Prosperity Bak Kwa Salmon Yu Sheng Mimi Restaurant
Photograph: Mimi Restaurant

8 lucky dishes and food you must eat for Chinese New Year

Time to get that booster shot of luck and prosperity for the year 2023

Dawson Tan

Growing up listening to fanciful Lo-Hei sayings, we’re accustomed to how food and its association with auspicious symbolism play a significant role during the traditional festive season. Some believe that the higher the price tag of the foods, the more luck one will receive in return. However, we believe that one can have accessible options without breaking the bank in search of luck. Here are eight lucky dishes and food you must during this roaring Chinese New Year.

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8 lucky dishes and food you must eat for Chinese New Year


For wealth

For many, dumplings are a commonly found delicacy that can be found in our typical hawker fare with a juicy meat or vegetable filling. They resemble ingots that stood for currency back in the day when dynasties still exist all over China. This traditional recipe has been relevant since 1800 years ago and is steadily consumed over the Chinese New Year. Want more money? Then stop counting calories because legend has it that the more dumplings you eat, the more money you’ll earn during the new year.

Nian Gao (sweet glutinous rice cake)

For a raise or promotion

Reach higher highs whenever you chow down on a piece of Nian Gao. This glutinous rice flour dessert is commonly found steamed or fried with a batter to achieve a sweet sticky gooey cake that speaks to all ages. It directly translates to “all-year high” which signals a higher level of success in doing business or an incoming promotion at a job for the Chinese. Stuck in a rut at work? Have a few more of these to springboard your luck ahead of 2022.


Tangerines and oranges

For wealth and prosperity

We can’t imagine celebrating Chinese New Year without the iconic fruit that comes with every exchange of well wishes. And of course, red packets! The Chinese relish the spoken word from how it reads as “Chéng” in Mandarin, symbolising success and good fortune. Chinese New Year can get a little over the top with rich and decadent foods and snacks, we’d think this citrusy fruit is the best alternative to finding some balance and refreshing your palate. 


For prosperity

Often found steamed with a savoury sauce during Chinese New Year, the whole fish symbolises surplus and abundance of food and wealth so that you’ll have more for the next year. Keep thinking about a fat bonus that will soon bestow upon you with every bite and who knows, maybe the lucky thought will just manifest into reality.


Longevity noodles

For happiness and longevity

These noodles are served in great lengths (literally) and often uncut to symbolise the wish for longevity in one’s life. Often served in a broth, fried or doused with a sweet-savoury sauce, this is a dish of sustenance. Slurping is the best strategy when consuming but whatever you do, avoid cutting or breaking them when cooking during the festivities. 

Spring rolls

For wealth

These crispy golden rolls never fail to remind us of gold bars when stacked atop each other. Coincidentally, the lucky saying that associates itself with the dish translates to symbolise a ton of gold that the Chinese have come to love. Traditionally enjoyed during the Spring Festival, the usual suspects of the fillings include vegetables and meat wrapped in dough wrappers then fried to a crisp. Yet another irresistible dish that increases your luck with each roll you wolf down, how convenient!


Yu Sheng

For good fortune

You’ve never really celebrated Chinese New Year in Singapore if you’ve not tossed this salad before. The lo hei is a customary kickstarter to the festivities for many Chinese households and it is often conducted before the reunion dinner. Boasting many intricately sliced components such as fresh vegetables to raw seafood – each with an auspicious meaning behind it – the tossing ceremony invites family and friends to contribute with lucky sayings and wishes to usher in the new year. Legend has it that the higher a toss, the more good fortune will follow, just make sure it doesn’t land on one of your auntie’s dramatic hairdos to avoid the loss of a red packet.

Tang Yuan (sweet glutinous rice balls)

For togetherness

Hold up, isn’t this a staple dessert dish during the Lantern Festival? You’re not wrong here. The rice balls are also commonly consumed on the fifteenth day of Chinese New Year when families gather around in harmony to celebrate the beginning of the Winter Solstice. Its spherical shape symbolises union and togetherness as each bite could either burst with sweet or savoury fillings of red bean, peanut or black sesame paste. To some of us, returning home to this dish is as good as a warm hug during the otherwise bustling and chaotic festivities.


Honourable mention: Pen Cai (fortune pot)

For prosperity and abundance 

This multi-layered Chinese New Year delicacy is filled to the brim with luxurious ingredients – and for a reason. By layering the pot with premium seafood and meat, it literally symbolises wealth and abundance to mark the start of the new year: if you eat well at CNY, you'll be eating well throughout the year. So what's in it and how do you eat this complex dish? Every Pen Cai bowl is different, but it's important that you choose ingredients you like. Ingredients that take longer to cook (or are great at soaking up flavours) are placed at the bottom – that's where you can place your sliced pork belly, cabbage and taro. The middle layer is where you'll see fish maw, sea cucumber and mushrooms. Seafood items like scallops, prawns, abalone and black moss are at the top so they will taste the freshest when it's time to eat.

Another thing to note is that each component is also cooked separately before it comes together in a Pen Cai pot which is why it takes a long time to prepare this dish. A rich broth is poured into the pot to let all the flavours simmer together before it is enjoyed by the whole family. 

Eat your way through Chinese New Year

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