The Lunar New Year begins this Friday January 31st and will last for 15 days. Chinese people consider this the most important holiday as it's a time for family reunions and sets the stage for new beginnings. To cast away bad energy, homes are thoroughly cleaned and new clothes are purchased. Food which already plays an important role in Chinese culture is especially meaningful during Chinese New Year. The traditional menu is always planned around auspicious symbolism and fortuitous themes. These are eight good luck foods that are typically served in hopes of ensuring good fortune. Eight is considered a very lucky number in our culture. Pronounced "bat" with a soft A, it sounds like the word for prosper which is "fat".
In Chinese, the word for fish is "yu" sounds like abundance. The fish is usually steamed and topped with a simple ginger, scallion and soy sauce mixture. The head and tail should be left on to represent a good year from start to finish. It's considered bad luck to break the bones and leaving some left overs is lucky since it signifies an overflow of abundance.
Stewed Dried Oysters, Black Moss, Mushrooms and Lettuce : recipe
This Cantonese dish is rich both in taste and meaning. Dried oysters and black moss (hair seaweed) are considered two of the luckiest foods since their name together are "ho see fat choi" which is a homophone for good tidings and prosperity. Mushrooms symbolize the fulfillment of wishes. And lettuce (sang choi) sounds like growing wealth.
Dumplings : recipe
Dumplings traditionally represent wealth and financial success since their shape resembles Chinese gold inglots, an ancient form of currency. It's been said that eating more dumplings during the New Year leads to making more money during the year. Sometimes a coin is hidden in one dumpling and whoever finds it will be extra lucky that year.
Chicken or Duck : recipe
Chicken or duck is customarily served to symbolize a phoenix which is highly regarded as a bird of wealth. A whole bird connotes family unity, harmony and happiness.
Noodles : recipe
Noodles are an age old symbol of longevity in the Chinese culture. Because of that they should be kept as long as possible for a rich and lofty life. To cut them means that you're cutting your life short. There is such a thing as longevity noodles (yi mein) which is a variety of Cantonese egg noodles made from wheat flour that are standard fare at Chinese birthday celebrations. These are also appropriate for CNY.
Chinese New Year Cake : recipe
This sweet glutinous rice cake called "nian gao" literally translates to "higher year" so eating it will lead to growth and achievement bettering the previous year. Their sweetness is meant to sweeten up one's prospects. These are popular gifts during the New Year due to their auspicious meaning.
Sweet Glutinous Rice Balls : recipe
The name for these is "tangyuan" which resembles the word for reunion. They're served in a sweet soup and can be filled with black sesame paste, red bean paste or peanuts. Their round shape signifies a complete circle of harmony and unity and their sweet flavor symbolizes a sweet life.
This large citrus fruit that is similar to a grapefruit is known as the fruit of reunion. In addition, it's name in Chinese is a homophone for "to have". Consuming it is said to reap good fortune and prosperity. It has a very thick skin and tastes like a sweet grapefruit. People will buy bunches of pomelo leaves and bathe with them on Chinese New Year's Eve as doing so is supposed to dispel bad luck/energy.
This is the year of the Wooden Horse which is characteristically a year of optimism and compassion. Here's to a healthy, happy, prosperous and delicious year!