Six Traditional Chinese New Year must-have foods

In the honor of Chinese New Years and year of the Rooster, I thought it would be extra fun to share my thoughts on the six dishes that are usually associated with CNY. Meanwhile, I’ll provide some commentary below of each photo explaining the symbolism attached to the dish and describing what each dish tastes like. Depending what part of china a family comes from, each dish will slightly differ in preference of both looks and taste. Since my family identifies themselves as Cantonese, (from the coastal area in Southern China) the foods that I will be sharing will most likely reflect a Cantonese palette. Nevertheless, the goal of this post is to share some insight of what it’s like to eat at my family’s table during this holiday.

Let’s start with the noodles(Miàn)…

noodles-chicken-ginger-mushrooms-superjumbo
AKA the Longevity noodle this time of the year. Basically, long noodle= long life. When we usually order this at restaurants we usually ask for the lobster mian (noodles). Each chewy thread of noodle is usually coated with oil, garlic, and syrup sweet soy sauce, and occasionally its tangled with a wilted piece of stir-fry napa lettuce. 

Moving on to the dumplings (Jiǎozi)…

20091015_vanesasdumplings_560x375
These are actually potstickers. The general rule of thumb of what’s the difference between a potsticker, dumplings are typically boiled, while potstickers are pan fried. Usually, in Cantonese restaurants, all of the dumplings are pan-fried. Potstickers symbolize wealth. The Chinese name for the dumpling means change and the shape of the dumpling resembles a tael that was used as a currency in China at one point. 

Y’all know these spring rolls (chūnjuǎn) …

 

friedbaked-spring-rolls
These crispy spring roll babies are another CNY must-have dishes. It is also eaten during the Spring festival, hence the name. These spring rolls resembled golds bars so the meaning of eating the spring rolls is to be said to bring prosperity. At a young age, my grandma taught me the ropes of becoming an informal dim sum connoisseur. If an egg roll wrapper was thin, that meant that the Chef has bars and it is a golden rule for us Cantonese people when we rate a good spring roll. Most spring rolls have grated veggies and mushrooms. Sometimes they also are plumped up with chicken, pork and even crab. 

 

Now onto the fish (yú)

 

steamed-whole-fish-5
I said it. It’s a whole fish, heads eyeballs, gills and tail. So you don’t eat the gills, but I have seen people fight over to eat an eyeball which apparently to some are a delicacy. This steamed fish is usually a whole fish sitting in a pool of warm sweet soy sauce, with liberal amounts of cilantro, chunks of ginger and green onions. The fish is very soft and has bones still intact. It’s personally not my favorite. I recommend being extra careful when eating this fish, the little bones are sneaky. 

 

Rice cakes (niángāo)

fried-nian-gao-1024x685
This is actually a finished product. Most nian gao are sold separately in grocery stores and restaurants in foil cake tins. These rice cakes are usually then cut into rectangles and are pan fried in an egg batter. What gives this rice cake it’s chewy texture is from using the rice flour which makes it extra glutenous. Cantonese style rice cakes usually are made with brown sugar, giving it a caramelized taste and look. The significance of eating this dish applies to getting a promotion or prosperity in the upcoming year. The word nian means year. Apparently, this cake was an offering to the Kitchen God’s. Nevertheless, it’s a tasty treat and in my house and consumed for breakfast anytime during the 2 week span holiday. 

Moving onto these little balls of gush (tāngyuán )

 

black_sesame_glutinous_balls_in_ginger_soup_12
Growing up I don’t remember having this as a must-have on the menu for CNY but it is a common CNY  or celebratory dessert. It’s homemade rice flour balls stuffed with either toasted ground sesame paste, red bean filling or smooth peanut butter. When these little balls are simmered in the broth and bitten into like a smooth lava paste. The sesame paste tastes slightly nutty and gritty. If the grittiness is weird, there are peanut butter tang yuan. The broth is usually a sweet ginger-infused broth. If you don’t want the hassle of making these rice balls by hand, they also sell them in dozens at the freezer aisles of many Asian markets. These little balls mean reunion and symbolizing connecting family members together. Besides CNY these are also eaten during Spring Festival. 

 

Most of the dishes I introduced today are some of the most agreed upon traditional dishes in many Chinese household. Eating huge platters of fruit is also very customary during CNY for it symbolizes good fortune and wealth, but yet again which dish for CNY doesn’t associate with Chinese new year doesn’t symbolize good fortune or wealth. Eating poultry such as duck and chicken is also very popular for CNY. I had the pleasure of talking to my grandma last week when she revealed to me that it was only during CNY farmers would eat poultry. In fact, this holiday was one that farmers in parts of China would take two weeks off, buy a new set of clothing and shoes for each of their immediate family members and spend the next two weeks rotating hosting dinner in each of their homes for their community. It was a huge deal!

I had the pleasure of talking to my grandma last week when she revealed to me that it was only during CNY time when farmers would eat poultry. In fact, this holiday was one that gave farmers in parts of China a two weeks break from toiling in the fields and an opportunity to buy a new set of clothing and shoes for each of their immediate family members and families would spend the next two weeks rotating hosting dinner in each of their homes for their community. It was a huge deal! Therefore, the meals during this time were symbolic for the hope of the new year.

I admit I am probably not thinking of each significance of every dish when I am eating the traditional foods for CNY. Nonetheless, all the symbolism of CNY sheds new insights of the importance of eating CNY meal together as a family. I hope everyone has a wonderful CNY, if your not celebrating it this year, make sure you get adopted to a Chinese family by next year. Until then, thanks for reading !

Love,

Sam

 

 

 

Photos link

https://www.google.com/search?q=chinese+new+year+noodles&safe=strict&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwimrcyqvuPRAhWKwiYKHYycDq8Q_AUICCgB&biw=1178&bih=672

https://www.google.com/search q=chinese+new+year+noodles&safe=strict&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwimrcyqvuPRAhWKwiYKHYycDq8Q_AUICCgB&biw=1178&bih=672#safe=strict&tbm=isch&q=spring+rolls

https://www.google.com/search?q=mein+tou+noodles&safe=strict&biw=1178&bih=672&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjx-6OXvuPRAhUE7SYKHf83B4wQ_AUICCgD#safe=strict&tbm=isch&q=tangyuan

https://www.google.com/search?q=nian+gao&safe=strict&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjVm5OSv-PRAhWF2SYKHQLLBZgQ_AUICCgB&biw=1178&bih=672

https://www.google.com/search?q=mein+tou+noodles&safe=strict&biw=1178&bih=672&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjx-6OXvuPRAhUE7SYKHf83B4wQ_AUICCgD#safe=strict&tbm=isch&q=steamed+chinese+fish

https://www.google.com/search?q=chinese+dumplings&safe=strict&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj61MLfv-PRAhUM8CYKHe4QAHgQ_AUICCgB&biw=1178&bih=672

 

 

 

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