Take Some Food Inspiration from Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year (also known as the Lunar New Year) began February 1st, 2022. The celebrations last around 16 days, starting from Chinese New Year’s Eve (January 31st this year). Inspired by the celebrations, let’s look at some tasty Chinese New Year’s inspired food, including some that can be made on a barbecue grill.

If you are celebrating the event yourself, you could even host a barbecue party. We know it’s cold this time of year, but with the help of a patio heater or a fire pit, you can host a barbecue any time

of year. You could even set off some fireworks or Chinese lanterns whilst you’re outside, but be careful with these, stay safe and be aware of any laws or guidelines on the use of this equipment.

Now, let’s take a look at some Chinese New Year foods, traditions and facts.

Traditional Food on Chinese New Year

In Chinese New Year tradition, a reunion dinner also known as nián yè fàn, is held on the New Year’s Eve. Families gather at or near the home of the most senior member of the family. The New Year’s dinner is usually very large and includes dishes of meat like pork and chicken, as well as some fish (which can all easily be done on a barbecue if you’re celebrating a Chinese New Year slightly different from tradition).

Other traditional foods include noodles, fruits, dumplings, spring rolls, and sweet rice balls. As well as a vegetarian dish originally consumed by Buddhist monks known as “Buddha’s delight”, which is served both on the eve and first day of the year. The ingredients of this dish vary.

Most of these dinners are served alongside a communal hot pot to signify the coming together of family members. Speciality meats like duck and Chinese sausage (lap cheong in Cantonese) and seafood like lobster and abalone (a family of several marine snails) are also enjoyed, particularly in Southern China. These specialty meats are usually saved for special occasions throughout the year.

Other Chinese Traditions

Due to tradition, the fish is not eaten completely and the leftovers are stored overnight. This is because the phrase “may there be surpluses every year” sounds the same as “let there be fish every year in the Chinese language. With “fish” being a homophone for “surpluses”, much like new and knew are pronounced the same but mean different things.

Interestingly enough, though not connected to the New Year’s fish, it is considered bad etiquette to finish your meal completely in China. Though some Western countries think it’s rude to leave food on your plate, the opposite is true in China as it signifies that the food wasn’t filling enough and the host didn’t give you a big enough portion. Instead, it is recommended to leave behind a little bit of your food to show you are satisfied.

It’s also seen as bad luck to flip a fish in China. Superstitions range from turning the fish bones symbolising turning your back on someone in a traitorous way to an old fishing superstition that says it could cause a boat to capsize – similar to the butterfly effect, where a butterfly flapping its wings could cause a typhoon. Instead, you’re going to have to eat straight through the fish.

Food Meanings

Each item of food served on a Chinese New Year reunion dinner has a meaning behind it. The noodles are made longer than usual to symbolise long life. Chicken is served as it’s believed to be something that any humble family can afford.

A lot of the Chinese New Year’s food is chosen because of homophones or homonyms, such as the word for “apple” also meaning “peace”. Just like pen can refer to a pen for writing or a pen for

holding animals. Other foods are chosen for meaning things like “luck”, “fortune/money”, “fertility” and so on.

Food to Serve Up

So after reading the history of Chinese New Year you may already have some ideas. Skewered meat and fish make up a lot of Chinese barbecue, so you can’t really go wrong. Try some barbecued chicken with hoisin on, though hoisin is usually associated with duck it goes great with chicken too.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Speak Your Mind