symbolizes achieving greater heights. Additionally, its taste represents a rich and sweet life ahead, while its round shape symbolizes togetherness of the whole family.
Whether you’re celebrating Chinese New Year or not, may 2021 be filled with great luck and prosperity and may it bring your families closer than ever.