Happy New Year!
With Chinese New Year around the corner this January, it’s time to talk about our favourite part of it – the food. Certain dishes are made and eaten during this festive season, as they symbolise something greater. They are believed to be lucky, and promise good health, wealth and success in the upcoming year.
Why do they have such auspicious symbolism?
Some of these dishes are said to be lucky due to how their name is pronounced, or merely due to their appearance. But that’s not all – the way they are prepared and served are also important.
For example, yee sang is the most well-known CNY dish that symbolises prosperity, health, luck and all things auspicious. It started out as a poor man’s dish in olden times, and symbolised a time for celebration. The dish has 7 symbolic vegetables, along with raw fish like salmon and dressed in salt, pepper and sweet plum sauce.
Check out our choices below! These fantastic dishes are sure to bring on an auspicious and lucky beginning this Chinese New Year.
Nian Gao (年糕) has the same pronunciation as the Chinese term 年高, which symbolises a better, higher year for all. This means higher income, higher positions, the growth of children, and generally the promise of a better year. In other words, the cakes symbolise achieving new heights. Therefore, it’s considered good luck to eat it during Chinese New Year!
It’s relatively simple to make! The basic ingredients are sweet rice flour/glutinous rice flour, sugar and water. The dish is then steamed or baked before serving. The golden colours of nian gao symbolises wealth, so it’s a very popular dish!
Long Life Noodles
We’re talking LONG noodles – so long to the point that it’s considered bad luck if you cut them! They symbolise longevity and can always be found in birthdays, baby showers and especially Chinese New Year celebrations. In addition to longevity, eating noodles also signifies prosperity and good luck.
It’s believed that the longer the noodle, the longer the lifespan of whoever consumes them. So be careful not to cut or break noodles while preparing or consuming them! Long-life noodles are deliciously simple–– they’re usually cooked yi mein, served with mushrooms, mince and/or garlic chives. Pair them with other CNY dishes on the table and you’re good to go!
Dumpling-lovers rejoice! Here’s your chance to indulge in CNY dumplings. Enjoy them steamed, fried, baked or in any other form possible. It’s believed that the more dumplings you eat, the more money you’ll have in the year to come!
Dumplings are eaten during CNY as their shapes are said to resemble ingot-shaped coins, money pouches and/or gold pieces. They represent fortune and prosperity, as well as uniting the family. This stems from the tradition of families coming together to make dumplings by hand, which is a great way to reunite and bond.
Also known as lobak, this is a special dish that Singaporeans have put their own twist on! It’s a dish of five-spice pork rolls wrapped in beancurd skin. It’s commonly served as an entree or appetiser during festive gatherings. Like most Chinese New Year dishes, they symbolise bursting wealth.
An exquisite array of ingredients are stirred into ground pork and seasoned with five spice powder. The trick is to steam them first before frying them to a crisp to ensure you get that flavourful, juicy bite! Nowadays it’s also common to air-fry them instead if you choose to opt for a healthier version.
A staple for Chinese New Year! Local communities have made their own versions of steamed fish, with Teochew steamed fish being a popular dish. A whole fish must be served during reunion dinner, as it symbolises health and prosperity. It’s good manners to place it with its head facing the elders – this indicates that they should be the first ones to eat.
The concept of a whole fish is essential for this festive period, as it represents carrying your duties throughout the year from start to finish. The fish is cooked whole without cutting it or chopping it. In southern parts of China, it’s common to prepare two fishes – one to eat and one to look at. People are invited to ‘look at the fish’, which is a way of wishing onlookers a prosperous year ahead.
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