NOTE: This article was originally published in 2014. For 2017, the Lunar New Year occurs on Jan. 28, 2017 and it is the year of the Fire Rooster.
As the biggest holiday on the Asian calendar approaches, households around the world are stocking their pantries and fridges full of foods like oranges, dried coconut, noodles and whole fish to ensure an auspicious beginning to the lunar New Year.
Celebrate the year of the horse with some of these foods and dishes thought to usher in prosperity, good luck and good fortune.
As tangerine season comes to a close, Chinese households will be cleaning grocery stores out of their citrus stocks, as oranges are said to bring wealth and good luck. That’s because the Chinese word for orange and gold sound similar, while the word for tangerine also sounds like the Chinese word for luck.
Tray Of Togetherness
During the holidays, it’s customary to both receive guests and pay visits to friends and families. The Tray of Togertherness is filled with snacks like candied fruit melons (growth and health), dried coconut (friendship and unity) kumquats (gold and prosperity), lotus seeds (fertility), and longan (‘many sons') for guests to munch on throughout their stay. The tray should have eight compartments, the Chinese number for good luck.
The longer the noodle, the longer the life span, or so the belief goes.
Made of glutinous rice flour, the sweet dessert is supposed to help the eater climb the social ladder as the Chinese word nian gao is a homonym for “higher year.”
In Cantonese, the word pomelo sounds like the words 'to have' and means ‘continuous prosperity.’
The key to this dish is to serve the fish whole with head and tail intact to represent a good beginning and a good end for the coming year. Serving fish this way is also supposed to symbolize wealth, as the Chinese word for fish, ‘yu,’ sounds like the word for abundance.
While you don’t really need an excuse to tuck into a plate of Chinese dumplings, this dish is particularly traditional for the lunar New Year as the shape of the dumplings are said to resemble old ingot-shaped coins or yuanbao. As such, the dumplings are meant to bring eaters prosperity and wealth. It’s tradition to eat them at midnight on New Year’s eve, and hide a clean coin inside one of the dumplings.
The Cantonese word for dried oysters sounds similar to good business.
Lion's Head Meatballs
A dish made of giant meatballs, wrapped in a mane of steamed cabbage, these lion head meatballs are said to represent power, strength and family unity.
In Cantonese, the word for lettuce sounds like rising fortune, which makes lettuce-wrapped foods popular at this time of year.