Eating together as a family (traditionally at home) is a Chinese New Year (CNY) essential, particularly on Lunar New Year’s Eve (February 11 this year). The dishes we make or have made for us represent blessings for the year to come; they symbolise wishes for prosperity, happiness and good health.
Steamed fish is an absolute must for CNY since it symbolises surplus and wealth. The reason for this is simple – the character for fish, 魚 (yú) is a homonym of the character 餘, which means ‘surplus’ or ‘extra.’ It’s unlucky to flip the fish – you eat one side of it for dinner, and the rest the next day. This is to prolong the surplus and make sure the coming year is prosperous. Traditionally too, you do not eat the head and tail. This is a reminder to finish everything you start and to wish for positive results. A whole fish also represents a harmonious and united family.
Rich in protein, a whole steamed chicken can feed an entire family, and it’s another CNY staple representing unity, reunion and rebirth. Eating the chicken wings will help you succeed (fly higher), and eating the bones will help you achieve your goals. The family’s main breadwinners should eat the chicken feet to help them grasp on to wealth in the year ahead.
We eat spring rolls at CNY because they look like bars of gold, and are therefore a wish for prosperity and wealth. And we eat dumplings, shaped like ancient gold and silver ingots, for the same reason. What’s more, the character for dumpling 餃子 (ji ǎo zi) is a homonym of the character 交子 (jiāo zi), and 交 (jiāo) means ‘exchange’ and 子 (zi) means ‘midnight.’ Jjiāo zi therefore represents the exchange between the old and new year. By eating dumplings, we are casting out the old and welcoming the new.
If you are making the dumplings yourself, place a coin in one of them – whoever picks that dumpling is guaranteed good luck in the coming year. You can, of course, fill the dumplings with anything you like: Consider that duck represents loyalty; lobster and shrimp represent wealth; egg and tofu represent family unity and good health.
Last but not least, make a point of eating extra-long ‘longevity noodles’ at CNY. The longer the noodles, the longer your life will be. For obvious reasons you shouldn’t cut the noodles and you should try not to chew them either. Feel free to slurp!
Bamboo shoot for success at work
Cabbage for new beginnings
Chives/ leeks for long life
Lotus seed for a happy and healthy family
Mushroom for good luck
Seaweed for wealth
Spring onion for intelligence and wit
Tai O Prosperity Toss
Afternoon tea at Tai O Heritage Hotel, February 12 to 15, begins with a classic lo hei (prosperity toss) of fresh local greens and raw fish. Each ingredient symbolises prosperity and good health – as we toss the dish, we turn to one another and say ‘Kung Hei Fat Choy!’ And the fun doesn’t stop there. The Taste of Tai O CNY Tea Set goes on to deliver an enticing range of small plates including turnip pudding, mountain begonia cheesecake (with gold foil), walnut cookies and sesame balls, all washed down with locally brewed Yi O brown sugar ginger tea. Call 2985 8383.
Tags: Auspicious vegetables, Chinese New Year food, Eat for success, tai o