Lunar New Year is about to roll around again, this year falling on 1st February, so we’re here to inspire your culinary plans with ideas for traditional fare. Feasting with loved ones is believed to usher in good luck and prosperity, and is one of the greatest joys of celebrating Chinese New Year. During the colourful festivities, food, symbolism and superstition collide. Start the year right with these eight lucky foods that will (hopefully!) bring you good fortune over the next 12 months.
One of the most impressive Lunar New Year staples is a whole fish. Said to bring diners wealth and prosperity, it’s said that fish can help to inspire a whole year of abundance. A classic combination of delicate white fish, such as barramundi or snapper, cooked with a mixture of soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, garlic and ginger always works a treat. Place the whole thing inside foil and top generously with spring onions, coriander and finely sliced ginger, then steam until cooked through. This dish is not only one to enjoy during the festivities, it’s a quick and healthy dinner idea to add to your midweek repertoire.
Head to Countdown for a wide range of fresh fish and other seafood.
A whole chicken is regularly served to dinner guests during a Lunar New Year feast to represent family togetherness. Because it’s high in protein, chicken is believed to symbolise rebirth during the Lunar New Year. Traditionally, it’s recommended you steam or boil the chook with the head and feet attached to represent unity. If that’s not your speed, try a Chinese-style roast chicken instead. Truss a chicken and marinate it overnight in a blend of soy sauce, honey, five-spice powder, sesame oil, salt and white pepper. Pat dry, then roast in a hot oven (about 200°C will do it) for 45 minutes or until skin is crispy and chicken is cooked through. Easy and delicious – what’s not to love?
Dumplings are said to signify wealth due to their similarity in appearance to Chinese gold ingots (oval, boat-shaped hunks of gold once used as currency in imperial China). Typically, Chinese families will wrap dumplings until midnight on Lunar New Year’s Eve to signify leaving the previous year behind. Try some delicious bumpings at Master Bao or Canto Canto.
The first spring rolls were created to combine all of spring’s freshest vegetables, however, you’ll now find them filled with meat, such as pork and prawns, too. Like dumplings, spring rolls are believed to attract good fortune because of their close resemblance to gold bars. If you’re keen to DIY, fill gow gee wrappers with a mixture of finely diced vegetables, meat or seafood, and vermicelli noodles.
A mainstay of the Lunar New Year banquet, longevity noodles (also called chángshòu miàn) represent a long life. A celebratory dish, they’re also brought out to celebrate birthdays as a lucky token. Happily, they’re easy to prepare at home. Stir fry your favourite noodles with sliced green onions and mushrooms, then add soy, oyster sauce, sesame oil and white pepper for extra flavour. One last thing: It’s customary to slurp the extra-long noodles so that the strands aren’t broken.
We recommend Tai Ping for a wide range of Asian ingredients.
Nian gao is often the star of the Chinese New Year dessert spread. The word for rice cake is a homophone for the word tall or ‘to grow’. Thus, it makes perfect sense to eat this treat at New Year’s as it symbolises growth - whether that be in career, money, health, or even physical height!
During Lunar New Year, there is symbolism in eating certain round fruits, which encourage family unity. Oranges and mandarins are especially popular because their golden colour is believed to attract wealth. (The word for orange is also a homophone for success.)
These sweet rice balls come in a variety of flavours. They’re often filled with peanuts, red bean or black sesame, and are usually served in a bowl of warm, sweet syrup. Fun fact: The word for Tangyuan is a homophone for togetherness. We can’t think of a better way to finish off your New Year’s feast. Try your luck at making these delicious, sticky morsels yourself (you’ll find plenty of recipes for different varieties online) or purchase them frozen from an Asian grocer.