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Chinese New Year Cooking Ideas

Julia and Alpha's CNY Yee Sang Prosperity Salad

Julia and Alpha’s CNY Yee Sang Prosperity Salad
Photo by Alpha via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Tomorrow The Year of the Rat begins, so I thought it would be a nice touch to talk a little about one of my favorite cuisines — Chinese!

There are few festivities that are felt around the world on quite the grand scale as that the Chinese New Year. In fact, I really feel for all those people in China who might not make it home for the holiday because of the dreadful weather.

This is an event that affects people all around the globe and the celebrations are quite exotic and a lot of fun for everyone involved. (Did you know that now is the time to put into place new feng shui remedies? If not, you might check out my dear friend Anna Maria Prezio at fengshuiharmony.net.)

One thing that many outsiders may not realize is that several of the aspects of the Chinese New Year celebration have a very specific purpose and meaning — including the food! Whether you are Chinese are not, I know very few people in the world that couldn’t use a small degree of good fortune to make things in their worlds run a little more smoothly.

When it comes to cooking for a Chinese New Year celebration there are a few things you might want to keep in mind. The foods that are prepared each have their very own meaning and a definite reason for being prepared.

Dumplings are believed to bring wealth in the New Year to those who eat them on this special day. Of course wealth is something that many people wish to accumulate, so there are many paths to doing so. Other foods that are symbolic of wealth on the Chinese New Year are bamboo shoots, black moss seaweed, egg rolls, and oranges. And this is just the beginning of the symbolic nature of food for the Chinese New Year!

Longevity or long life is something else that the Chinese are quite famous for. Eternal youth is what some may call it, though these days it is far less eternal than may have been the case in centuries past. The secret to that long life was in consuming the proper foods as part of the New Year festivities. Those foods include: noodles, Chinese garlic chives, and peanuts (my husband will be glad to find out that one — he loves peanuts!).

Prosperity is attributed to foods such as lettuce, whole fish, and pomelo. In addition to prosperity whole fish and pomelo are believed to bring abundance and togetherness (as in marriage or romance) during the coming year.

Chicken is the main course when happiness is the goal. In addition chicken is associated with marriage, particularly when served with foods, such as lobster, that are considered to be dragon foods.

For those planning for children in the near future you might want to add eggs, seeds (such as watermelon seeds), and pomelo — the last two especially if you want several children.

Finally, if luck is what you are most in need of, try to add a tangerine or some seaweed to your plate on this special day. If your run of luck has been really bad you may want to double up on your servings of both.

The Internet is filled with wonderful recipes to help you celebrate the Chinese New Year in as traditional a setting as possible. Foods such as Jiaozi (Chinese noodles) and egg rolls are commonly found online and will go a long way toward creating the proper atmosphere for all good things to come your way in the coming year. Add a few lettuce wraps and longevity noodles and you have a good grasp on the good things that most of us hope will come our way in the coming year.

If you can’t manage to eat all of the foods that are believed to be symbolic of good things to come in the new year, be sure to pick those you feel are most important to you and focus on eating those. This is, after all, quite a bit of food to take in during the course of one day unless you are barely getting a bite in of any of them and that would most likely defeat the purpose. Take time and make sure that you manage to enjoy preparing and eating the dishes that make a Chinese New Year so special!

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About the author

Carma Spence has been experimenting in the kitchen since she was four years old and loves trying out new recipe ideas. She is the author of Bonkers for Bundt Cakes and Your Perfect Pie, as well as author and contributor to several more non-food-related books. With Carma's Cookery, she is taking her passion for empowering people and blending it with her passion for cooking, gift-giving and entertaining.