It’s All About The Food This Chinese New Year
It’s that time of year! From the 5th-19th of February 2019, families will come together over a feast to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Food is one of the many things the Chinese put a lot pride and passion into. Which is why the menu becomes even more important for Chinese New Year.
Did you know the Chinese dishes are created to give blessings for the next year to come? Every element to each dish is a symbolic and eaten for a reason. In my day-to-day life, I generally eat food to satisfy my cravings or because I enjoy the dish. When it is a traditional dish and made by a loved one, I enjoy it even more. But I never really considered the meaning behind the food I eat. It is interesting to learn the importance of particular foods to different cultures and truly inspiring to learn the Chinese culture serve food based on what it represents. Even the activities and decorations are symbols of these wishes for prosperity and happiness.
Although every household upholds different customs, we would like to share with you the most common dishes you would expect to see on the dining table on Chinese New Year:
Spring rolls: Yes we love spring rolls! Traditionally, in Southern China Spring rolls are eaten during the Spring Festival to celebrate the coming of Spring. They symbolise the wish for prosperity and wealth, typically because of their golden appearance. You would usually see these served as a dinner dish or snack. The crispy texture and the delicious filling will definitely satisfy your taste buds this Chinese New Year.
Dumplings: There’s a lot to love about dumplings. But did you know the reason why they are shaped like ancient Chinese silver and gold ingots? I’m sure many of us would just think of dumplings as deliciously filled pillows of cooked dough. In the Chinese culture, wrapping a dumping signifies you are wrapping in good fortune. After eating them, it symbolises you are welcoming in a the new year and will live a wealthy and prosperous life. I know what your thinking… you’re craving dumplings now! Me too.
Noodles: Who loves slurping noodles? Well there’s good news for you. It is believed that the longer the noodle, the longer your life will be. This means lots of slurping for you! You are not allowed to cut them and preferably should swallow whole instead of chewing into pieces. Before noodles were rolled into the noodle shape we eat today, they were known as “soup pancakes” as the dough would be teared into little pieces before cooked in the pot. Today, noodles can be served with a variety of ingredients which each symbolise something different to one another. We are talking tofu, fish, roasted pig and peaches. Yum!
Steamed Fish: Fish has the same pronunciation as 余 in Chinese which means “surplus”. That’s why fish is eaten for the blessing of excess food and wealth every year. If you’re steaming a fish for your Chinese New Year celebrations, be sure to eat half for dinner and the second half the following night. This is to prolong the surplus of food and ensure prosperity too.
Steamed Chicken: I love chicken! But out of all the times I’ve eaten it, I never knew it symbolises family. It also represents rebirth and reunion. It is a Chinese tradition to keep the feet and head on the chicken when serving it (definitely not how I’m used to serving my chicken). The feet represent grasping onto wealth, whilst chicken wings are said to help you soar higher. Even the chicken bones are a symbol of achievement. The chicken is usually offered first to the ancestors. Although praying to your ancestors for blessings and protection is seen as a superstition today, it is still an important part of the Spring festival.
Nian gao (Rice Cakes): This is a must-have dish for Chinese New Year. It is a symbol of growth, improving and being more successful than the previous year. They are made from yellow rice or sticky glutinous rice, which create two different colours and textures. For a sweet twist, the Chinese add sugar to the glutinous rice and combine the batter with rose petals, hibiscus or mint for extra flavouring. This is sure to fulfill your sweet tooth.
Vegetable dishes: Spring is the season to finish all those vegetables stored from the winter. So, you’re guaranteed to see lots of greens, seaweed, lotus seeds, leek and mushrooms on your dinner table. You could create a delicious stir-fry with a mixture of vegetables… I’m sure your family will be impressed.
Hot pot: Expect to see this in the centre of the table at dinner during Chinese New Year. Enjoy a bubbling hot pot with meat and vegetables that can be customised exactly to your liking.
Be sure to give one of these traditional dishes a try with your loved ones over this Chinese New Year.