Here is a list of things you should eat during Lunar New Year! The occasion is celebrated by many cultures, but this post will focus on foods within the Chinese culture, and specifically Cantonese/Hong Kong style. All of these foods represent something good which we want to happen and many are eaten in any celebratory occasion, such as birthdays, anniversaries and other Chinese festivals!
As the New Year is based on the lunar calendar, it’s different to the Gregorian calendar. Here are some dates:
- 12th Feb 2021
- 1st Feb 2022
- 22nd Jan 2023
- 10th Feb 2024
- 29th Jan 2025
Vegetable stir fry
Also known as Buddha’s delight. It is common for the first day of the New Year to be completely vegetarian as it is a Buddhist tradition that animals are not eaten. This also ties in with the story that the twelve animal zodiac stems from a race which Buddah organised, with the 12 being the ones who completed the race in order with Rat first. How did Rat win? There is a stream to cross as part of the race and Rat jumped on top of the Ox’s back, and then jumped off to cross the finishing line!
The word for fish in Chinese sounds like the word for abundance. You would serve the fish whole as to cut it would mean to sever that abundance.
Dumplings symbolise wealth as they look like ingots. The name also sounds like to exchange midnight, which is very apt for welcoming the New Year!
Spring Roll/Egg rolls
Spring rolls also look like ingots, so they also symbolise wealth. In Western countries, you are probably familiar with the savoury versions served in many Chinese takeaways. You can also get cookie egg rolls from Chinese supermarkets, which are basically an egg cookie rolled to form a roll or rolled ‘parcel’.
Noodles sound like the word for life, so they represent this. Long noodles mean a long life, so you try not to cut these and make them as long as you can if you are handmaking them.
Chicken and eggs
The chicken represents family whereas the eggs represent wealth with it’s “silver” and “gold” parts.
Red is a lucky colour for the New Year, so eating red foods is also lucky!
Represents longevity and prosperity
A “cake” made predominantly from sugar and and rice flour. Translation across the two languages makes this a bit odd, but the word for “cake” is often used to describe any type of solid pudding. The word also sounds like the Chinese word for “tall” or “high” so by making eating this, you are wishing for a better year!
Glutinous rice balls
A Chinese dessert consisting of a dough made from glutinous rice, which is then filled inside with a sweet filling. This is served in a soup dessert. The roundness of these represents unity. You can try these at the Wasabi Dessert Room, but many Western palates are not accustomed to the taste of these. Fair warning!
Glutinous rice parcels
These present a good harvest. Inside the filling can be either sweet or savoury, with the latter being found in many dim sum menus.
Orange and yellow citrus and pomelo
Orange and yellow citrus look like money, so these represent wealth. In addiition to this, the Chinese word for tangerine also sounds like the word for “success”. Pomelo in Chinese also sounds like the Chinese word for “have”, so you would eat this to “have more”.