This week we celebrate Chinese New Year, and the food is one of the key ingredients in celebrating this festivity! Chinese New Year food is the center of bringing family together and each dish symbolizes prosperity for the new year, so we decided to dig into what some dishes represent!
1. Whole fish (abundance, prosperity)
The chinese word for fish (yú “鱼”) sounds like the word “余” which means surplus or abundance. In fact there is a chinese saying of “年年有鱼” which loosely translates to every year have fish, or every year have abundance (“年年有余”). Fish is typically served whole at the end of the meal to symbolise surplus at the end of the year.
2. Tangerines, oranges (wealth, success)
Oranges are a very common food associated to Chinese New Year. This is because oranges are a popular symbol of good luck due to the similarity between the Chinese words for orange (“橙”) and success (“成”).
3. Dumplings (wealth, prosperity)
Dumplings are eaten for their shape, which resembles a gold ingot or money packets. These chinese dumplings (or also known as jiǎozi) are traditionally eaten on the fifth day of Chinese New Year, which also happens to be the birthday of Caishen, the Chinese God of Wealth.
4. Shrimp (happiness)
The word for shrimp in Chinese is pronounced “ha” (虾), which sounds just like laughter. Therefore, shrimp is often served to symbolise a happy year ahead.
5. Noodles (longevity)
Also known as longevity noodles, these long noodles made of either rice, egg or wheat dough represent, well, longevity. They are served uncut to symbolise a wish for long life.
6. Brocolli & cauliflower (riches)
Dishes with brocolli or cauliflower are often served because of its stalks. The multiple stalks each symbolise a blossoming new year.
7. Nián Gāo (good luck)
These sticky rice cakes can be enjoyed all year round, but they are especially popular during the Chinese New Year due to the name. Nián gāo literally translates to “year cake” from Chinese to English, and gāo (“糕”) is a homophone with “高” which means higher or elevated – similar to the phrase “higher each year”. Consuming this confection is believed to bring you more luck in the coming new year.
8. Yee sang (prosperity)
Also known as lou hei, this festive dish originated from Malaysia! It is also eaten in Singapore, Indonesia and is gaining popularity in China. This colourful raw salad consists of varying ingredients like carrots, daikon, red cabbage, raw fish, peanuts, sesame seeds and is dressed with plum sauce and sesame oil. Loosely translated to “prosperity toss”, that is exactly how the dish is enjoyed – the ingredients are layed out nicely on a large serving dish and everyone gathers around with their chopsticks to toss the salad, ushering in good wishes for the new year.
But of course with every festive meal, remember to eat up all the good food and not let anything go to waste!