20 Traditional Foods Eaten During Chinese New Year

20 Traditional Foods Eaten During Chinese New Year

As the Chinese New Year approaches once again, families and friends will gather to celebrate this beautiful holiday with an array of traditional foods. Each one is just brimming with cultural significance and symbolism! Not only are these foods absolutely delicious, they carry deep meanings that embody the rich heritage and beliefs of Chinese culture. Let's discuss a couple today, with these 20 most popular traditional foods eaten during Chinese New Year.

1. Dumplings (Jiaozi)

When Chinese New Year comes around, dumplings are an absolute must-have on the dining table. Symbolizing wealth due to their shape that resembles ancient Chinese gold ingots, you'll want to eat plenty of these dumplings for good luck in the coming year. It's also a tradition for Chinese families to gather together and make dumplings on New Year's Eve, signifying unity and prosperity. 

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2. Spring Rolls

Named for the Spring Festival, spring rolls are a delicious appetizer everyone will enjoy. They're golden, crispy snacks that represent wealth thanks to their bar-of-gold appearance. Filled with a delicious vegetable mix and sometimes meat, the crunchy texture and savory taste create the perfect bite every time.

Joshua-Hoehne-Bromfoj0Emg-Unsplash (1)Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

3. Nian Gao (Year Cake)

Nian Gao literally translate to "year cake", making it an important treat during Chinese New Year festivities. It's a sweet, sticky rice cake that's incredibly satisfying to chew. Its name is also a homonym for "higher year", implying that eating this will bring you progress, growth, and the promise of a better year. Nian Gao is often given as a gift during Chinese New Year as a respectful, kind way to wish others a prosperous year.

4 Mini Nian Gao On The TablePeachyeung316 on Wikimedia Commons

4. Fish (Yu)

Fish is a staple in Chinese cuisine, but even more so during the Chinese New Year feast. Fish in this meal symbolizes surplus and abundance; the word for fish in Chinese, "Yu", sounds like the word for surplus. This suggests that eating fish will bring a year of plenty. It's often served whole (yes, head, eyes, and all!) to represent a good beginning and end in the coming year.

Thomas-Wavid-Johns-Zn5Qi4Vlgf8-Unsplash (1)Photo by Thomas Wavid Johns on Unsplash


5. Longevity Noodles

Longevity noodles are exactly what it sounds like - a bowl of longer than usual, uncut noodles! These noodles have a positive meaning as they symbolize a long life. They're a traditional birthday dish in China, but it's also very popular during New Year celebrations. After all, who wouldn't want to express the wish for longevity and happiness?

Longevity Noodles At The Soup Kitchen, Gr Mall Beijing (20211013183726)N509FZ on Wikimedia Commons

6. Tang Yuan (Sweet Rice Balls)

After a delicious, hearty Chinese New Year dinner, it's time to round it out with an equally delicious dessert. Tang Yuan are round, sweet rice balls that symbolize family unity and togetherness. There's a variety of fillings to choose from like black sesame, peanut, or red bean. You can even get savory ones filled with meat! But then of course, you wouldn't enjoy that one for dessert.

Lai Tang YuanZhengZhou on Wikimedia Commons

7. Good Fortune Fruit

Certain fruits, like oranges, tangerines, and pomelos, are eaten more frequently during Chinese New Year thanks to their round shape and golden colour. These characteristics symbolize fullness and wealth in Chinese culture. They're also given as gifts to friends and family, in the hopes of bringing them good luck and fortune in the coming year. 

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8. Steamed Chicken

Steamed chicken is often served whole on the dining table, representing family togetherness and joy. Steamed to perfection, the chicken is tender and flavourful, despite how plain it may sound. During New Year celebrations, this dish really embodies the important of family gatherings.

1024Px-Steamed Chicken PlatterProjectManhattan on Wikimedia Commons

9. Sweet and Sour Pork

A popular option in Chinese cuisine, sweet and sour pork is believed to bring good luck thanks to its bright and vibrant red hue. Red is an important colour during Chinese New Year because it signifies happiness and prosperity. So what better to eat than a red dish as delicious as this one?

1024Px-Sweet And Sour PorkProjectManhattan on Wikimedia Commons

10. Vegetable Stir Fry

A typical vegetable stir fry, often including ingredients like bok choy or mushrooms, is a nod to health and longevity. It's a light and nutritious counterbalance to the more indulgent dishes, reflecting the hope for a healthy and prosperous year ahead.

