The secret to the best year of your life lies on your table. If you are celebrating Lunar New Year this time around – commonly referred to as Chinese New Year in the West, Lunar New Year is actually celebrated across East Asia, where it is also known as the Spring Festival – make sure to eat well and eat lucky, by taking from the traditions of Chinese culture. Whether it's prosperity, wealth, good health, or harmony in your family, there is a type of food for every kind of good fortune. [This article was last updated on 13.01.23]
What are some traditional foods eaten for Lunar New Year?
Chinese Lunar New Year food includes a huge array of sweet and savoury symbolic food, from whole fish to glutinous rice balls. Discover eight of the most popular foods and how to make them and eat your way to a great new lunar year below.
Traditional Lunar New Year Food
1. Fish for prosperity
The word for 'surplus' is a homophone of 'fish' in Mandarin, and any new New Year celebration meal will feature a whole fish in China. In China, finishing the year with a surplus is a sign of a better year ahead. So, grab a whole fish and steam, boil, or braise it like they do – carp and catfish are popular choices for auspicious reasons. Find out how in the video recipe below:
2. Dumplings for wealth
In Chinese culture, dumplings represent wealth because they are shaped like old Chinese gold ingots. The word for dumpling, jaozi, also means the changing of the years, so make some dumplings on New Year’s Eve with the family, letting go of the past and welcoming more wealth in the new year.
Check out our guide on how to make dumplings in seven recipes or have a go at making delicious potstickers with Babish in the clip below:
And remember, if you really want to maximise your wealth potential for the year ahead you're going to have to learn how to fold dumplings like a master. Find out how in the video clip below:
3. Spring rolls for wealth
Golden deep-fried spring rolls that resemble bars of gold also mean wealth. Traditionally eaten during the Spring Festival, spring rolls were made to include all the fresh spring produce in one dish, but it’s common to find a whole range of fillings wrapped inside these delicious crunchy fried rolls.
Try our recipe for classic spring rolls with bean sprouts, cabbage and noodles served with soy sauce.
Amateur, home cook or expert? Put your spring roll-making ability to the test against the Epicurious video below.
4. Longevity noodles for happiness and longevity
Make sure any noodles you eat on Lunar New Year are long if you wish for a happy and long life! Called changshou mian, those who are particularly auspicious may try to down the noodles in one long slurp to avoid ‘cutting’ their good fortune short.
Watch how they're made in this fascinating clip below:
5. Tangyuan for family
No family meal is complete without these sweet rice balls. Tangyuan, a homophone of the word for ‘reunion’, represents family and togetherness and is a must at any celebration. Made with glutinous rice flour, these sweet, gooey balls are filled with sweet fillings such as bean paste, sesame paste, fruits or nuts then boiled and served in a bowl of warm, sweet syrup.
Want to have a go at making your own Tangyuan rice balls at home? Then here's the recipe you need in the clip below:
6. Lucky fruit for fullness and wealth
Any fruit eaten over Lunar New Year should be golden coloured and round if you want to increase your chances of good luck and better wealth in the new year. Bright oranges and tangerines are perfect to have piled up on the table.
7. Nian gao – glutinous rice cake for higher income and career success
Eating glutinous rice cakes at Lunar New Year symbolises a rising income and better luck in your career. Gobble down on Year Cakes on the first day of the new year and (hopefully) see your career take a turn for the better. Try them sweet or salty, fried, boiled or in soup.
Better still, have a go at making your own glutinous rice cakes at home. Find out how in the clip below:
8. Quan He - The 'Togetherness' Box – snacks and sweets for visitors
And finally, offer your guests their pick of symbolic sweet and savoury snacks like white rabbit lollies, lotus seeds, melon seeds and pistachios from a compartmentalised "togetherness box", wishing them wealth, joy and prosperity in the new year.