Today, I’ve got a collection of Lunar and Chinese New Year Recipes in celebration of the Year of the Horse. These Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese recipes all contain auspicious ingredients to start the new year off right.
January 31, 2014 marks the start of the Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year and this year we’re celebrating the Year of the Horse. According to Chinese astrology, people born in the Year of the Horse are popular and cheerful, independent, quick and artful. If you were born in 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, or some increment of 12, you are a horse.
Although I was born in the U.S., my parents are immigrants of China, so I try to instill a little bit of Chinese tradition in my kids, including Chinese New Year. When my mother and father-in-law were alive, my boys would perform the traditional triple bow before receiving their “hung bao” (red packets of money that children receive from adults). Kids will do just about anything for money, but I was happy they humored me and honored tradition which meant a lot to their grandparents.
The Lunar New Year is celebrated by the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Mongolians, Tibetans, and Vietnamese. Interestingly, as I recently discovered, Thai, Burmese, Cambodian, and Laotian folks celebrate their New Year in April.
In the Chinese culture, Chinese New Year is the biggest holiday of the year. In fact, it is celebrated for fifteen days, starting with the new moon on the first day of the first lunar month (of the year according to the lunar calendar) and ending fifteen days later when there is a full moon, culminating with the Lantern Festival.
There are lots of traditions leading up to Chinese New Year include cleaning the house thoroughly to sweep away any bad luck, getting haircuts, and paying off debts to start the New Year fresh, and decorating the house with red paper cutouts of Chinese auspicious phrases and couplets with themes of good fortune, happiness, wealth and longevity.
Some foods are selected because they sound like another word that means prosperity, luck, wealth or good fortune. Other foods are served because they resemble money or gold. A traditional Chinese New Year dinner might include a whole chicken (family unity), a whole fish (surplus), duck (happiness), lobster (life and energy), Buddha’s Delight (a vegetarian dish made with symbolic ingredients), shrimp (wealth and abundance), oysters (good fortune), scallops (shaped like ancient coins), tea eggs (fertility), noodles (longevity), jiao-tze or dumplings (shaped like old coins), and spring rolls (resemble gold bricks). Tangerines, oranges and pomelos are given out for good luck and abundance.
Here are some of the symbolic foods you might find during the Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year:
Chicken - prosperity, togetherness as a family (traditionally, a whole chicken is cooked)
Walnuts – happiness of the entire family
Lettuce – wealth and riches
Fish – surplus, prosperity (traditionally served whole for New Year’s)
Bamboo shoots – wealth
Shitake mushrooms – longevity
Stir-Fry Noodles with Chicken, Shitake Mushrooms and Chinese Vegetables (use rice noodles for gluten-free option)
Green vegetables – close family ties
Rice – fertility, luck, wealth
Shrimp – happiness and good fortune
Noodles – long life
Dan Dan Mien (Steamy Kitchen)
Dan Dan Mien (Chinese Takeout Cookbook)
Chinese dumplings – wealth
Egg rolls – wealth
Radish/Turnip – good fortune
Dried Bean Curd – Fulfillment of Wealth and Happiness
Day Lily Buds – Wealth
Mung Bean Noodles (cellophane noodles ) – Silver Chain
Wood Ear Fungus – Longevity
Chinese Cabbage – wealth
Sweets – safety, good fortune and “sweeten” the New Year
Grapes – wealth, abundance, fertility
Oranges – wealth
Read this post for more information on Chinese New Year.