Taste of Chinese New Year

Symbolic well wishes are present in many dishes to bestow you with either wealth, luck, fertility, or even a long life through the upcoming Year of the Snake.
By: Katie Hards

Photo By: Thinkstock

Photo By: Wikimedia Commons

Photo By: Thinkstock

Photo By: Thinkstock

Photo By: Thinkstock

Photo By: Thinkstock

Photo By: Thinkstock

Photo By: Thinkstock

Photo By: Thinkstock

Photo By: Thinkstock

The Tray of Togetherness

Divided into eight slots because it is an auspicious and lucky number, this tray offers a range of sweet and symbolic snacks for New Year revelers -- candied winter melon, kumquats, plums, coconut, lotus seed, water chestnut and red dates.

Buddha's Delight

Eaten on the first day of the new year, this traditional Chinese dish called Buddha's Delight or Jai is comprised of 18 different vegetables and symbolizes luck in the new year. A vegetarian diet is encouraged in the first five days of the new year in order to purify oneself, so ingredients in this dish may include bamboo shoots, bean curd sticks, black mushrooms, carrot, cellophane noodles, gingko, napa cabbage, snow peas, water chestnuts and peanuts. Seasonings include garlic, ginger, oyster and soy sauce.

Peking Duck

Whole animals are symbolic of good luck for the whole year, so chicken, turkey or duck are often served intact. Peking duck, a popular dish during this time, is also a symbol of fidelity.


Families visiting one another on New Year's Day may bring tangerines or other sweets to wish one another a sweet and prosperous new year.


The round shape of these glutinous rice balls, called tangyuan, signify family togetherness and are eaten on the first full moon after the Chinese New Year, also known as the Lantern Festival. A traditional dessert in the South, it has changed color from white to multicolor based on new ingredients like chocolate, bean or pumpkin paste. In the North, the dish is filled with savory items and is called yuanxiao.


A popular dish eaten during the New Year celebration because of it's lucky red color, bakkwa is a salty and sweet dried meat similar to jerky. Treated as a delicacy, it is a popular gift to give and receive during New Year festivities.

Long Life Noodles

Long Life Noodles are meant to be eaten, or rather slurped whole; cutting them while eating or serving could symbolize a shortened life, so the longer the noodle, the longer the life.

Tea Eggs

Cha Ye Dan, or Chinese tea eggs, symbolize fertility, prosperity and wealth and are a traditional snack in the new year but consumed as a street food year round.


Some parts of China see the exchange of pomegranates, which instill wishes upon the recipient for many children in the new year.

Whole Fish

Whole fish dishes are highly popular during New Year celebrations as they are a symbol of prosperity -- the name for fish, yu, sounds similar to abundance in Chinese. They are served with their head and tail intact, which represents a good start and end to the new year. The fish should not be flipped while being eaten, because it is synonymous with a fisherman's superstition of flipping his boat.


Chinese New Year cake is called niangao and eaten on New Year's Eve because the dish's name sounds similar to "higher year" and the glutinous rice flour from which it is made, puffs and rises while cooking. Eating this cake is believed to enable oneself to reach higher results in the coming year.


In northern China, these round pork dumplings, or jiaozi, are symbols of wealth in the new year as their name is similar to an ancient currency called jiao. Sometimes, a small coin is placed within a dumpling to bestow extra good luck upon the recipient. Dumplings are prepared in bulk prior to New Year's Day because it is considered bad luck to use a knife or cook with fire in the beginning of the new year.

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