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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 2022

Dawson Tan
Written by
Dawson Tan
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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.

RECOMMENDED: The best Chinese New Year snacks for 2022

Dumplings
Photograph: 5 ON 25

Dumplings

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. Resembling the likes of ingots that stood for currency back in the day where 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 forget about your waistline because legend has it that the more dumplings you eat, the more money you’ll make during the new year.

Nian gao (sweet glutinous rice cake)
Photograph: Resorts World Sentosa

Nian gao (sweet glutinous rice cake)

For a raise or promotion

Reach higher highs whenever you chow down on a piece on Nian Gao. This glutinous rice flour dessert is commonly found steamed or fried with a batter to achieve a sweet sticky gooey cake that all ages have come to love. 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.

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Tangerines and oranges
Photograph: Unsplash

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. The Chinese relish in the spoken work from how it reads as “Chéng” in Mandarin, symbolising success and good fortune. For some of us, 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. 

Fish
Photograph: 藝 yì by Jereme Leung

Fish

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.

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Longevity noodles
Photograph: Unsplash

Longevity noodles

For happiness and longevity

These noodles are served in great lengths (literally) and often uncut to symbolise the wish for longevity of 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
Photograph: Unsplash

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!

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Yu sheng
Photograph: CÉ LA VI

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 vivacious hairdos to avoid the loss of a red packet.

Tang yuan (sweet glutinous rice balls)
Photograph: Din Tai Fung

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 but the rice balls are also commonly consumed on the fifteenth day of Chinese New Year where families gather round 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.

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Honourable mention: Pen cai (fortune pot)
Photograph: Tien Court

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 scallop, prawns, abalone and black moss are at the top so it 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

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese

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.

RECOMMENDED: The best Chinese New Year snacks for 2022

 

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  • Restaurants

Mala is all the rage now. From the hotpot soup bases to the fragrant stir-fry dish you can find at most hawker centres these days, the numbing and spicy Chinese sauce that is key to Sichuan and Chongqing cuisine has won the collective hearts and numbed the tongues of Singaporeans everywhere.

Want a hit of spice without committing to a full dish? These mala-flavoured snacks taste close enough to the real deal. Prepare to sweat up a storm – it's always good to have a glass of water on hand too – don't say we didn't warn you!

RECOMMENDED: Unique local snacks to try in Singapore and the best pineapple tarts in Singapore

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