Wishing you great happiness and prosperity
This year, Chinese New Year is celebrated on Sunday, January 22nd, and kung hee fat choy is a traditional greeting you will hear amongst family and friends. There are differences in dialects but the meaning is the same, wishing each other happiness and prosperity.
As with any major holiday, food plays a big role in the celebration. Growing up I was fortunate to have two popos (grandmothers) who spent hours preparing new year’s feasts. What I didn’t realize is that the dishes were chosen to represent specific things like prosperity, luck, and long life.
Following are some traditional and not-so-traditional dishes that may be found in a Chinese New Year feast.
Traditional and not-so-traditional dishes
Nian Gao is a sticky rice cake similar in texture to Japanese mochi but with a deeper flavor. It represents higher success or higher income in the coming year.
This recipe comes from my popo (my paternal grandmother) and it is the one dish we must make each new year.
Dumplings represent wealth and prosperity. Legend says the more dumplings you eat, the more money you can make in the new year. The type of wrappers as well as the ingredients used in the filling all have specific meanings.
Here are several recipes for dumplings – fried, steamed, or boiled.
Noodles represent longevity. Typically the extra-long longevity noodles are served as one long continuous strand and can be up to two feet in length. They are meant to be slurped so the noodle isn’t broken. The longer the noodle, the longer your life will be.
If you can’t find longevity noodles, use another type, but don’t cut them. These Spicy Minced Pork Noodles are a tasty alternative to try.
Vegetables signify many different things like renewal, energy, wealth, luck, and harmony. Vegetables can be served braised, steamed, or stir-fried.
These Spicy Asian Lettuce Wraps include lettuce which represents wealth as well as a number of additional vegetables.
Tangerines and oranges, and citrus in general, represent luck. You will often find carefully stacked citrus in homes during the new year celebration.
This Citrus Almond Cake is a different way of incorporating citrus into the new year dinner.
Other celebratory dishes:
- Whole fish for abundance and wealth
- Whole chicken (including the head and feet) for unity and togetherness
- Sweets like dried sweetened fruits or candies symbolize a sweet life
- Jai is a vegetarian dish that is meant to bring good luck. In Buddhist tradition, no animal or fish should be killed on the first day of the new year. Thus jai not only brings good luck but is also considered to be purifying.
Kung hee fat choy! May the new year bring you great happiness and prosperity!