• Spring rolls resemble gold bars, signifying wealth and prosperity. (Macau Gourmet with Justine Schofield)Source: Macau Gourmet with Justine Schofield
This is what people will be eating for prosperity this Lunar New Year.
By
Lee Tran Lam

19 Jan 2021 - 11:52 AM  UPDATED 19 Jan 2021 - 11:52 AM

Lunar New Year is a time of celebration and feasts. At family gatherings and restaurants across the world, people will welcome 2021, the Year of the Ox, by enjoying auspicious dishes of cultural importance.

In China, diners eat longevity noodles for Lunar New Year. Their chopsticks seek out the longest strands, which bring the promise of a long life. Koreans sit down to bowls of tteokguk (rice cake soup), which symbolise wealth because they resemble ancient brass coins called yeopjeon.

In Vietnam, banh chung is a familiar sight: these square parcels of sticky rice come tightly wrapped in banana leaves and signify appreciation for your ancestors and elders.

Here are some more dishes that are important Lunar New Year staples.  

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Spring rolls

These deep-fried appetisers may appear on restaurant menus all year round, but their seasonal name explains why they're especially significant at this time. In China, the Lunar New Year is also known as the Spring Festival at which spring rolls are eaten.

Because they resemble gold bars after being fried in sizzling oil, they symbolise wealth. In Vietnam, they're also a popular Lunar New Year food. Here, the meat and vegetable filling is covered with rice paper, whereas Chinese versions are encased in wheat wrappers. 

Dumplings

Dumplings represent togetherness. It's a tradition for Chinese families to gather and prepare dumplings on New Year's Eve and consume them at midnight.

Because the round shape of dumplings resembles old types of Chinese currency, dumplings are said to bring good fortune.

Koreans celebrate with dumplings, too. Families make mandu, which also denote luck. They also gather to eat manduguk, a dumpling soup, or enjoy adding dumplings to their tteokguk.  

Korean dumplings

Boiled chicken

For Lunar New Year or 'Tet' in Vietnam, boiled chicken is offered as a tribute to ancestors. It's an act that is meant to bring good luck for the coming year.

The whole chicken is traditionally cooked until it gains a light yellow tinge and, once chopped, is presented with a tangy dipping sauce featuring lime and salt.

Like many dishes associated with Lunar New Year, it's meant to symbolise prosperity. 

Prosperity toss salad

There's debate over whether Malaysia and Singapore can claim credit for the version of the prosperity toss salad we know today. What is clear, though, is that the dish — also known as lo hei, yee sang and yu sheng — has Chinese roots and is a lot of messy fun.

THROW IT HIGH
Prosperity toss (yee sang)

This is a dish traditionally eaten at a Lunar New Year feast with the family, a colourful platter of shredded vegetables, pickled ginger and salmon garnished with a tasty sauce.

This rainbow-bright salad is made with slices of raw seafood and shredded vegetables. Everyone is meant to gather around it with chopsticks and toss the ingredients while yelling "lo hei" ("to toss good fortune").

The aim is to propel the salad as high as possible — the higher the ingredients go, the better your luck will be this year.

Toss for prosperity this Lunar New Year.

Pineapple tarts

Another Lunar New Year staple in Malaysia and Singapore is the pineapple tart. The dessert is auspicious because the word for pineapple sounds like "wealth comes" in Hokkien and Cantonese.

Some people think that rolling a pineapple through a new office or house can bring you good luck. People display pineapple decorations during Lunar New Year for the same reason. It's also why pineapple tarts — sweetened with a sunny dose of pineapple jam — are a welcome sight during celebrations.

Steamed whole fish

You'll see platters of whole steamed fish at Chinese New Year banquets and dinner tables because of the dish's connection to abundance and prosperity.

The name for fish in Mandarin sounds like the word for 'surplus', so it signifies plenty.

Serving the entire fish — including the head and tail — is essential, because it means you'll get luck for the whole year.

The Chatswood Year of the Ox Festival from February 3 - 28 is one of many festivals celebrating Lunar New Year around the country. Check out the website to find out more about their upcoming events and celebrations. 

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