• What better way to celebrate Lunar New Year than with a prosperity toss? (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Your quick guide to the cornerstones of many Lunar New Year feasts.
By
Lee Tran Lam

24 Jan 2022 - 2:58 AM  UPDATED 16 Feb 2022 - 2:09 AM

As people celebrate the Year of the Tiger, they'll also be eating dishes that have great cultural significance. They'll be launching prosperity toss salads for good luck, or giving away oranges and displaying them around the house. Chinese families will gather to make dumplings as an act of togetherness. 

ADAM LIAW'S DUMPLING RECIPE
Shui jiao (basic boiled dumplings)

This recipe makes quite a large quantity of pork dumplings, but they can be frozen for those cheeky late-night snacks.

In Malaysia, people hand out kuih bahulu, a madeleine-like sweet that's shaped like fish to bring on abundance. Koreans might savour sikhye, a sweet rice drink, at the end of a feast. In Vietnam, a boiled chicken is presented to ancestors during Tet as an offering that ushers in prosperity. Many foods have a deeper meaning beyond keeping loved ones well fed. Here are several dishes that play an important role at family tables and restaurant banquets during Lunar New Year. 

Noodles

Extra-long noodles are a welcome sight at Chinese New Year feasts. Known as longevity noodles, their stretchy strands are meant to represent a life that spans many years – just take care not to cut them short! For seollal (Korean New Year), noodles are also a part of celebrations, with people twirling their chopsticks around japchae (glass noodles), a dish first created for a 17th-century royal banquet. 

Get this recipe for Adam Liaw's duck noodles with red cabbage here.

 

Rice cakes

In Vietnam, wrapping square parcels of banh chung in banana leaves is part of Lunar New Year rituals. They're not just a way to show respect for your ancestors, they show how rice cakes form part of holiday festivities around the world. In China, nian gao symbolises growth, longevity, career success and improved income – because the name for this sticky rice cake sounds like "higher year".

NIAN GAO
The cake that brings families together
Sticky cake - nian gao - is hugely popular at Lunar New Year, symbolising the wish to "stick together" with your family, and encouraging prosperity.

For Koreans, rice cakes make repeat appearances during seollal: they're cooked as a soup, stir-fried or served as sweets for the occasion. Because they're shaped like coins, they're symbols of good fortune. 

Pancakes

It's a Chinese tradition to enjoy spring pancakes during this occasion – the thin, tortilla-like dish is consumed to take a 'bite out of' or welcome spring (which is the start of Lunar New Year in the northern hemisphere).

FAMILY
Chinese spring pancakes bring my family together
Spring pancakes — just don't call them tortillas, souvlaki or wraps.

For seollal festivities, Koreans prepare and eat jeon (savoury pancakes) as part of their ancestor-worshipping rituals.

Prawns

Why do prawns symbolise happiness during Chinese Lunar New Year feasts? It's because the Cantonese word for the crustacean ("har") is similar to the sound of laughter, so eating them is said to bring joyous times for the coming year.

Serving prawns whole – head and tail intact ­– is meant to spell a good beginning and end, or sense of completion. For Vietnamese celebrations, dried prawns are served with pickled leeks. 

ADAM LIAW'S CANTONESE PRAWN RECIPE
Har lok (Cantonese soy sauce prawns)

Wok fried in a blend of sauces with oyster tomato, Worcestershire and soy all bringing their respective flavours to these easy prawns.

Peanut biscuits

Peanut biscuits can be found far beyond China during the new year period: people from Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore also savour these nutty sweets. The key ingredient is especially symbolic in Chinese culture: peanuts are also known as 'longevity nuts' and eating them is said to lead to fortune and vitality. 

Pork

The Chinese believe pork is an emblem of good wealth, so feasting on this meat during Lunar New Year banquets signifies a prosperous life. Galbi jjim (braised ribs, often made with pork) is comfort food that's popular on Korean New Year menus, while a rich dish of caramelised pork with hard-boiled eggs is a feature of Vietnamese Tet celebrations. 

Chinese barbecue pork

The Chatswood Year of the Tiger Festival from 27 January - 20 February 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. Celebrate Lunar New Year with SBS. #LNYSBS

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