Chinese New Year Lucky Foods

Feasting for Prosperity – Lucky Chinese New Year’s Eats

For 16 days of the Lunar Festival leading up to February 4th, New Year’s Eve, the Chinese will be gobbling up certain foods symbolic of good fortune. The feasting culminates on New Year’s Eve, of course, when a full spread typically includes all of the special foods believed to bring good luck. Most commonly these include fish, dumplings, spring rolls and “niangao” – a traditional Chinese New Year’s cake made from glutinous rice.  What makes one food more auspicious than the next? In most cases, foods are deemed lucky based simply on their phonetic similarity to words associated with prosperity.

Chinese New Year Dinner Dishes
Photo: 10 dishes prepared for a family reunion dinner on lunar New Year’s eve in Chengdu, Southwest China’s Sichuan province by China Daily

To help ensure your luck doesn’t run out in 2019, we’ve compiled a list of 7 lucky snacks to help tide you over, calorically and fortuitously, ‘til 2020.

Fish

This is a big one because a number of fish are homophonically rich – particularly carp. The first character of Crucian carp 鲫鱼 jìyú /jee-yoo/, for example, sounds like good luck while the word for Catfish – 鲶鱼 niányú /nyen-yoo/ sounds like nián yú meaning ‘year surplus’.

So for a long string of luck, year after year, you’d be best to enjoy a pescatarian meal on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s day.

Chinese New Year Fish Dish
Photo: thetaste.ie

Niangao

The Chinese New Year cake’s phonetic pronunciation  年年高 (niánnián gāo /nyen-nyen gaoww/) sounds like ‘year high’ symbolizing a higher income, better grades, more children, a higher professional post etc. In general, the cakes promise a better year.

Chinese New Year Dessert
Photo: Sweet treat by Mandarin Oriental

Dumplings (饺子 Jiǎozi /jyaoww-dzrr/)

These are completely emblematic of wealth. They can even take the shape of Chinese silver ingots – not bars, but rather, boats turned up at each end. Legend has it that the more dumplings you consume over New Year’s, the richer you’ll become in the new year.  Make sure though, when you set them out, they are arranged in lines. Displaying them in a circular pattern suggests a life that will go nowhere (in circles).  Also, if a clear complexion and playing nice is important, make sure you eat dumplings filled with cabbage and radish – apparently, they ensure good skin and a mellow temperament!

Dumplings on wood table
Photo: Dumplings by Abhishek Sanwa Limbu

Longevity Noodles

These noodles (长寿面 Chángshòu Miàn /chung-show myen/) are simply uncut regular noodles signifying longevity. Enjoy them boiled or fried and get ready for a long and lucky life.

Longevity Noodles
Photo: Longevity Noodles by @limjenjen

Spring Rolls

Who can resist these golden, deep-fried snacks filled with pork, shrimp or vegetables? Gobble up some spring rolls (春卷 Chūnjuǎn /chwnn- jwen/) if you are hoping for deeper pockets in 2019. Symbolically, they resemble gold bars and thus, their association with wealth.

Chinese Chicken Spring Rolls
Photo: Chicken Spring Rolls by Taste

Sweet Rice Balls

These glutinous delights (汤圆 Tāngyuán /tung-ywen/) are key to avoiding holiday squabbles with your family; their round shape and pronunciation encourage reunion and family togetherness.

Black Sesame sticky rice balls
Photo: Black Sesame sticky rice balls with tangerine and rose by Hello my Dumpling

Good Fortune Fruit

Finish off the feast with some citrus fruits like tangerines, oranges 橙 (chéng /chnng/), and pomelos – all believed to bring good luck. They fit the bill because they are round and ‘golden’ in colour and their pronunciation sounds like the Chinese word for success – ‘success’ (成).

Citrus fruit in basket

Kristina Ikavalko

Creative Content Creator for Liv, based in Vancouver. Fan of field hockey, food, fashion & politics.

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