Chinese New Year: A mouth-watering celebration

By , on January 29, 2014

Nian Gao. Photo by avlxyz / Flickr.
Nian Gao. Photo by avlxyz / Flickr.

Wherever you may be right now, surely you’re already feeling the Chinese New Year vibe as this festivity is celebrated around the world.

Of course, the celebration wouldn’t be complete without Chinese dishes on the table. By now, people around the world are already busy preparing for fares that—according to Chinese culture—will bring happiness and prosperity all year round.

The Chinese New Year is indeed a luscious celebration, so the Philippine Canadian Inquirer has compiled a list of the luckiest and most common dishes prepared during Chinese New Year.

Nian gao, also known as year cake or Chinese New Year’s cake is the most popular treat during this festive season. This sweet treat is made from sticky or glutinous rice ground into flour. According to Chinese beliefs, nian gao brings good luck as it means “higher year.”

Various flavors of nian gao are determined based on the sugar that was used. For example, white sugar produces white nian gao and brown sugar produces brown nian gao. Green pandan, purple ube, coconut, and other new and non-traditional flavors are also available.

In the Philippines, nian gao is more known as “tikoy.” Filipinos usually dip tikoy slices beaten egg before frying it in oil.

Long noodles. Photo from
Long noodles. Photo from

Long noodles are served during Chinese New Year to bring long life. As part of the Chinese tradition, noodles are eaten uncut to avoid bad luck.

A wide variety of Chinese noodles can be prepared, such as wheat rice noodles, hand-pulled noodles and rice noodles.

In the Philippines, the most popular Chinese noodles are pancit bihon and pancit canton.

Stuffed snapper. Photo from
Stuffed snapper. Photo from

A whole fish invites wealth and happiness when served and eaten during Chinese New Year according to the Chinese tradition. Apparently, the Chinese word for “fish” sounds like the word “surplus” as in a surplus of wealth.

The fish must be served whole—with its head and tail intact—to avoid bad luck throughout the year.

Round fruits. Photo by Joel Ignacio / Flickr.
Round fruits. Photo by Joel Ignacio / Flickr.

Round fruits will always be present at the dining table during the Chinese New Year. For example, mandarin oranges and tangerines are usually served because of their round shape and golden color. The Chinese believes that anything round brings good luck.

In the Philippines, most Fil-Chinese communities serve the native fruit ‘suha’ and pineapple as these two fruits symbolize prosperity.

Dumplings such as shao mai, when served during Chinese New Year, will bring wealth and prosperity. It’s a ball of meaty goodness wrapped in a wanton wrapper that resembles a silver ingot or money.

In the Philippines, it is commonly known as “siomai,” which is best enjoyed when dipped in soy sauce and calamansi.

Sugared fruits and vegetables, according to the Chinese culture, offered in a circular or octagonal shaped tray to guests will bring good luck to the host. Fruits like wintermelon, coconut, lotus seed, lotus root, water chestnut, and tangerine are considered lucky. Eight is also considered as the luckiest number according to the Chinese.

Aside from nian gao, other sweet delicacies are also traditionally served during Chinese New Year. Serving these sweet treats is said to bring a sweet life to the coming year. Peking dust, almond cookies, egg custard tarts, sesame seed balls, and five-spice peanuts are the most commonly served desserts during Chinese New Year.

In the Philippines, hopia is the most popular sweet treat because of its round shape, which symbolizes good fortune. It is usually filled with a sweet paste of mungbean and comes in a variety flavors.