7 Best Traditional Meals for Chinese New Year 2021
Thursday, 11 February 2021 | Admin
7 Best Traditional Meals for Chinese New Year 2021
The year of the Ox is welcoming us into the Chinese New Year this month. People usually flock to public events to join in the celebrations, which often includes firework displays, street parades, and other festivities. While this year will, understandably, be a little different, there are still many exciting ways to enjoy the holiday. New Year is all about unity, new beginnings, and bringing people together.
If there’s one thing that can bring people together, it’s delicious food - and lots of it.
Food has always been at the heart of chinese culture, and is one of the most important ways in which families welcome in the New Year.
So, as we say goodbye to the year of the Rat and hello to the year of the Ox, We’ve put together a list of the more wholesomely delicious chinese cuisine you can serve up to really kick off Chinese New Year 2021.
What is Chinese New Year?
The Chinese New Year represents the start of Spring (Li Chun) and is often referred to as the Spring Festival. Traditionally, it marks the end of the coldest days of the year and the beginning of a season that promises a fresh start and new beginnings. It’s a time to forget about work and school, and focus on the things that matter most - family, health, warmth and prosperity.
The colour red also plays a big part in proceedings. This is because red in Chinese culture is the symbol of happiness, wealth and prosperity, and can ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. Instead of wrapped gifts popular in the west, children receive Hongbao - red envelopes filled with money that they can spend as they wish.
It’s estimated that more than 20% of the world population observe the holiday, and it’s widely celebrated in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore. And with the knowledge carried by Chinese migrants across generations, Chinese New Year has become a popular event across the world, with huge festivals and taking place in Chinatown districts in cities such as New York, London, Vancouver and Sydney.
When is Chinese New Year 2021?
Chinese New Year typically begins with the new moon that occurs between the end of January and the end of February, and it lasts about 15 days, until the full moon arrives with the Festival of Lanterns.
This year, New Years Eve will start on the 11th of February, with New Years Day taking place on the 12th. What follows is 15 days of pure, lighthearted celebration, where friends and family come together to wish each other the best for the coming year.
As well as the lunar cycle, The Chinese Zodiac also plays a key role during the New Year. Twelve animals represent the Chinese zodiac signs - they all follow a specific order, and each has their own unique characteristics:
Rat - quick-witted, smart, charming, and persuasive
Ox - patient, kind, stubborn, and conservative
Tiger - authoritative, emotional, courageous, and intense
Rabbit - popular, compassionate, and sincere
Dragon - energetic, fearless, warm-hearted, and charismatic
Snake - charming, gregarious, introverted, generous, and smart
Horse - energetic, independent, impatient, and enjoy traveling
Sheep -mild-mannered, shy, kind, and peace-loving
Monkey - fun, energetic, and active
Rooster - independent, practical, hard-working, and observant
Dog - patient, diligent, generous, faithful, and kind
Pig - loving, tolerant, honest, and appreciative of luxury
2021 is the year that we welcome the year of the Ox, and previous years include 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009 and 2021. Those lucky individuals born under such an auspicious sign are often considered stubborn and hard working, but also diligent and kind - they often start the new year with high hopes and solid goals in mind.
Interestingly, Princess Diana, Barack Obama, Walt Disney, and even Enya were also born under the sign. So if you’re also an Ox - you’re in good company.
7 Must-Eat Chinese Meals For New Year Parties
The holiday officially starts on New Years Eve with families gathering for a ‘reunion dinner. Often considered the most important meal of the holiday, the table is always full of wholesome delicious meals. Similar dishes are served throughout the entire 15 days of celebration, with one final gathering taking place on the last day (Lantern Festival).
Chinese culture has always been rich in meaning, and the choice of food during New Year is no different. Every meal is rich in symbolism, representing concepts such as unity, luck, wealth, prosperity and togetherness. Some food names are homophonic and carry additional meaning, making them a popular choice for the dinner table!
We’ve put together a list of 7 of the most wholesome and delicious meals that you can serve up to welcome in the New Year:
1. Dumplings (Jiǎo zi)
In Northern China, Dumplings are a popular dish all year round, but during the holidays they become the cornerstone of every New Years celebration. Not only are they wholesome and delicious - they could also make you rich. That’s because the typical dumpling shape closely resembles a yuanbao, a type of ancient Chinese currency.
