Traditional Lunar New Year Foods And Their Meanings
Jun 16, 2023
Lunar New Year is all about celebrating togetherness and good fortune. During the Eve of the 16-day celebration, certain foods are served and enjoyed together with the family. They are believed to bring special kinds of luck, where their auspiciousness is based on their homophone or appearances. Here are some traditional dishes and their meanings;
Steamed fish is one of the main dishes at a reunion dinner. In Chinese, “Yu” sounds like ‘surplus’—which Chinese people always have at the end of the year. They believe that if they manage to save, they can make more in the coming year. This dish is usually the last dish with some leftovers to represent their auspicious homophone.
Dumplings or ‘jiaozi’ are a classic lucky dish for Lunar New Year. They are minced meat and vegetables wrapped in dough, folded to look like Chinese silver ingots. They are believed to bring more wealth the more you eat them so stuff yourself!
The chicken’s homophone for “ji” means good luck and prosperity, which makes it the perfect welcome dish at reunion dinners. It is usually braised or roasted with simple flavors like ginger or soy and is served whole with the head and feet. The dish symbolizes unity and wholeness and signifies ‘a good beginning and end’ to the year.
Steamed pork belly with taro
This pork dish represents a rich and prosperous life, wealth, strength, and abundant blessings. The sweet, salty, tangy, and tender pork slices are steamed and paired with the starchy taro slices.
Sweet glutinous rice balls ‘tang yuan’
Tangyuan is usually served during the Lantern Festival or Spring Festival and is filled with a sweet filling. The dish’s lucky saying “tuan tuan yuan yuan” in Chinese means ‘group-group round-round’, which would symbolize reunion and togetherness.
Glutinous rice cake ‘nian gao’
Niangao is a delicious cake consisting of sticky rice, sugar, chestnuts, Chinese dates, and lotus leaves. Its name, in Chinese, sounds similar to ‘getting higher year-by-year’—which associates with the belief that the higher you are, the more prosperous your business is.