Food plays a central role in Chinese New Year celebrations and there are certain dishes that are eaten to ensure good luck and prosperity throughout the year. If you’re wondering why, for example, all the displays of oranges and tangerines? Like so many of the dishes synonymous with the festival, the reasons are symbolic; the Chinese words for each are homonyms for ‘gold’ and ‘luck’ respectively. We pick out a few others that feature on the festive spread.
The longer the noodles, the greater the wish for a long life. These springy yet tender hand-pulled strands of wheat and egg are known as yi mein and can be eaten in a tasty broth or stir-fried. If they come served with mustard greens, you’re in extra luck as the longevity wishes extend to parents as well. You’ll also find these eaten during birthdays and always served un-cut or unbroken by the cook. It’s considered even more auspicious if you manage to eat them without breaking the strands!
Traditionally eaten on the first day of Chinese New Year, this vegetarian dish was originally enjoyed by Buddhist monks who believed one should maintain a meat-free diet during the first few days of the New Year as a form of selfpurification.
The Buddha’s Delight can be made with up to 35 ingredients, but more commonly with 10 or 18, all of which carry an auspicious significance. Whether its gingko nuts for silver and wealth, water chestnuts for unity, bamboo shoots for a prosperous new start or lotus seeds for a full wallet, this wholesome bowl overflows with fortune.
A common sight in restaurants during Chinese New Year is to see groups of diners standing around a large bowl of chopped up ingredients with chopsticks in hand, tossing the salad high in the air while yelling auspicious phrases. Custom dictates that the higher you toss it, the more luck and fortune will come your way.
This uniquely Malaysian and Singaporean ritual is how all festive meals begin during CNY and is just as delicious as it is fun to perform. The colourful salad comprises some 27 ingredients including thin slices of pickled vegetables, chopped up peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, salmon and Chinese shrimp crackers. All this is laced with plum sauce, rice vinegar, kumquat paste and sesame oil for a lip smacking medley of sweet, sour, salty and savoury