Lifestyle: 6 Lucky Foods for Lunar New Year

Gong Hey Fat Choi!!

I hope you all had a positive week, I am continuing Lunar New Year celebrations this week! Did you manage to decorate your home with the 8 ways I introduced last week? Food is the best part about any holiday and this is no exception for Chinese New Year. Therefore, I am going to cover 6 lucky foods to have for Lunar New Year!

1. Poon Choi

“Poon Choi” is literally translated as “basin food” and is what the name suggests – it is a very large “basin”/bowl filled with a variety of meats and vegetables; and is often served as the main dish during celebrations. This dish is normally eaten in Hong Kong’s walled villages “Wai Tsuen” in the New Territories, where my parents are from. However, it has become very popular and can be found all over Hong Kong and has made its way across the world. This year my sister has ordered one from Dumpling Shack!

Poon Choi signifies prosperity and only the best ingredients should be used. Each item is prepared separately and then placed into 3 layers within the basin. A lot of thought that goes into each item with the most expensive or best foods sit on the top, such as roast duck, char siu, prawns etc. The middle layer is where the food with a lot of gravy and juices go. The less interesting ingredients such as vegetables and bean curd sit underneath. However, there is thought behind this, it is not just trying to hide the cheap stuff, but these foods act like sponges to absorb all the glorious meat and gravy juices from above.

It is truly a whole basin full of goodness!

2. Dumplings

The Chinese dumpling, or Jiao zi, is a symbol of the Lunar New Year celebration. One tradition celebrated in Northern China is that on Chinese New Year’s Eve, families gather together and prepare dumplings to feast on, with each generation completing one part of the production process, such as grandparents preparing the dumpling skin, whilst others fold and pinch to form the dumpling. My family are from Hong Kong so this is not something we did, but this sounds like an awesome idea, maybe one for next year?

The reason why dumplings are important for the Lunar New Year is because they are thought to look like gold ingots that were used as currency in Ancient China; thus, eating these little parcels of deliciousness will bring good luck and wealth to the family – an absolute win win! Note however, when plating up dumplings they should be arranged in lines instead of circles, because when placed in a circle it symbolises one’s life would go around in circles and not go anywhere! Unfortunately, it does not represent a circular economy, therefore, remember straight lines of dumplings!

There are so many different types of dumpling in the Chinese cuisine, from steamed to boiled to pan fried, filled with vegetables and meat. Dumplings truly represent the diversity of people and cultures in China.

3. Spring Rolls

Spring rolls are traditionally eating during the Spring festival (also Lunar New Year), hence the name of the dish! The golden crispy cylindrical-shaped rolls represent gold bars, which of course, means more wealth and prosperity! In Hong Kong, it is a common dim sum food and stuffed with different fillings. I just usually order this from my local Chinese takeaway simply because it is yummy and crunchy – it helps that every time I have one I am making sure I am increasing my chance to get wealthier (or does it only work for the New Year?) !!

4. Noodles

Can you guess what noodles represent for the Lunar New Year? You guessed it, the long length of noodles is, unsurprisingly, a symbol of longevity. Traditionally, the dish was prepared as a single strand of a super long noodle in broth or sauce, but unless you are determined to make your own noodles, we just usually buy long noodles, or any noodles for that matter from the store. I mean – it is the thought that counts right?

5. Tong Yuan

Tong Yuan is traditionally eaten for the Lantern Festival, however, in South China, we would also eat them for the Lunar New Year. The round ball of goodness symbolises a unified family, togetherness and reunion. It is one of my favourite Chinese desserts and I always find any excuse to eat this! Tong Yuan is technically a round dumpling made of glutinous rice flour and water. It is chewy (like Japanese mochi) and the middle is filled with red bean, sesame paste or peanut paste; often it is served in a hot sweet ginger soup or can be eaten on its own. For convenience, Asian supermarkets would stock frozen ones which I highly recommend to buy and give it a try!

6. Nian Gao/Turnip Cake

Glutinous rice cake is a lucky food that is eaten for the Lunar New Year, Nian Gao sounds like “getting higher year on year”- i.e. the promise of a better year. The rice cake symbolises progress, advancement, and growth, for children it is so they grow strong or receive good grades or for adults promotions at work. Nian Gao is made from glutinous rice flour (so also has a mochi like texture), wheat starch, salt, water, and sugar. It can be sweet or savoury depending on the region and it can be steamed, fried, or even eaten cold (though I don’t recommend it cold!).

Turnip cake is one of the most popular dishes in dim sum and is also eaten for the Lunar New Year and eaten as type of “Nian Gao”. The main ingredients is Chinese radish and rice flower, other ingredients that would be added would be dried shrimp, dried shiitake and ham. It is super yummy and one of my sister’s favourite dishes

Of the six lucky dishes, what will you be eating this Lunar New Year? Are there any dishes you would like to try? Let me know on the comment below!

With Sweet and Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

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