By Jin Perez Go
After cleaning our homes, putting up red and gold Year of the Pig decorations, and giving red envelopes to children and unmarried relatives, we now gather around the table for a bountiful Chinese New Year feast. Lunar New Year’s Eve is a time for family. Wherever we are, we are expected to come home for dinner – it is the most important meal of the year in a Chinese family.
Unlike noche buena or media noche where heirloom recipes and family favorites are usually served, during Chinese New Year, we eat dishes that hold symbolic meanings.
In our family, the meal will consist of auspicious foods which are believed to bring us wealth, prosperity, longevity, happiness, and good luck in the year to come.
Sharing with you eight dishes you can find on our table.
1. WHOLE FISH. In Chinese language, “fish” is called “yu” which sounds like the word “surplus,” and having fish on New Year’s Eve signifies having surplus or excess at the end of the year. The Chinese greeting “niannian you yu” means “may you always have more than you need,” translating to abundance. It is important to serve the whole fish intact because head to tail represents abundance from beginning to end.
2. FORTUNE BAGS. Traditionally, we eat dumplings because they are shaped like gold ingots, but now there is something even better – fortune bags by my favorite purveyor of Filipino-Chinese food, China Mommy. The Fil-Chi mommy, Linda Co, makes the fortune bags from her home and stuffs them with your choice of vegetables, mushrooms or crab. A tray of the delicious bags looks like sacks and sacks of gold. Naturally, the more fortune bags you eat, the richer you become! Fortune bags can be ordered from China Mommy at +639175148540.
3. ABALONE. This creature of the sea is called “bao yu,” which is homonym to the words “to carry surplus.” Similar to eating fish, eating abalone is believed to bring abundance. Moreover, the abalone is shaped like the traditional gold ingot — oval and turned up at the two ends — symbolizing wealth and prosperity.
4. TREASURES RICE. There are multiple auspicious ingredients in this one-dish New Year feast — chestnuts, dates, salted egg yolk, Chinese ham, Chinese sausage, cashews, mushrooms, and sticky rice — representing wealth, fertility, richness, happiness, luck, and family unity. Whether you want your 8 treasures rice stuffed in a chicken or a whole suckling pig, Dedet Santos of Pepita’s Kitchen is happy to make your wishes come true. Order at +639178660662.
5. NOODLES. The long strands of the noodles represent longevity and are a wonderful way to eat your way to long life. Make sure to slurp them whole without trying to cut the noodles because that is an inauspicious thing to do.
6. TIKOY. This most popular Chinese New Year treat is called “niangao” which sounds like “rising and getting higher every year.” Enjoying this sweet, sticky glutinous rice cake is said to increase your business success, academic performance, promotions at work, and even in height in the upcoming year. For this Lunar New Year, The Manila Hotel has created two flavors of tikoy in the shape of a pig, wishing everyone a steady progress this Year of the Boar.
7. LUCKY FRUITS. Oranges, tangerines, and pineapples are the luckiest fruits because of their round shape, happy golden colors, and pronunciation. Orange or “cheng” sounds like success, tangerine or “ji” sounds like luck, pineapple or “onglai” sounds like fortune coming. Make sure your fruit basket is filled with them!
8. GLUTINOUS RICE BALLS. Called “tang yuan,” these sweet balls sound like the words “reunion” and “unity.” Their round shape also symbolizes fullness and togetherness, making this dessert a staple during important Chinese occasions like Mid-Autumn Festival and Spring Festival when family unity and togetherness are most important.
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