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5 Symbolic Chinese New Year Dishes


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When you go to Chinatown, you’ll usually be bombarded with the usual chow mien, dim sum and wonton noodles. Whilst these foods are eaten all across China year-round, there are a number of dishes that are eaten specially during the Chinese New Year for their auspicious meanings. Check them out below:

1. Nian Gao (New Year Cake)

This is by far one of the most popular dishes eaten in the New Year. Made out of glutinous flour and brown sugar, the word “gao” in Chinese means “tall”- so eating this sticky pudding will ensure that you reach new heights and successes in the year to come. Whilst you can steam this dish, a more indulgent way of preparing it is to dip slices of the nian gao in egg yolks, and then pan fry them.

2. Tang Yuan (Glutinous rice dumplings in sweet soup)

These little morsels of chewiness are usually eaten on the 15th day of the Chinese New Year, and can be eaten filled or unfilled. The word “yuan”, meaning “round”, symbolises togetherness and closeness within the family. Check out a simple recipe here.

3. Chinese Candy Box

This is pretty much a child’s dream come true - the Chinese like to fill up traditional ornamental boxes with candied fruits such as pineapple as well as chocolate coins. Dried melon seeds, nuts and peanuts are also a popular addition to these boxes. Each treat has it’s own symbolic meaning. For example, candied lotus roots represent fertility, whilst pistachios represent happiness.

4. Yu Sheng (Prosperity Toss Salad)

This dish is most commonly associated with Singaporean, Malaysian and Indonesian Chinese New Year festivities. It consists of a salad brimming with a wide variety of ingredients: raw fish (symbolising abundance), carrots (for good luck), shredded white radish (for good business), and much more. These ingredients are then tossed up together with chopsticks by all diners at the table (whilst they simultaneously bless one another with auspicious phrases).


5. Jau Gok (Oil dumplings)

These dumplings are made out of glutinous flour, stuffed with either a sweet or savour filling, and then deep fried until crispy. Their auspicious meaning lies in the shape of the dumplings, which are modelled to look like gold ingots.

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