Food is a big part of the Chinese New Year celebration. The
foods served around this time of year signify such things as
happiness, longevity, and wealth and prosperity. Tangerines,
which are a symbol of good luck, are often given away throughout
the festivities in Chinatown.
During both food preparation and dining, the Chinese rarely
use cutting utensils, such as knives and cleavers during the
New Year celebrations. They believe these are unlucky because
they may divide the good luck, so foods like noodles and vegetables
are traditionally served uncut.
Traditionally, at home, an even number of courses are served
for dinner on the eve of the New Year because multiples of
two represent double happiness and fortune. One of the courses
often includes a whole yu, or fish, as it symbolizes togetherness
and abundance. It is never fully consumed, thus symbolically
ensuring the family will always have “more than enough,” which
is what the written character for yu means.
Jai or Buddha’s Delight is vegetarian dish that’s
also popular with the Chinese during the New Year. It is made
with 18 ingredients, believed by the Chinese to be a lucky
Another popular New Year’s dish, one that also symbolizes
continuous good fortune, is fire pot. It is served fondue-style
and includes ingredients such as assorted meats, seafood, mushrooms,
and noodles, each with a special meaning. These are dipped
in a hot broth placed in the middle of the table.
Chinese words for certain foods sound like other words that
mean good luck. In the fire pot dish, oysters are included
because the Chinese word for oysters, hao sounds like the word
for “an auspicious occasion or event.” Eating oysters
as part of the fire pot thus increase our receptivity to good
Another example, lettuce, called sang choi, sounds like the
word that means “to bring about wealth and riches” or “rising
fortune,” so it symbolizes prosperity. From www.recipezaar.com,
here is an Asian lettuce wrap appetizer that you can try at
home: Prep time: 20 minutes, cook time: 15 minutes
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
1 cup carrots, shredded
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
8 ounces water chestnuts
6 large lettuce leaves
1- 1 1/4 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
1. Whisk water and cornstarch in a large bowl until smooth.
2. Stir in teriyaki sauce.
3. Add finely sliced chicken breast and chopped water chestnuts.
4. Stir to coat and marinade for 30 minutes.
5. Cook until brown in wok or skillet with oil in small batches,
6. Lay out the lettuce leaves, divide meat evenly on leaves
and top with shredded carrots.
7. Wrap like a cone.
Rice cake is often served for dessert. It has many levels of
symbolic meaning. The sweetness of the cake represents a rich,
sweet life, while the layers imitate rising abundance for the
coming year. The round shape signifies the coming together
All that’s left now is cook and enjoy.
Kung hee fat choy!