Happy Chinese New Year! Even though you may have rang in the year over a month ago, the lunar calendar has just come to an end and the Chinese are just now celebrating the start to their new year. Filling the streets of Chinatown, and among different Chinese restaurants, you’ll see lanterns, decorations and these traditional dishes. Lots of Chinese dishes have symbolic meaning, and are eaten around New Year’s to help bring in luck for the rest of the year. Here are eight food items that you should keep an eye out for as Chinese New Year approaches.
1. Zongzi/ Rice Dumpling
Think Chinese tamale. Unwrap those green leaves from this dumpling, and you’ll find a layer of sticky rice, usually covering some yummy ingredients like sausage, egg or pork. There are many different ways to make this zongzi or “rice dumpling”, and it can be eaten as a sweet treat or as a savory meal.
2. Tangerines and Oranges
These sweet fruits are seen around Chinese New Year a lot, because they symbolize wealth. Their golden skin is one of the colors the Chinese consider lucky, and these fruits are eaten to symbolize luck and wealth throughout the new year.
3. Nian gao
Nian gao, sometimes referred to as “year cake”, is a sweet and sticky dessert that each family has their own way of making. While some families will add their own toppings to it, others prefer to slice it and eat it fried. But no matter how you eat it, you can’t go wrong with this delicious dessert!
Noodles are typically seen at many different special events for the Chinese people— at birthdays, at parties and especially on New Year’s! The long noodles are used as a symbol of longevity; plus, they make for yummy dishes!
5. Luo buo gao/ turnip cake
These turnip cakes can be eaten steamed or fried, and their savory taste suits the palates of many different people. Try adding your own personal flavor to it by placing it in a side of soy sauce or chili sauce!
Dumplings are a Chinese classic year-round, but they rise in popularity especially in Chinese New Year. Families bond over making their own homemade dumplings at home and wrapping them all up together. This yummy dish serves as a representation of ringing in the new year.
7. Peking duck
Poultry is an important dish during Chinese New Year, but Peking duck holds extra significance. The Chinese people have been eating Peking duck for centuries, and throughout the years, people have come up with new ways of serving it. Some people like eating their Peking duck with just a simple side of rice, but others prefer to put it in a wrap with sauce!
8. Tang yuan
Although this sweet dessert is available year round, it is especially prominent during Chinese New Year because families tend to eat this dessert when they all meet up together. These sweet sticky balls are placed in a warm sweet soup base, and are sometimes personalized when filled with sesame paste or with peanut butter.
Many things hold symbolic resonance in Chinese culture, and even the foods that they choose to eat hold significant meaning. Try each of these foods to help bring luck and prosperity to you throughout the new year! 新年快乐!