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7 foods to eat during CNY, and how to make them

Published on 17 February 2018|
2 min read

Yet another food article because Malaysians are a bunch of foodies, if you haven’t already figured out.

by Stanley P, Carrybeans

Chinese New Year is an interesting festival.

Colours are often associated with certain meanings and there are taboos we need to follow lest you want a scolding from your grandmother. The same can be said about the food. You can be sure that some foods are served because there’s meaning behind it, whether for good luck or a bountiful year ahead.

So, let’s see what foods are served during CNY, why you’re eating them and how you can prepare them yourself!

1. Tang yuan (or tong yuen)

During CNY, families serve tang yuan, or sweet rice balls, because it symbolises family togetherness. Since the shape and pronunciation of the word is homophonic (meaning it looks and sounds the same) to that of reunion and togetherness, it is often eaten family dinners and other festivities.

To make this delicious dessert, all you need is some glutinous rice flour and some water. Traditionally, tang yuan is white and filled with sweet fillings such as sugar, sweet bean paste, peanut butter and sesame paste. However, people nowadays make these sweet desserts in different colours and even use chocolate and pumpkin paste.

2. Spring Rolls

Spring rolls are your usual fare of popiah, and symbolise wealth because fried spring rolls look like gold bars from its shape and colour. It’s usually filled with savoury goodness but adventurous chefs have filled with with sweet goodness like ice cream too.

To make your own spring roll, you just have to wrap stir-fried vegetables and meat with some spring roll wrappers (each wrapper is only 33 calories, by the way). Then, fry the rolls until golden brown. You can find the wrappers in any supermarket, but if you’re feeling a bit fancy, you can make your own too.

3. Nian gao

Glutinous rice cake, or nian gao is often associated with the phrase  年年高 (niánnián gāo), meaning ‘getting better year by year’. So, it is served during CNY to represent good wishes for one’s career or studies.

This dessert also uses glutinous rice flour as the main ingredient (Chinese people sure love their glutinous rice flour). Traditionally, only white sugar and flour is used and the mixture is then steamed for 20 hours. Now, brown sugar substitutes the white sugar and people only steam it for around 50 minutes. You can also have the niángāo fried if you’ve discarded counting calories for this season.

4. Dumplings

Dumplings, or jiao zi, are often folded to resemble Chinese silver ingots. The dumplings symbolise wealth and some say fortune smiles upon those who manage to eat many of these during CNY celebrations.

To make dumplings, you just need to fill round dough wrappers with chopped meat and vegetables. Then, you can either steam or fry the dumplings. As with the spring rolls, you can use store-bought wrappers or make it from scratch.

5. Fish

Yu (Chinese for fish) is eaten during CNY because the word sounds like ‘surplus’. So, the Chinese eat it in hopes that they can improve their fortunes in the coming year.

Fun Fact: different fishes carries different meanings when eaten during CNY. For example, Chinese mud carp symbolises good fortune while crucian carp represents good luck.

6. Longevity noodles

As the name suggests, longevity noodles (chang shou mian) represent the longevity of the eater’s life as well as his or her happiness. The noodle is made of wheat flour and often consists of one long and unbroken strand of noodle. There’s no special way of making this dish, but just make sure the noodle strands stay unbroken, okay?

7. Mandarin Oranges

The roundness and golden colour of mandarin oranges symbolise fullness and wealth. So, if you see people giving out mandarin oranges to each other, that basically means that they’re wishing the other person prosperity and wealth for the new year.

Mandarin oranges are chock-full of vitamins and minerals that we need, so it is perfectly fine to eat them as is. However, there’s no harm in making desserts out of them too, right?

So, what is your favourite food for Chinese New Year? Share with us in the comments below.

Chinese New Year will never be complete without reruns of movies like Kung Fu Hustle and Ip Man. So, keep an eye for these classic movies!

Featured Image Credit: Huang Kitchen

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