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What are Typical Chinese New Year Dishes?

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by Jonathan Phoon (subscribe)
I love trying new food and new restaurants. My other passions are Origami and Pokémon
Published February 9th 2018
When it comes to dishes for Chinese New Year meals, it is all about symbolism. Dishes that symbolise health, wealth and prosperity are very popular. Some dishes are included because the names of the ingredients sound auspicious. Every family has their own list of 'must have' dishes. My family likes to have meat, fish, prawn, hair vegetable and pomelo.

Chinese New Year Dishes, Roast Meats
Roast Meats (Photographed by Jonathan Phoon)

Meat, with its rich and delicious fattiness represent wealth and prosperity. Popular forms of meat dishes for Chinese New Year are roast pork, roast chicken and roast duck.

Chinese New Year Dishes, Fish Dish
Fish Dish (Photographed by Jonathan Phoon)

We like to have fish (yu) because it sounds like 'surplus' in Chinese. 'Surplus year after year' (nian nian you yu) is one of the basic Chinese New Year greetings. Hence having fish during Chinese New Year celebrations is a way of wishing people a surfeit of everything good year after year.

Chinese New Year Dishes, Prawns
Prawns (Photographed by Jonathan Phoon)

Prawn (ha) is on my family's list of dishes because of its sound in Cantonese. We were told that if we have prawns during Chinese New Year, we will be smiling the whole year round (ha ha siu).

Chinese New Year Dishes, Pomelo
Pomelo (Photographed by Jonathan Phoon)

Hair vegetable (fat choy) is typically included in Chinese New Year dishes because it sounds like prosperity in Cantonese and Chinese. This vegetable is sold in a dry form and has the appearance of black hair. When it is soaked and cooked, hair vegetable has a soft texture and looks like very fine black vermicelli. For fruit, we like to have pomelo (you) because it sounds like 'to have' in Chinese.

We are not superstitious but do try to have these dishes during Chinese New Year as a matter of tradition, for fun and because they are delicious. My sister has made baking of pineapple tarts her personal Chinese New Year tradition. We are all delighted with her decision because those tarts are really scrumptious.

What about your family? Do you have any typical Chinese New Year dishes that you have every year?
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