Chinese Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year 2012: Each Dish Revealed

This year’s Lunar New Year falls on January 23, 2012, and is the year of the Mighty Dragon. Having been raised in a traditional Cantonese family – I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’m just now realizing how much symbolism there is in each dish I’ve eaten during every past celebration. My family and I gather together every year, dressed in red (the color of ‘good luck’), to share a huge dinner and pass out ‘liesee’ to children as we ring in the Lunar New Year. Everything from the color we wear, to the little red envelops of ‘lucky money’, to each individual dish that is prepared means something for the New Year, and I had no idea until I did a little research a few days ago.

{ Marbled Tea Eggs }

Eggs – As a strong symbol to Chinese culture- you’ll see a lot of eggs throughout the celebration dinner. Whether they’re Egg Rolls, Egg Noodles, or Marbled Tea Eggs – eggs have a special significance that symbolizes Wealth and Fertility.

Jai – (Buddha’s Delight) is a purifying vegetarian dish that represents the Buddhist belief in not killing any animal or fish on the first day of the Lunar Year.

Flowering Chives – Long, stir-fried Garlic Chives that symbolize Eternity.

Bamboo Shoots – You’ll see these chopped up into small rectangles, stir fried in a vegetarian dish. Bamboo shoots symbolize good Wealth.

Dried Bean Curd – These silky, folded sheets of dried tofu represent Happiness.

Black Moss Seaweed – (One of the more terrifying dishes for people who weren’t weaned off of it as a child.) These bowls of what look to be wet nests of thick, black hair symbolize Wealth, and taste like a softer, jelly-like version of angel-hair pasta.

{ Peking Duck }

Peking Duck – A crispy, slow-roasted and deep fried duck promotes Fidelity in your personal relationships.

White Cut Chicken – A salt marinated chicken, cooked entirely in a ginger chicken broth – this dish represents Prosperity and Happiness in marriage. Serving the chicken whole emphasizes Family Unity.

Lobster – Considered ‘Dragon Food’, is stir fried in butter, ginger and onions; representing a ‘Wholesome‘ beginning to the new year.


{ Longevity Noodles }

Longevity Noodles – are soft egg noodles that symbolize a ‘Long Life’. The trick is not to cut them. 😉

Lettuce Wraps – A combination of both chicken (Prosperity) and vegetables (Purity) wrapped in a lettuce cup represents Abundance.

Sweet & Sour Pork – The cantonese word for ‘sour’ sounds similar to the word for ‘grandchildren’, thus – symbolizing the hope for more grandchildren in the new year.

{ Lion’s Head Meatballs }

Lion’s Head Meatballs – These oversized meatballs with bok-choy ‘manes’ don’t actually contain any lion in them (sorry!), and are actually made of ground pork. The Lion represents Power & Strength, and the large size of each meatball symbolizes a large Family Reunion.

Steamed Whole Fish – Normally red snapper, sea bass, or cod, steamed in a ginger ponzu sauce. Fish represents Prosperity, and the Chinese word for ‘fish’ is ‘yu’ – which sounds similar to the word for ‘wish’. It is believed that eating fish will help your wishes come true in the new year to come.

Oranges – The Chinese word for ‘orange’ sounds similar to the word for Luck and Wealth. In addition, eating grapefruit signifiies Abundance, as the Chinese word for pomelo sounds like the word for ‘to have’.

Cakes – You’ll see a lot of different sweet cakes and desserts that represent a Rich and Sweet life. The round treats signify the Family Reunion, while the layered deserts represent Abundance in the coming year.


What will you be eating more of this year? 😉


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