Ashton Liu (’22) | March 1, 2021
The Lunar New Year festival brings joy and hope to all that celebrate as they wish for a better year to come. Many look forward to the festivities and holidays that follow, but most are thrilled for the grand feast, one of the most important traditions when celebrating the Lunar New Year. In the Chinese celebration of this holiday, each meal eaten from the feast represents an important goal that each member aims to achieve, whether it be luck, fortune, fame, or good health.
A famous appetizer for feasting on the Lunar New Year is Chinese dumplings. They project the image of wealth, as those who eat them hope to become financially prosperous in the new year. Chinese dumplings appear in the shape of gold and silver ingots, which were used as currency in ancient China. Presenting food items in the shape of wealth represented the fact that you were extremely rich to the point of eating your “money.” Dumplings consist of minced meat and finely-chopped vegetables wrapped in a thin dough skin. Most fillings are made out of minced pork, diced shrimp, fish, ground chicken, beef, and vegetables cooked by steaming, boiling, frying, or baking each dumpling.
Steamed fish is another popular dish served during the Lunar New Year. Typically eaten as one of the last main entrees, this dish has an interesting representation in Chinese culture. Fish, in Chinese, is pronounced as “Yu,” which also means abundance or wealth. The fish is traditionally served at the end of meals to symbolize a wish for wealth in the coming year. What makes this dish special is that the head and tail are included when serving the dish, symbolizing the wealth with good beginnings and endings of each month to come in the new year. Many condiments such as ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and sesame oil are rubbed on the fish before steaming to saturate it with flavor. Finally, the fish is steamed until it flakes easily and is garnished with green onions.
Dessert, common in any meal, is an important part of the feast for the Lunar New Year. Chinese rice cakes, or “Nian Gao” in Chinese, have been a staple over the many years of this celebration. The Chinese name of this dish is translated to “New Year Cake” or “getting higher each year,” meant to symbolize higher income, higher position, and the growth of children for each eater. Overall, these symbols all represent the promise of a better year. Chinese rice cakes are made using glutinous rice flour, wheat starch, salt, water, and sugar. First, water and sugar are boiled down in a pot to create a syrup. Then, the glutinous rice flour, wheat starch, and salt are added to this syrup and placed into containers to steam. Once they are steamed, they are cooled and served.