• There's choices galore at Lunar New Year feasts. (Getty Images/Moment RF)
Ring in the Year of the Rat with these eight luck-enhancing foods.
By
Kelly Eng

24 Jan 2020 - 12:56 PM  UPDATED 27 Jan 2020 - 7:53 PM

Have your new year's resolutions fallen by the wayside? Fear not, the Lunar New Year starts on 25 January, giving us the opportunity to reboot our resolve as we farewell the Year of the Pig and pass the baton to the Rat.

The rat is the first animal in the Chinese zodiac. Legend has it that the Jade Emperor staged a race to decide the order of the animal zodiac. The rat hitched a ride on the ox and, at the last minute, cheekily jumped off and crossed the finish line first. The rat is thought to be intelligent, agile and quick thinking, and 2020 is predicted to be an energetic year.

TOP TIPS
Where to celebrate (and feast) this Lunar New Year
Eat your way through the Year of the Rat celebrations.

Lunar New Year is the premier event in the Chinese calendar, a time to gather with family and eat yourself silly. Food plays an enormous part in the celebrations, and dishes are carefully selected for their symbolism.  

Here are eight – a lucky number of course! – ways for you to eat your way to a happy, healthy and wealthy 2020. And even if you're not superstitious, we can guarantee these dishes are damn delish.

Happy New Year!

We are pumped for a lucky year.

Dumplings  

Dumplings are believed to resemble gold or silver ingots, and tradition dictates that you should eat as many as you can to ensure your financial wellbeing.

When preparing them, cooks will sometimes hide a coin in one, and whoever chances on this will enjoy extra good fortune (just mind those teeth).

Unleash your inner glutton and eat these pork-stuffed beauties. 

DUMPLINGS WITH BITE
Pork and chilli dumplings

Who doesn't love classic dumplings with a crisp pan crust? 

Pomelo

The Chinese word for pomelo sounds like the verb "to have", and the shape and yellow colour of these soccer ball-sized citrus fruits symbolise prosperity. Thus they are given out as gifts.

A word of caution: if you're arranging your fruit bowl, don’t place four pomelos together as four is a number that signifies death.

Make this refreshing pomelo salad. 

FEAST ON THIS
Chinese New Year chicken and pomelo salad with a sweet plum dressing

The chicken in this salad is “white cooked chicken”, a wonderful recipe to master. As well as this delicious salad it is the perfect base for the food dept’s crispy skin chicken with five-spice salt and sweet vinegar dressing. But don’t be afraid to duck into your local Chinese barbecue kitchen and pick up a chicken to make things even easier.

Prawns 

Prawns are associated with happiness. Of course, a taste of that delicate, sweet flesh is enough to increase serotonin levels.

But the actual reason for the association is that the word for prawns is pronounced 'ha', sounding just like a little hiccup of laughter. 

These salt and pepper prawns will definitely pep you up.  

THIS IS HOW WE CELEBRATE
Sichuan salt and pepper king prawns with wok-toasted chilli and garlic

An extremely popular dish with universal appeal. It serves four as an entree or two as a main course.

Chicken 

No new year spread is complete without a whole chicken – from cockscomb to claw.

While their eyes may be beady and their beaks a little threatening, having the entire bird on the table is important, as it represents family togetherness.

Often the main breadwinner (or rice winner!) of the family gets to eat the feet so that they can "grasp" onto wealth.

Here's your next 'winner winner chicken dinner'! 

GET LUCKY
Fortune chicken

“The Chinese name for this dish means ‘rich and lucky’”, says Adelaide chef Pang Ming Chui about this crispy fried chicken recipe. “I hope the customers who order this dish become rich… and lucky like me!”. Serve as part of a shared meal.

Fish

Leave those fish fingers in the freezer. As with the chicken, tradition demands that the whole body – with head, fins and tail intact – must be served.

This luck-enhancing dish owes its popularity to the fact that "yue", the Chinese word for fish, sounds like the word for surplus.

When laying out your new year banquet, point the fish's head toward the guest of honour or elders.

When laying out your new year banquet, point the fish's head toward the guest of honour or elders. And for maximum luck, try to eat half for dinner and save the rest for the next day. This could prolong your surplus!

Here's a classic way to cook a whole fish.

WHOLESOME
Ginger and shallot steamed barramundi with fried shallots

Sizzling hot oil infused with ginger and garlic is poured over the fish at the end, plus the fins and tails are snipped off and deep-fried, then scattered over the top like crunchy croutons.

Noodles

To the Chinese, noodles represent longevity – so the longer the better.  When preparing noodles don’t cut them with scissors or a knife as this could affect your life expectancy. And try not to bite into them. Slurping and swallowing is the recommended mode of ingestion – just be wary of choking!

Try this noodle dish with the longest noodles you can find.  

Can we tempt you with some dan dan noodles?

Asian vegetables

It may not be pure altruism that motivates your mum to nag you to eat your greens.

Yes, you'll get a hefty dose of vitamins and minerals, but tradition has it that eating green vegetables, such as Chinese broccoli or bok choy, will increase your parents' longevity.

COLOUR YOUR DISH GREEN
Asian greens recipes
Explore our recipes calling for Chinese cabbage, bok choy, water spinach and more.

Sweet glutinous rice balls

Sweet desserts are bountiful during the new year and are reputed to bring sweetness into your life. Rice balls, made with glutinous rice flour, are a popular new year dessert. Often they're stuffed with black sesame paste or red bean and served in a clear sweet soup.

The super sticky balls and are thought to bring the family together because the Chinese name for this dessert sounds just like the word for 'reunion'.

Desserts are a must during new year – especially this unusual sweet dessert soup.

IF YOU'RE FEELING SWEET
Fermented glutinous rice dumpling

Fermented glutinous rice dumplings are a very popular dessert with a long history in China. They are enjoyed on special occasions, like Chinese New Year, and are a "must-order" at restaurants. They are also said to have medicinal properties, promoting blood circulation for women, and even slowing age process! This dessert doesn't taste overly sweet and is very easy to make.

Love the story? Follow the author here.

LUNAR NEW YEAR DELIGHTS
14 ways to restart the New Year with a Lunar bang
Let's change our clocks to Lunar time and start the new year... again (!) with Chinese five-treasure duck, lucky Korean mochi balls and fragrant Burmese snapper. Health, wealth and prosperity, here we come.
The Star - Lunar New Year 2020
Our food traditions are the vital ties that hold us together
Passover. Christmas. Ramadan. Lunar New Year. Passata day. Sunday lunch. No matter what your cultural background, the traditions of food are almost always central in connecting family, friends and community.
Have yourself a deliciously auspicious Lunar New Year
With the Lunar New Year almost upon us, prepare to ring in the Year of the Rat with your loved ones over a fortuitous, flavour-packed banquet that promises prosperity and good fortune for the year ahead.
One-pot Chinese chicken

Cooking everything together allows the rice to soak up the stock and for the flavours to permeate. Plus, minimal cleaning! 

The mooncake’s modern makeover
A hyper-modern generation of Chinese millennials is the perfect market for breaking mooncake traditions.
Eight treasure duck

“This Cantonese dish is traditionally served the day before Chinese New Year. Yip Choi Khall has been cooking and perfecting her version of the dish for over 50 years now. Her choice of treasures for the stuffing beautifully complement the succulent duck and addition of fat choy. Browning the duck before steaming seals the bird, ensuring all the flavours remain in the duck during the steaming process″ Adam Liaw, Destination Flavour Singapore