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Story of The 5 Must-Have Food For Luck During Chinese New Year

Story of The 5 Must-Have Food For Luck During Chinese New Year

Auli Cinantya
28 January 2022

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From Steamed Fish to Noodles, these are some must-have food for Chinese New Year, but do you know why?

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Aside from celebrating the new year on January 1st, several Asian countries also celebrate the Chinese New Year. This year, the celebration known as the Lunar Year starts on February 1st and usually continues for two weeks, and the year of the Water-Tiger, it is said that this year will bring out our strength and braveness. 

Like every celebration, the Chinese New Year is the time to bring families together, and food is an essential part of the celebration. Several dishes are considered a must served during the Chinese New Year; these foods are part of their deep-rooted culture and are believed to bring good luck and fortune for the coming year. There are several layers of symbolism behind Lunar New Year dishes, such as what the food’s name sounds like, how it’s prepared, and how it’s served have a deeper meaning, making it more special. 

With the many dishes served during the celebration, we have picked some of the must-have dishes to eat and their meaning.  What are some of the five must-have food to bring you luck in the Chinese New Year? 

Dumplings

With over 1,800 years of history, dumpling (饺子 Jiǎozi) is a classic lucky dish served for Chinese New Year and New Year’s eve. More than a mere snack, dumplings symbolise luck and prosperity as it’s associated with wealth. According to tradition, the more dumplings you eat during the New Year celebrations, the more money and wealth you can make in the New Year.

Longevity Noodles

Traditionally served as a very long thin single-strand uncut noodle, just like its name, longevity noodles (长寿面 Chángshòu Miàn) symbolise a wish for longevity. Their length and unsevered preparation are also symbolic of the eater’s life. Eating longevity noodles in the New Year also implies that everything will be smooth in the coming year. 

Steamed Fish

Serving a whole fish is considered a must during the Chinese New Year dinner. That is because the word “fish” and “surplus” have the same pronunciation, “Yu”. Thus serving a whole fish symbolises a wish for abundance and surplus in the coming year, and serving it whole with the head and tail attached, represents a good beginning and ending for the months to come.

Pecking Duck

Peking Duck is one of the most popular dishes at Chinese New Year Dinner. It symbolises fidelity in Chinese culture, and the history of the Pecking duck can be traced back to the Ming Dynasty’s imperial court menu. Known for its crispy, thin skin and tender meat, the glossy skin coloured in a red-ish golden hue symbolised a lucky colour according to the Chinese culture. As it is very labour intensive to make an authentic Pecking Duck, the dish has become an icon not just for Chinese New Year. Pecking duck is often served rolled in Mandarin crepes with hoisin sauce, cucumber, and scallion.

Nian Gao (Glutinous Rice Cake)

Sometimes translated as a New Year Cake, Nian Gao is made of glutinous rice flour served sweet or savoury-depending on the region. Commonly eaten on Chinese New Year’s eve and wrapped in paper, Nian Gao is a traditional glutinous rice cake made of sticky rice, dates, chestnut, sugar, and lotus leaves. These sweet delicacies can be given as a gift for good fortune for the new year. Whether it is served sweet or savoury, eating Nian Gao is accompanied by the phrase “Getting higher year-after-year by year,” meaning a general improvement in life. 

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