With the Chinese New Year around the corner, I would like to introduce some Chinese food traditions from my view point. Different regions might have different practices.
From where I came from, i.e. South East Asia, the Chinese New Year celebration starts on Chinese New Year eve. The family will gather for a family union dinner. The dinner will be one of the more lavish one with whole fish, chicken, dried oyster, black moss (fatt choy), mushroom, etc. The name of the dishes are usually of good fortune, happiness, etc. Some of the name of the dishes are Good Deed will Prosper (Yau Yue Tim Hoe Si), Prosperity in Abundance (Foo Kwai Weng Wah), Happiness All Over (Hee Ha Tai Siew), etc.
In my family, we like to have hotpot on Chinese New Year eve. There is less preparation and everyone will gather around the hotpot to enjoy a meal. It’s all about reunion and sitting down for a meal together in today’s busy world where such occasion is rare.
For the Northern Chinese people, making and eating dumpling on Chinese New Year eve is a way of getting everyone in the kitchen to work and share. The shape of the dumpling resembles the gold ingot used in the old days in China. It signifies prosperity.
|Green Cabbage and Egg Dumpling|
|Garlic Chives Dumpling|
|Pan Fried Napa Cabbage (Suey Choy) Dumpling|
|Boiled Pork and Cabbage Dumplings|
Above are some of the dumpling recipes that were shared on chowtimes.com.
On the first day of Chinese New Year, my late mum usually cooked a big pot of Vegetarian Dish (Loh Hon Zhai). Most Buddhists will abstain from meat consumption on the first day because it is believed that this will ensure longevity for them.
On the second day of Chinese New Year, the young generation will visit the older generation and it’s known as “bai nin”. They will bring along auspicious items like mandarin oranges (kum which sounds like gold), peanuts, etc. In South East Asia, two popular items that people bring during such visits are:
|Dried Meat (Bak Kwa)|
On such visits, the younger generation will receive a red packet (hung pau) from the older generation as a gesture of good blessings.
During such visits, Chinese New Year cakes and goodies will be served.
|Tangerine Cookies (the word tangerine in Chinese is “kum” which sounds like gold) which signifies prosperity.|
|Pineapple Cookies (Fung Lei So) is also a very popular cookies served during Chinese New Year. I love this a lot.|
|Chinese Turnip Cake (Lo Bak Go) is usually served as snack during Chinese New Year. Daikon is usually in season during winter.The Chinese Turnip Cake can be served steamed or pan fried.|
|Taro Cake is similar to the Turnip Cake but it’s made with taro instead.|
|Steamed Rice Cake which signifies growth since the cake rises when steamed.|
|Steamed Fatt Ko, another version of steamed rice cake made with brown sugar or palm sugar.|
|Chinese New Year Cake (Nian Gao) which the Chinese name sounds like growing every year.|
|This is a baked version of the Nian Gao.|
|Kueh Bangkit is a popular cookies made during Chinese New Year in Malaysia.|
The seventh day of the Chinese New Year is known as “Yern Yat” which means it’s everyone’s birthday.
In Malaysia, we celebrate the seventh day with a dish called Fish Salad (Yue Sang). It’s a colourful dish made with shredded vegetables, crackers, raw fish and plum sauce.
The act of eating this dish is called “Lo Sang” where all the participants will toss the ingredients as high as they can and wishing one another good wishes. The usual wishes include “Bo Bo Go Sing”, “Sang Yi Hing Loong”, etc. This is especially popular among businessmen who wishes for prosperity in their businesses.
The Chinese New Year celebration ends on the fifteen day. The fifteen day of Chinese New Year is also known as “Yuen Siew” or “Chap Go Meh”. Glutinous rice balls are usually served on this day which bring a sweet ending to the celebration.
|A Hong Kong style tang yuan which is a also common in South East Asia which we usually color them pink.|
|A Taiwanese style Tang Yuan with fermented glutinous rice.|
|Glutinous rice Ball with Sesame Peanut filings.|
How do you celebrate your Chinese New Year? We love to hear from the readers of various traditions that they practice.