In China, this celebration of the changing of the year is accompanied by house cleaning, to sweep away any trace of bad luck and make way for the good. It’s also a time to welcome family into the home, to join together and celebrate around the table, to wish all peace, harmony and prosperity -- and there’s no better way to get in the wishing spirit than with a belly full of fantastic food and having a few glasses of a well matched wine or beer. Well, that’s a very happy New Year indeed!
We should take a lesson from the Chinese New Year’s traditions: forgetting and forgiving a year's transgressions, petty and major, while wishing all a peaceful and happy year to come. Let us all join in this celebration.
The classic Chinese New Year’s celebration typically includes a whole fish, much of which may not even be touched on New Year’s Eve proper. Instead it is saved for New Year’s Day to represent the surplus of the year to come. In fact, fish is a homonym of "surpluses."
This use of homophones (think "there" and "their") is common on the Chinese New Year’s menu, with food including mandarin oranges, which can be a homophone for "luck" or "fortune"; lettuce, which sounds like "growing good fortunes"; and the famous dish Buddha’s delight is often made with a type of algae that is a homophone for "prosperity." Not only will a Chinese New Year’s feast be delicious, but it will be full of good omens for a great New Year. So, what could be on the menu? Let’s see.
Dumplings at midnight! Man, I like this holiday. I mean, who would like some steaming dumplings at midnight?
Traditionally these dumplings, thought to be shaped like gold coins for luck, are made with cabbage, pork, ginger and soy sauce, and in some regions a gold coin is placed inside one for extra good luck. Psst -- take the heavy dumpling!
Check out Chef Anita Lo making dumplings on Epicurious.
Much like dumplings, spring rolls symbolize money, as they are thought to resemble bars of precious metals!
I love Jaden Hair’s Mother’s Famous Chinese Egg Rolls. I’m taking liberties here, but these things rock!
Lettuce wraps with duck
A dish featuring those leaves of growing good fortune, lettuce wraps are a breeze to make. All you really have to do is whip together a savory filling and then use cleaned lettuce leaves as little taco shells! Here’s a recipe for my favorite filling: Lettuce Wraps with Duck.
A whole chicken
Yes, keep the head and feet attached to that bird! Besides being yummy, they symbolize the full year, from start to finish, and since this meal is steeped in symbolism you sure don’t want to miss a few days here or there.
I like this version presented by Gourmet Chinese recipes.
Serve this dish with white rice. I’ve done it seasoned with toasted coriander, shaved scallions and mandarin orange sections!
Whether steamed in black bean sauce or deep-fried and served with hot chili sauce, the fish is always the last course, so that some can be saved for the following day, ensuring abundance in the new year.
I love the pictures and detail in Egg Wan’s Food Odyssey, and his Chili Bean Paste Fish and Tofu really made me smile!
Noodles, of course, are very common to Chinese cuisine, and are wonderfully representative during the New Year's feast. The long noodles used signify long life, so make sure not to cut or break your noodles! Using scallops, which look like coins, or lobster, which is of course all about luxury, in your noodle dish can not only ensure a long life, but one well lived!