Chinese New Year Food Traditions
with Suzanne Klein
January 29, 2014
Friday, January 31 marks the beginning of the Year of the Horse in the Chinese zodiac calendar. The New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese festivals and, as with any cultural festival, it’s full of fabulous food traditions.
2014 is the Year of the Horse
Most Chinese New Year celebrations begin with a family feast on the eve of the New Year. This feast is just the beginning and kicks off 15 days of New Year celebrations full of food and family. The New Year is a time to reflect on and hope for prosperity, luck, longevity, and good fortune. And there are many superstitions and traditions to ensure families achieve plenty of all of these in the coming year.
Some families dole out luck by hiding coins in Chinese dumplings; whoever uncovers the coin during a meal will have good luck for the year. Others make a symbolic offering to the Kitchen God, who returns to Heaven to report the family’s activities of the year to the emperor of the heavens. Chinese families traditionally have an image of the Kitchen God hanging in their kitchens. The tradition is to smear the mouth of the Kitchen God’s image with honey to sweeten his tongue for a good report, since the family is supposedly rewarded or punished by over the next year depending on if the report is naughty or nice.
Often during the celebrations, families fill their Chinese New Year meals with some of these auspicious foods:
- Nibble on daikon, a Chinese radish, for longevity.
- Make a large pot of rice to ensure harmony.
- Sprinkle red chiles into your meal for good luck.
- Have plenty of oranges and tangerines on hand. Oranges are for good luck and tangerines for wealth. Together they represent happiness and abundance.
- Long noodles represent long life, so never cut or break your noodles during New Year feasts.
- Cook up plenty of chicken for family meals to represent togetherness.
- Melons symbolize the family and the hope that the family will remain large and whole.
- Pomegranate seeds represent fertility and the bright red color of the fruit symbolizes happiness.
- Eat lots of bamboo shoots for strength and longevity.
- The Chinese word for fish is similar to the word for plenty, so serving a whole fish is symbolic of abundance.
- Use cashews in your cooking to symbolize gold or money and a hope for wealth. The shape of the cashew is said to resemble ancient Chinese gold bars.
- Consume plenty of carrots for good luck. Their bright color also brings happiness.
- Cabbage is said to bring much wealth and prosperity.
Here are a handful of delicious Savory Spice Shop recipes that offer Chinese inspired flavors and may bring a touch of luck, prosperity and longevity to the Year of the Horse.
As always, we love to hear your feedback! If you have tried these or other Savory recipes, please visit the recipe pages on our website to leave a recipe review.