What to Serve for the Ultimate Chinese New Year Feast
These traditional Lunar New Year's dishes will bring health, wealth, and (at the very least) immense happiness to your dinner guests.
Though some might consider their New Year’s celebrations long gone by the start of February, in some parts of the world the party hasn’t yet begun. Lunar New Year, which is celebrated in China and other parts of Asia, marks the beginning of a new yearly moon cycle and is brought in with a 15-day festival—starting this year in mid-February—filled with parties, parades, and, of course, plenty of food.
Though planning a holiday feast is never a simple task, a Lunar New Year menu is a particular challenge. In Chinese culture, certain foods are representative of good fortune, and are said to bring blessings to your life. As legend has it, what you eat on the New Year can determine whether you’ll have a successful, prosperous year, or will be bogged down by bad luck.
As the Year of the Dog comes to a close, it’s time to start prepping for the ultimate feast to ring in the Year of the Pig. These traditional dishes are not only delicious, but also rich in tradition and symbolism, and will guarantee you start the New Year with your best foot forward.
Changshou Mian Long Noodles – These foot-long noodles, which are often eaten uncut and included in any traditional New Year’s feast, are the ultimate symbol of longevity and will bring the eater a lengthy, healthy life. Though pretty much any noodle dish is a great fit for your New Year party, this traditional recipe will help you live an unbroken life.
Dumplings - In addition to spring rolls, dumplings are said to represent wealth. In a tradition that dates back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties, dumplings are often prepared the day before the celebration and eaten at midnight on New Year’s Eve. According to legend, the more dumplings you’re able to consume over the holiday, the more money you’re going to make in the coming year. Challenge accepted. Pan-Fried Beef and Scallion Dumplings, Pork Dumplings with Chile-Sesame Sauce, Chicken Wontons, or Shrimp, Cabbage, and Carrot Potstickers should do the trick for ensuring financial prosperity.
Spring Rolls - Spring rolls, which were named for the Spring Festival, also represent financial success, given their similarity in color and shape to gold bars—the ultimate symbol of wealth. These fried Shanghai Spring Rolls with Sweet Chili Sauce will keep your bank account bountiful, or try a healthier take with this fresh, veggie-packed version.
Fish – Fish is a must-have at any Lunar New Year feast, and represent an increase in prosperity. Serve your fish whole (here are some tips for first-timers) to symbolize family unity, and leave some leftovers for the next day in order to ensure the continuation of prosperity in days to come. This Whole Chinese Red Snapper will be a sure hit with your dinner guests.
Tangyuan (rice balls) – These rice balls—which can be served sweet in a sugary syrup, or savory, as in this Sticky Rice Balls with Sausage and Dried Shrimp recipe—are a symbol of togetherness. Traditionally eaten on the last day of the holiday, these treats are the ultimate symbol of family and friends coming together to celebrate.
Niangao (Glutinous Rice Cakes) – The Chinese name of this traditional treat comes from the phrase “nian nian gao sheng,” which means “increasing prosperity year after year,” making the dish a bearer of higher status and income. These New Year’s Rice Cakes have had a place in Chinese culture for 3,000 years, and continue to be an important aspect of any Lunar New Year feast.
Babao Fan (Eight Treasures Rice) – Another play on glutinous rice, this sticky rice pudding promises vast fortune to those who consume it. Drenched in syrup and filled with eight kinds of nuts, fruits, and candy, this traditional recipe is not only delicious, but is also said to bring abundant prosperity to your life.
Mustard greens – This veggie has become a symbol for a long life, given their resilience and difficulty to overcook. This Mustard Greens Salad with Pork and Asian Pear will be a perfect side dish, and add a little greenery to your New Year’s table.
Tangerines and oranges – Citrus fruits have become a mainstay of Chinese New Year, as they are at their peak during the winter months. Representing fullness and wealth, citrus fruits are often gifted to friends and family during this season as a sign of goodwill. For a boozy take on this traditional food, try this Sparkling Orange Punch recipe.