The upcoming Chinese New Year celebration falls on January 22. After two years of muted celebrations, we can finally return to how things were before the pandemic, which means there will be plenty of house visitations, big gatherings, and big feasts to look forward to! Of all the Chinese New Year food, delicacies, and snacks that we will gobble up to our heart’s content, none is more significant than the all-important reunion dinner. Wondering which food is best served on such a meaningful meal? Read on to find out!
The Significance of Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner
For the uninitiated, you often hear about the unmissable reunion dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve. As per Chinese tradition, it is often considered the most important meal of the year. Families from far and wide get together to bond over all the sumptuous Chinese New Year food. It is a time to reaffirm the solidarity of the family and its cohesiveness.
9 Lucky Foods To Eat During Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner
There are no concrete rules on what to serve during reunion dinners. However, if you want to welcome the new Chinese year on the right foot by attracting as much luck your way as possible, these Chinese New Year foods should be a fixture on the dining table!
1. Nian Gao
Nian Gao is a sticky rice cake made out of glutinous rice flour and brown sugar. It literally means “year cake” when translated and it is believed that eating Nian Gao brings prosperity, success, and the prospect of achieving “higher” things in life than the previous year. Gao can also mean “high”. It is a staple Chinese New Year food found in almost every Chinese household during the celebration.
2. Yee Sang
In countries like Malaysia and Singapore, Chinese New Year will not be complete without tossing the Yee Sang, with the act itself known as Lou Sang. People huddle together around the Yee Sang dish and toss all the colourful ingredients laid out before them with their chopsticks. The higher the toss, the bigger the prosperity! And while doing so, participants would often chant their wishes out loud, bestowing for the abundance of good luck, good health, good wealth, and everything good. It not only builds camaraderie but is also plain fun! Just make sure you don’t go too overboard with the tossing, which can lead to food wastage!
Yee Sang can contain all sorts of ingredients but the standard ones include radish, shredded carrot, pepper and cinnamon powder, pomelo and ginger, slices of salmon fish, crackers, crushed nuts and sesame seeds laced with lime juice and plum sauce.
Dumplings can be eaten throughout the year but take on extra significance during Chinese New Year. Why, you ask? Notice that the shape of dumplings bears a resemblance to the gold and silver ingot used as money currency in ancient China, also known as Yuan Bao. So, according to Chinese beliefs, the more dumplings you eat throughout the celebration, the more riches you will accumulate in the coming year! Just don’t choke yourself by having one too many, okay?
4. Longevity Noodles
The name says it all. Also known as Long Noodles (or Yi Mien) due to their longer length compared to regular noodles, it is believed that they represent longevity, and people who eat the dish served uncut will hopefully enjoy a long life ahead of them. Longevity Noodles are not only served as an important Chinese New Year food. They can also be commonly found at birthdays, weddings, or even ceremonies to welcome a new baby into the family. So slurp those noodles!
5. Steamed Chicken
In the olden days, chickens are mostly served during major celebrations and festivities in Chinese households. Though times have changed and we can eat chicken meals all year long now, the bird is still an important fixture on the dining table whenever there is a significant event. Also, the Chinese would offer chicken to their ancestors for blessings and protection. For Chinese New Year, steamed chicken is usually served whole—complete with head and feet—which symbolizes the concept of a whole and intact family.
6. Steamed Fish
The humble fish makes it to this list as the Chinese word for it, yu, also shares the same pronunciation as “surplus” or “excess” in Chinese. The famous phrase, Nian Nian You Yu (literal translation: year year got surplus/excess) is commonly uttered during Chinese New Year to wish people an abundance and surplus in prosperity. Connect the dots and now you know why steamed fish is a traditional staple on dining tables as part of the reunion dinner feast!
7. Spring Rolls
Spring rolls are cylindrical rolls typically filled with meat, vegetables, or sweet ingredients. The fillings are wrapped in thin dough wrappers that will turn golden-yellow when fried, giving the image of gold bars. It is a Cantonese dish famous in East China regions including Shenzhen, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong. The celebration at these places is more commonly known as the Spring Festival (“spring”, get it?). Like dumplings, spring rolls make for the perfect bite-sized delicacy!
We know that Tangyuan—or glutinous rice balls in sweet syrup soup—is closely associated with the Lantern Festival as well as the year-end Winter Solstice Festival (or Dongzhi Festival). But the Chinese dessert can be a fixture on the reunion dinner table too, and for good reason. The pronunciation as well as the round rice ball shape symbolises reunion and being together. Need we say more?
Fun fact: Tangyuan can be made with an array of sweet fillings, which include red bean paste, chopped peanuts, lotus seed paste, sesame paste, and even chocolate paste.
9. Fortune Fruits
Can anyone properly celebrate Chinese New Year without tucking into some Mandarin oranges? Oranges, along with the likes of tangerines and pomelos, make up the must-have “fortune fruits” to eat during the festivity. While Mandarin oranges and tangerines are believed to bring in good wealth and fortune, pomelos are thought to be a symbol of prosperity and good luck. While indulging in your main course, don’t forget to leave some room in your tummy for these auspicious fruits later!
Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner Is More Than Just The Foods
Food brings people together. And for the Chinese community, no family get-together is more important than the last dinner before they usher in the new year. Different families might have different spreads of Chinese New Year food on the table, but the likes of nian gao and yee sang are fixtures in almost every household.
At the end of the day, no matter the food that is laid out in front of us or where we have it, it is ultimately the people who we share a table with that are the most important element of a reunion dinner. What’s more, the food will taste that extra bit better when we are having it with our loved ones. Here’s to a hearty Chinese New Year!
Psst, here’s a handy list of home gym equipment to get if you are looking to shed all those extra post-CNY kilos after all the feasting!
Related: Decorate Your Home With These Lucky Plants This CNY For More Ong Mali!
Whether it’s Chinese New Year foods, drinks, new clothes, or decoration sets, you can get all the essentials you need (and last-minute shopping) during the Shopee CNY Sale that is happening from 2 January to 24 January. Get rewarded with daily 88%-off prosperity deals and win daily angpows worth RM8,000!
Also, be sure to watch See You, Lion, Shopee Malaysia’s heartwarming video for CNY 2023!