What began as a farmers celebration to mark the end of winter has become the most important festival among the Chinese. Spanning at least 3,000 years, it’s no surprise that this auspicious festive season comes with its own long standing traditions. From the giving of red envelopes (ang pow) to the significance of a lion dance, the history and practices of Chinese New Year are undoubtedly rich– and the same can be said for its traditional dishes!
Food, then and now, is the cornerstone of Chinese New Year. Though the past 50 years may have inspired a new wave of Chinese New Year dishes like the “deconstructed dumpling” or “reconstructed yee sang”, we prefer to keep it traditional.
In Mandarin, Chángshòu Miàn (chung-show myen) symbolises longevity and happiness. Slurping up without severing them signifies the eater’s life – long and uncut. Longevity Noodles have lived a long and celebrated life, being part of not one, but two Chinese traditions! While most of us blow out the candles on birthday cakes, many Chinese folks blow the steam off their Longevity Noodles instead. Learn how to make your own with our simple recipe here.
Steamed Whole Fish
The character for prosperity, yu, is identical to the word for fish. Families buy a whole fish, which symbolizes unity, and typically steam it with ginger and a light soy sauce. But wait, the homophones don’t stop there – different types of fish carry different auspicious meanings. Catfish or Niányú (nyen-yoo) is pronounced the same as ‘year surplus’. In Mandarin, the first character of a Crucian Carp Jìyú (jee-yoo) sounds like ‘good luck’ jí (jee). Get our simple and delicious recipe here.
Jiăozi traditionally resemble ingots or money, hence why eating dumplings is believed to usher in wealth. Chinese don't eat Chinese sauerkraut (suāncài) dumplings during the Spring Festival, because it implies a poor and difficult future. In Northern China, dumplings are as much of a necessity as water, and are made with a soy-ginger cabbage and pork filling. Here is a simple recipe you can follow:
Combine the pork, ginger, garlic, green onion, soy sauce, sesame oil, egg and cabbage in a large bowl. Mix well.
Place 1 heaping teaspoon of pork filling onto each wonton skin. Moisten edges with water and fold edges over to form a triangle shape. Roll edges slightly to seal in filling. Set dumplings aside on a lightly floured surface until ready to cook.
Steam dumplings in a covered bamboo or metal steamer for about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
Directly translating to "year cake" in Mandarin, this glutinous rice-based cake can be found all year round, but is traditionally consumed during Chinese New Year for good luck and overall advancement in the new year. It’s a popular gift during this festive season, especially when shaped in a pair of carps to symbolise surplus, or ingots to represent wealth. The cakes we’re familiar with (the one in squares) are prepared Cantonese style, which are traditionally sweetened with brown sugar. However, there are many other ways of preparing the dish. A favourite is to just pan-fry it with egg wash, for a crispy yet chewy treat.
These adorable squishy balls taste as good as they look. This dessert isn’t exclusive to just the Winter Solstice Festival, but is traditionally enjoyed during the 15th day of Chinese New Year (Yuanxiao Festival) as well! It is made differently depending on the geographic location. The version we are familiar with comes from the southern part of China, where the stuffing is put in last, after the dough is made. The roundness of the rice balls signifies the complete circle of harmony and unity within the family. They are served in a soup and traditional fillings include sesame paste, red bean or peanuts.
Excited for Chinese New Year? Make sure you are fully prepped for your reunion feast – head over to your nearest Cold Storage outlet today!