• Chaku is a Nepalese sweet that is consumed during Maghe Sankranti and is said to promote good health and warmth during the cold months (Getty)
As we're in the midst of celebrating Lunar New Year and eating our way to prosperity, it got us to wondering what different parts of the world eat for good fortune.
Lucy Rennick

30 Jan 2020 - 3:20 PM  UPDATED 30 Jan 2020 - 3:20 PM

If you’re finding yourself down on luck in the new year, perhaps you could consider eating for wealth, health and prosperity like some cultures do.

Around the world, culinary traditions have gravitated towards food said to bring luck and good fortune – both material and otherwise. Eat the right foods on New Year’s Eve, Christmas, weddings and birthdays, and it could just make your year. 

From China to Mexico, here’s a taste of what the world eats for good luck. 

Chaku - Nepal

The Maghe Sankranti festival has just kicked off in Nepal, a celebration to mark the end of the dark days of winter and the start of the month of Poush, when crops are harvested. 

Watching the Nepali candy 'chaku' being made is utterly hypnotic
The sweet treat is associated with the Maghe Sankranti festival, which falls on January 15.

Chaku is a Nepalese sweet that is consumed during Maghe Sankranti and is said to promote good health and warmth during the cold months. It’s made from hardened molasses, ghee and milk, and then topped with coconut, dates or nuts.

It has a transfixing quality while it’s being prepared – we can’t look away. 

Pomegranate - countries in the Mediterranean

In parts of the Mediterranean, pomegranates (specifically, their seeds) are a symbol of abundance and fertility.

A Greek New Year tradition involves smashing a pomegranate on the floor. The more seeds that spill out, the more wealth the household sees that year.

A Greek New Year tradition involves smashing a pomegranate on the floor. The more seeds that spill out, the more wealth the household sees that year.

The seeds are also packed full of antioxidants, which makes them an ideal snack for a health boost. 

Tamales - Mexico

Tamales have been a staple in Latino diets for thousands of years. M. Dustin Knepps, assistant professor at the University of Central Arkansas, dates their creation at between 8000-5000BC.

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Although the cooking traditions for these tasty corn husk-wrapped parcels have evolved over time (some home cooks opt for store-bought tamales over the labour intensive DIY process), their cultural significance hasn’t changed a bit.

Tamales have come to symbolise wealth and prosperity in Latin American countries and are eaten on special occasions to bring luck and good fortune. 

Tai - Japan

Japanese cuisine is laden with ‘lucky’ foods consumed at all times of the year, including soba noodles (known as “year-crossing noodles”, bringing luck in the new year), tonkatsu (a homonym for the verb meaning “to win” and eaten by competitors before sports matches) and onigiri (triangle-shaped rice balls pressed into the shape of mountains to win favour from the gods). 

Tai is one more auspicious food in a long list. Considered “the king of fish”, tai is served whole on special occasions – weddings, birthdays, New Year’s Eve – and is said to be a symbol of good tidings. 

Its red colouring is particularly significant – red is closely associated with luck and prosperity.

Beggar's chicken - China

Behind Beggar’s Chicken, a centuries-old Hangzhou dish, is a classic rag-to-riches fable that’s stood the test of time – even if it’s been liberally recreated along the way.

According to one version, a beggar steals a chicken from a farm and is forced to improvise a cooking method on account of not technically having a kitchen.

Beggar’s chicken

According to the story, a beggar is walking along a road when he sees a chicken. He kills it to eat it, but without a stove, he covers it in mud and bakes it in a fire. Enamoured by the aroma when he passes by, the emperor demands to know the recipe, so he can add it to the imperial court menu. These days a dough crust is used, sealing in the rich, flavoursome juices.

The beggar decides to wrap the bird in lotus leaves, pack it tightly with clay and mud and bury it in a hole heated by a fire.

The Emperor at the time who happened to be passing by enjoyed the dish so much he added it to the imperial menu, and the beggar never wanted for anything ever again.

It’s that easy, guys!

Glücksschwein - Austria and Germany

In German, “Schwerin gehabt” can either mean “having a pig” or being lucky.

Since medieval times, pigs have become symbols of good fortune in Austria and Germany. Marzipan pigs – Glücksschwein – are normally handed out and eaten over the Christmas and New Year period.  

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Oven-roasted suckling pig with scented apple sauce (porchetto arrosto con salsa alle mele)

This recipe for Italian suckling pig is definitely one for a special occasion with friends and family. Small enough to fit into a domestic oven, half a suckling pig will feed about eight people. And it's surprisingly simple to do - the results, however, are quite impressive.

Black Angus beef with lucky sauce (bo luc lac)

This Vietnamese dish is quick to make and filled with the freshness of coriander, perilla (shiso) and mint. Lucky sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.