Tradition says that the more dumplings you eat on New Years Eve, the more money you’ll receive in the coming year. As a result, it’s actively encouraged to eat as many as you can before the holiday ends. Try making one of those delicious chinese pork dumplings and to make your dumplings extra prosperous, consider adding peanuts to your list of ingredients - they're a lucky food!
2. Spring rolls (Chūnjuǎn)
Also referred to as 'spring pancakes' (春饼) or 'thin pancakes' (薄饼), spring rolls get their name because they are traditionally eaten during the Spring Festival, and are often made with ingredients from the first harvest of the year.
Rolls can be filled with a deliciously diverse array of meat and vegetables and can be made up of a variety of delicious combinations, spring rolls are easy to make and taste delicious. Chinese spring rolls are also considered a welcome addition to the dinner table because when cooked to perfection, they look like mini bars of gold. Include a delicious dipping sauce to add a little extra flavour.
3. Long Life Noodles – Yi Mein
Yi mein are often the noodles of choice during Chinese New Year, for a number of reasons. They are longer than normal noodles and are uncut, and serve to represent a long and unbroken life, The longer the noodles are in your meals - the better.
They also have a unique unique texture and taste. Popularly known for their golden yellow colour, their chewy and slightly spongy texture comes from soda water used in making the dough. Take a look at this recipe to see how you can make them - they can be combined with many ingredients, but are usually served with dark soy sauce, oyster sauce (or vegetarian oyster sauce), sesame oil, chinese chives and a huge helping of shiitake mushrooms.
4. Yuk Sung
Yuk Sung is a traditional dish where ingredients including shredded chicken, green onion, red pepper, water chestnuts, celery, garlic, and ginger are tossed in a sauce (oyster sauce, soy sauce, dry sherry, and sugar) and served wrapped in a lettuce leaf. It’s an easy to make dish and it offers a lot of flavour, why not give it a try?
Yuk Sung is considered especially lucky food because the Cantonese word for lettuce is a homophonic which can also mean "rising fortune”. It’s extremely quick to make and very healthy, and is often served as starter or a side dish to accompany the main meal.
5. Yú (A whole fish)
In Mandarin, the homophonic for fish, ‘yu’ sounds like ‘surplus/abundance’, which makes fish a popular choice during the holidays. Traditionally, the fish is served whole, head and tail included, to symbolise the end of the last year and the year to come. Because of this, it’s often served towards the end of the holiday season.
The fish is usually served either steamed or red-braised like in this recipe, cooked with ginger, scallions, a rich soy sauce to compliment the flavour of the fish and coriander. The soy sauce can also be swapped out with tamari to make the dish gluten-free.
Rich in symbolism, fish are also popular symbols used for paper decorations that are hung to celebrate the holiday.
6. Sweet Rice Balls (Tangyan)
Rice balls are a dessert traditionally served on the fifteenth and final day of the Chinese New Year celebration. Made of rice flour and water, Tangyan can be served as either a savoury starter or as a sweet dessert, here is a tasty recipe you are going to enjoy.
Their rounded shape and soft texture is often associated with concepts such as reunion and cohesion, and it’s a firm favourite among people of all ages.
7. Rice Cake (Nian gao)
Directly translated as "new year cake" or just "year cake", Nian Gao is a sticky, flour based treat that is eaten throughout the holiday and if often given as a gift wrapped in beautiful red paper. ‘Gao’ loosely means "higher” or “higher up”, and the phrase is often said aloud by people around the dinner table to bring good luck and prosperity. This is an easy to make dish, take a look at this rice cake recipe to get started.
Start Year of the Ox Deliciously!
Get your cooking apron ready and choose your favourite Chinese New Year dishes that you simply must make. We hope that you enjoy each recipe and meaning behind each dish as we ring in the Year of the Ox.
Remember to take a look at our Chinese Supermarket selection of authentic ingredients to make your Chinese meals as good as they come. We wish you a prosperous and fantastic New Year and a delicious meal spread to enjoy over the next 15 days!