7 culinary traditions for the Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year, also called the Spring Festival, is the most important traditional festival in China!

During this event, the Chinese prepare delicious typical dishes: dumplings, sticky rice cakes, fish, noodle soup, etc. These foods have symbolic meaning and are believed to bring happiness and prosperity to the whole family. Check out 7 food traditions for Chinese New Year! Enjoy your meal, 慢慢吃!

1. Dumplings

Gnocchi is a typical Lunar New Year dish. This northern Chinese dish is absolutely delicious. Ravioli is usually filled with pork, but can also be filled with shrimp, chicken or vegetables. They are steamed or fried.

According to the Chinese, the shape of the dumplings evokes that of gold ingots, an ancient Chinese currency. They therefore symbolize prosperity and good luck. The more you eat during the Spring Festival, the better for next year’s finances!

In Chinese, this dish is called 饺子 (pronounced: jiǎozi). If you want to learn how to pronounce this word correctly, you can check out this Chinese Tips article! It will also help you learn how to pronounce all the other dish names featured in this cooking guide!

2. Longevity noodles

Longevity noodles are one of the most important Chinese New Year traditions. These are especially long fried noodles. According to popular belief, the longer the noodles, the longer the diners will live.

Longevity noodles are usually served in a large bowl of broth. It is traditional to cut them with your teeth or chopsticks. The name of the dish in Mandarin is 长寿面 (cháng shòu miàn).

3. Sticky rice cakes

On New Year’s Eve, the Chinese serve sticky rice cakes at the table. Traditionally, these sweets are flavored with longan, red bean or brown sugar.

In Chinese, this dessert is called 年糕 (nián gāo). The second character 糕 (gāo) phonetically resembles the word “tall” which is written (高) and is also pronounced gāo. For this reason, eating Nian Gao symbolizes the desire to elevate oneself in one’s life, career or studies.

4. Fish for Chinese New Year

During the Chinese New Year meal with the family, skipping the fish is out of the question! Indeed, the pronunciation of the word “fish” in Chinese resembles that of the word “abundance”.

It can be cooked in several ways: blanched, steamed or braised. Fish must be the last dish left on the table, and heads and tails must be left, to express the desire to start the year with savings.

5. Imperial spring rolls

Did you know that spring rolls are called that because they are eaten during the “Spring Festival” in China? It is in fact one of the traditional specialties of the Chinese New Year. Originally from Canton, they are tasted everywhere in China for the occasion.

The Chinese word for spring roll is: 春卷 (chūnjuǎn).

They are garnished with vegetables, meat or sweet foods. Then, we wrap them in a thin sheet of puff pastry before frying them. Their golden color resembles that of a gold bar. That’s why spring rolls are supposed to ensure prosperity!

6. Spring Festival Favorite Fruits

Tangerines, oranges and grapefruits are especially popular during the Spring Festival. Their color approaching gold is reminiscent of prosperity and their rounded shape is reminiscent of fullness. Eating these citrus fruits in the New Year period is therefore synonymous with luck and luck!

Dragon fruit is also especially eaten during the Spring Festival, as it represents good luck and wealth.

7. A whole chicken

To celebrate the Chinese New Year, the whole chicken is presented on the table, with the head and legs. White meat symbolizes purity and serving whole poultry represents unity. Also, the word “chicken” is homophonous with the Chinese word ji (吉), which means “luck” and prosperity.

Now you know the most emblematic dishes of China for the new year! As you can see, the pronunciation of the names of traditional dishes is often similar to that of lucky words in China: money, fortune, prosperity, longevity…

We wish you a good meal and a happy new year!

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