Stir Fry (4354349209)Karen and Brad Emerson on Wikimedia Commons


11. Turnip Cake (Lo Bak Go)

A traditional Cantonese dish that's also commonly enjoyed during dim dum, turnip cake or lo bak go, is a classic favourite. It's made with shredded radish and rice flour, often mixed with savory bits of sausage or shrimp. It's then pan-fried until there's a nice crispy exterior. This dish is a symbol of good fortune, with its name sounding like "good fortune" in Chinese too. 

1024Px-Turnip Cake At Chua Lam's Dim Sum (20201120174336)N509FZ on Wikimedia Commons

12. Peking Duck

Elegant and luxurious, Peking Duck is a celebratory dish best known for its crispy skin and tender meat. Often enjoyed with pancakes and sweet bean sauce, each bite has the best texture and taste. This iconic dish is a symbol of fidelity and is associated with the imperial menus of China, adding a bit of history to the New Year feast.

Peking-Duck-898500 1280Image by Nicky Girly from Pixabay

13. Fa Gao (Prosperity Cake)

Fa Gao, also known as prosperity cake, is a sweet steamed sponge cake that puffs up when cooked. It's delightfully light and fluffy, with a positive meaning behind the dish. Its name sounds like "prosperity rises" in Chinese, making it a tasty treat that's both delicious and will bring you growth and success in the new year.

Fa Gao 笑口发糕 Steamed Rice-CakesAlpha on Wikimedia Commons

14. Lotus Root with Sticky Rice

Creative and visually striking, this dish consists of lotus root slices stuffed with sticky rice and then cooked until tender. It's a wonderful combo that'll explode with flavour in your mouth. The lotus root is very symbolic as its many holes represents abundance and prosperity, seen as if the holes are windows into the future. It's a dish that brings hope for a year of plenty!

Lotus-Root-5106174 1280Image by Danna Shu from Pixabay

15. Chinese Sausage (Lap Cheong)

Forget about everything you think you know about sausages - Chinese sausages taste completely different from what you're familiar with! These sweet and savory sausages are a common ingredient found in many New Year dishes. They represent the joy of the festival and are believed to bring good luck due to their vibrant red colour. Can't say no to more red coloured food!

1024Px-Chinese Sausages DryingMo Riza on Wikimedia Commons

16. Lion's Head Meatballs

Don't worry, these aren't made out of lions nor are they actual lion heads. These massive pork meatballs are only given this name because of their resemblance to a lion's head. They symbolize strength and protection in Chinese culture, so it's not a surprise it's eaten during New Year celebrations. Often served with cabbage, it's a scrumptious dish you'll want to keep eating.

Lions-Head-McbMCB (Michael C. Berch) on Wikimedia Commons


17. Chinese Sticky Rice Cake (Bai Tang Gao)

Bai Tang Gao is a white, sweet, and sticky Chinese rice cake that's enjoyed during the New Year because of its important symbolism. Representing a sweet life and increasing prosperity (the cake rises as it cooks, signifying growth and change!), its a nice treat you'll definitely want to eat a couple of. 

1705694443117.pngUser:Ahleong on Wikimedia Commons

18. Hot Pot

Everyone loves hot pot! A communal, heartwarming dish, hot pot is very popular during the New Year thanks to its warm and social nature. You get to cook whatever you want to eat - from a variety of meats, vegetables, and noodles all in a shared pot. Create your own dipping sauce to match your preferences too! 

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19. Chinese Mushroom Dumplings

Filled with hearty mushrooms and other vegetables, these Chinese mushroom dumplings provide a vegetarian twist on the traditional meat-filled jiaozi. Symbolizing wealth and prosperity, dumplings are a must-have when it comes to creating the ultimate Chinese feast. We can guarantee these vegetarian versions are still just as tasty.

Chicken And Mushroom Dumplings - Filling - Ayiguli Aud8.50avlxyz on Wikimedia Commons

20. Eight Treasure Rice (Ba Bao Fan)

With a rather unique appearance, this dish is actually a sweet one! Made with glutinous rice, red bean paste, and a mix of eight different "treasures" (fruits, nuts, and sweetmeats), this traditional Chinese dish is an important one. Eating this is supposed to bring you wealth and prosperity as the number eight is considered very lucky in Chinese culture (that's why there's eight ingredients!).

1024Px-Ba Bao Fan By Kawanet At Din Tai Fung, Taipeikawanet on Wikimedia Commons