Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

8 Traditional Foods You Should Try For Chinese New Year

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

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!

4. Noodles


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! 

6. Dumplings


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!

Kalysa was the 2020-21 Editor in Chief and Campus Correspondent for the UCLA chapter of Her Campus. She was also previously a Senior Editor and Feature Writer for the chapter. On the rare occasion she's not busy studying for school or writing for Her Campus, you'll probably find her indulging in tiramisu or reading (and re-reading) her favorite novels. 
Her Campus at UCLA is a proud Elite Level Chapter in the Her Campus. Our team consists of talented writers, content creators, photographers, designers, event planners and more! Follow us @HerCampusUCLA and check out HerCampus.com/school/UCLA for more articles! Feel free to contact us at hc.ucla@hercampus.com for any questions.