Chinese New Year feast is the most important and fancy dinner in the whole year. It is the time that not only for family reunion, but also to place the best wished for the coming years. Though the cooking ways of food are not similar in different areas in China, most of dishes on the feast have their symbolic meaning, with good hope of wealth, health, and happiness.
Almost every family will have fish on Chinese New Year's Eve because it symbolize good wealth in Chinese traditional culture.
Fish (鱼) is called "Yǘ" in Chinese. There is a Chinese idiom - 年年有余 （nián nián yǒu yǘ）, that refers to have enough things or surplus to spend every year. The fish (yǘ in Chinese) is pronunced just as the same with surplus (yv).
The more important is how to eat the fish. To echo the symbolic meaning of "nián nián yǒu yǘ", Chinese people will not eat up the whole fish. It's better to leave half or 1/3 of the fish for the next day of lunar new year. Some families even prepare two fishes, one for dinner and another for the next day (first day of lunar new year). That refers to have surplus for the future. Thus, having fish on the new year's eve brings the hope of good wealth to spend in the coming year.
There are several ways to cook fish in China, based on different taste of people in the north or south. But in the spring festival, Chinese people are more willing to have a whole fish steamed. It shows that a complete family matters a lot.
How to make a steamed fish?
Steamed fish is easy to cook for kitchen new hand. It is important to buy a fresh and good fish to enjoy the orginal flavor.
- 1. Prepare ingredients: fish (perch, turbot, grouper, etc), ginger, shallot, salt, cooking wine.
- 2. Pickle the fish with ginger, salt, and cooking wine for 10 minutes.
- 3. Steam the fish for 10 minutes until it is cooked.
- 4. Put some sliced shallot on the fish and pour some heat oil. Now the fish is ready.
Dumplings are made of dough and meat stuffing, which symbolize to wrap up fortune and good luck.
Dumplings are more often to be eaten as stapple food on new year's eve in northern China, while the south are more like to have rice. Though dumpling is quite a common food in China, it becomes one of the most popular Chinese foods around the world.
How to make dumplings?
- 1. Prepare ingredients: dumpling wrappers, minced pork, cabbage, agaric, corn, mushroom.
- 2. Slice all the ingredients into tiny pieces and mix them up with salt, soy sauce, and egg white.
- 3. Put some stuffing on the middle of a dumpling wrapper. Pinch the wrapper into a dumpling shape.
- 4. Prepare some hot water and put all your dumplings into it. Boil the dumplings until they float up.
- 5. DIY the sauce with soy sauce, vinegar, or chilli as you like.
Almost every table will serve chicken on the spring festival. Little kids in the family will get the drumsticks, which seemed as the most delicious part of chicken.
Chicken (鸡) is pronunced as "jī" in Chinese. It is a similar pronunciation with another character "吉 (jí)", which represents good luck and every success.
There are dozens of ways to cook chicken in China, but for the lunar new year, people are more willing to do a whole chicken or make chicken soup. Here are the two chicken recipes.
How to make steamed chicken?
- 1. Prepare ingredients: a whole chicken, ginger, shallot, mushrooms, salt, cooking wine.
- 2. Pickle the chicken with sliced ginger and shallot in the belly. And smear it with salt and cooking wine for over 2 hours.
- 3. Steam the chicken and mushrooms for 90 minutes on low flame until it is cooked.
- 4. After steamed, take out the sliced ginger and shallot in the belly.
How to make chicken soup?
- 1. Prepare ingredients: chicken, ginger, salt, goji berries, red dates.
- 2. Dice the chicken into small pieces. Put them into a casserole with sliced ginger and water.
- 3. After water boiled, put some red dates, and turn to low flame and continue to cook for 30 mintues.
- 4. Do not put goji berries too early. They are needed at last, with the soup ready 5 mintues before.
Rice cake (年糕) is a very traditional food of China. In Chinese, rice cake is called "nián gāo", which is a partial tone of 年高 - go higher year after year.
Nián gāo tastes different in the north and the south of China. Northern rice cake tastes sweet while southern rice cake is salty with other ingredients.
Sweet rice cake is made of glutinous rice flour, sugar, lard, osmanthus or rose. After steamed or deep fried the rice cake, you can dip it in syrup to eat.
Salty rice cake is more complicated to make. It requires sticky rice, meat, mushroom, soy sauce to improve the flavor. After deep-fired, the skin of the salty rice cake will be crispy.
Tang yuan (sweet rice ball)
Tāng yuán, is a must-to-eat food during the Spring Festival, especially on the 15th day of the first lunar month. It is round shape, looked just like a full moon, with seasame in the stuffing. According to the lunar Chinese calendar, every 15th day of lunar month marks a full moon in the sky. The full moon is just a symbolism for the value of family reunion.
How to make tāng yuán?
- 1. Prepare ingredients: glutinous rice flour, sesame filling, white sugar.
- 2. Make the dough with glutinous rice flour and warm water. Keep stiring until it turn to paste.
- 3. Mix up sesame and white sugar. Wrap up the dough and sesame filling into a round ball shape.
- 4. Put the sweet rice ball into boiled water until they are floated.
Pig trotter is pronunced as "zhū shǒu". "Zhū" is pig, and "shǒu" is hand. There is an old saying in Guangzhou that eating pig trotter means to earn more money.
A common way to cook pig trotters is to braised with multiple spices.
How to make braised pig trotters?
- 1. Preparation: pig trotters, rock candy, cooking wine, ginger, spices, soy sauce.
- 2. Cut the pig trotters into small pieces and put them into unboiled water to blanch.
- 3. Stir-fry the pig trotters with ginger, shallot, and cooking wine. Add some boiled water and soy sauce and rock candy. Braised it with low flame for one hour.
- 4. After the meat juice is getting thick, it is time for a bite.
It is one of the new year dishes for coastal areas especially in Guangdong province. In Chinese, prawns is called "xiā", while in cantonese, it is "hā". Yes, it sounds just like laughter. That's why cantonese are more like eating prawns in the spring festival, it is placed the hope of happiness and joy everywhere.
It's quite easy to cook prawns, as people are more willing to taste the original flavor of it. Just boil the prawns until they turn red. Remember to prepare some chilli sauce or soy sauce to dip in.
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