The 8 most auspicious foods for Chinese New Year

There's no such thing as too much luck with these classic dishes

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe
Chinese New Year is finally just around the corner. It's the time of year when cravings for home-cooked food are replaced by unlimited supplies of it, and by the end of the holiday you’re begging parents and grandparents to stop piling food onto your plate. However full you may feel, don't skip out on these eight traditional Spring Festival dishes for a little extra luck in the Year of the Pig.

By Natasha Chang
Oranges and tangerines

Oranges and tangerines

Oranges and tangerines are a symbol of happiness and prosperity in China so you'll find an abundance of these fruits in markets and grocery stores during the Lunar New Year. The stems of the tangerines also represent longevity so keep them attached when you're presenting or peeling them. If you want to take the tradition a little further, keep the peels. Soak them in warm water for 15 minutes and pour it over yourself after a shower. It's said to wash away negative events of the previous year so that you're ready for the luck and wealth coming your way. 

Longevity noodles

Longevity noodles

The longer the better. Noodles dishes are a staple for the Chinese New Year celebrations because they symbolise a wish for longevity and happiness. There is no rule to what type of noodle you use just as long as you don't cut or break them up while cooking. They can be served fried or in a broth, just make sure you slurp up without biting through the strands. 

Whole chicken

Whole chicken

A whole chicken prepared with the head and feet still intact is another popular dish for the Chinese New Year celebrations. The bird represents togetherness, rebirth, unity and good marriage between families. We recommend boiling or steaming the bird to lock in the symbolic significance.  

Whole fish

Whole fish

Fish is an important Chinese New Year dish and it's usually served whole, eyeballs and all. It's meant to bring abundance from the beginning of the year to the tail end. The Chinese word for fish, yu, is a homonym for surplus and if you keep leftovers for the next day, you'll have a flow of wealth and luck for the next few years. It's also been said that eating the eyeballs of the fish can give you better sight. We don't have solid evidence for this but give it a go.

Prosperity cakes

Prosperity cakes

Also known as fa gao, these rice flour cakes are steamed and often dyed yellow or pink to add to the festive mood. The Chinese character fa means both leavened and prosperity. Keep an eye out for the blossoming of the cakes after they rise. The more petals that blossom, the more prosperous you will be.

Sweet rice cakes

Sweet rice cakes

Nian gao, or year cake, is a sticky rice cake which symbolises progress, advancement and growth. The words nian gao is a homonym for 'higher year' and is a welcome sight at the dinner table. Each family will buy or make this for their Chinese New Year celebrations in hopes of having a better, taller year ahead.  

Sweet glutinous rice balls

Sweet glutinous rice balls

Tang yuan, or sweet rice ball, is usually associated with the Lantern Festival but the Chinese word and shape of the tang yuan symbolise family reunions, which is why it’s an important dessert for the celebrations. Served in the sweet broth its cooked in, the most common fillings are sesame and red bean paste but you can also take your pick with other creative fillings like pumpkin and meat.

Dumplings

Dumplings

It’s time to put your dumpling-making skills to the test. Based on Chinese tradition, dumplings or jiaozi are shaped to resemble old ingot coins or yuan bao, so the more dumplings you eat, the more money you’ll be receiving in the upcoming year. You can boil it, steam it, fry it and fill it with your heart's desire. Occasionally, people stuff coins inside so you'll just have to eat as many as you can to find the lucky one. 

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