Chinese New Year is a big deal for many in this region. For those with Chinese heritage, it's a time of year for people to reunite with their extended family. People also believe that your luck for the entire year depends on the rituals practiced during this occasion, so it's important to start off the year on the right foot—and the right food.
As the Chinese are known for their obsession with what's auspicious and what isn't, you can bet that foods traditionally enjoyed on Chinese New Year hold symbolic meanings. With Chinese New Year only two weeks away (February 5-10), here are some lucky foods you will or should be eating then for a good year ahead.
Don’t we all love a surplus of food and money? The word “fish” in Chinese is a homophone with the word for “surplus”, while "raw fish" is also a homonym to "surplus". The point is, in Chinese culture, fish doesn't just signify wealth but an excess of wealth for the whole year, so eat up!
In Chinese cosmology, water and wealth go hand in hand. Another food from the sea that is widely enjoyed on New Year for wealth and abundance is abalone. The word for abalone in Chinese, "bao yu", is a homonym to a word which means "to carry surplus".
It’s impossible not to see oranges around on Chinese New Year. Orange, which is already valued worldwide as a great source of vitamin C, is additionally cherished in Chinese culture as a symbol of luck. Again, this is based on lingo—the word "orange" in Chinese looks and sounds similar to "lucky"—as well as the resemblance of the fruit to round golden objects.
Similarly to orange, apple is an auspicious fruit in Chinese culture. Apples not only present the auspicious colour of red but its name in Chinese also sounds like the world for "peace". This is the reason apples are seen not only in Chinese New Year celebrations but in Chinese weddings as well. Eating apples is meant to guarantee you a journey free from obstacles.
If you have heard of the legend of the Monkey King, then you will know that peach is a symbol for longevity and even immortality as the Monkey King got his powers from eating a whole garden of Immortal Peach. Peaches appear in several other Chinese iconographies, such as the Old Man of the South Pole and the Eight Immortals, representing longevity and immortality. Sometimes peach shaped buns are eaten instead of the real fruit during Chinese New Year.
The longevity noodles surely did not get its name by chance. Longevity noodles are indeed made to be long and cutting these noodles is believed to inauspicious—so don't do it.
Spring rolls are symbolically consumed on Chinese New Year as a symbol of the coming of spring and prosperity in the year ahead.The shape of the food resembles gold bars and are often displayed on dining tables as a sign of having wealth and prosperity.
As Chinese New Year is a time for the family to get together, these balls of glutinous rice stuffed with sesame or bean paste symbolises the act of gathering. Tang Yuan, a combination of the words "soup" and "circle" in Chinese, is also derivative of the Chinese word for family reunion. Enjoy these candied rice balls with syrup and ginger tea.
(See also: 8 Dishes To Eat Your Way Through Ratchaprasong)