Chinese New Year Food: 23 Things You Must Try

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Now that the boring holidays are over we’re thinking about Chinese New Year food. Chinese New Year 2021 is just around the corner on February 12 and will be the year of the pig!

While it’s not something we celebrated growing up in small towns but there’s no reason to miss out on it as adults.

Toronto is an amazingly multicultural city and the perfect city to live in as a traveler, the 2006 census reported that 49.1% of people living in Toronto weren’t born in Canada. 

And of the 2.6 million people in Toronto, over half a million people define themselves as Chinese Canadians.

There are six Chinatowns in the Greater Toronto Area and the oldest is only a few blocks from me.

You can see how we could get excited over Chinese New Year food; I don’t even have to leave the city to experience it.

 

Chinese New Year Food You Must Try

Crucian Carp

The sounds of words in the New Year celebrations is very significant, and as the word for fish sounds like surplus.

It is great to eat if you want abundance.

Eating crucian carp is said to bring good luck and fortune for the coming year, and it is often steamed in a vinegar sauce or served in a broth.
 

Chiangshou Mian

The length of these noodles are taken as a sign for longevity for many people so they are often served fried or boiled in a noodle soup.

Chinese Mud Carp

Fish is a popular Chinese New Year food, and this species is popular during the festival.

It is common to eat more than one species of fish to try to multiply the positive effect for the coming year.

 
Bak kwa means barbecued pork but is more like a jerky that is sold during Chinese New Year.

Bak Kwa

A few years back I shared an easy recipe for bak kwa, which is barbecue pork eaten at Chinese New Year, which eats really more like a jerky.

In Singapore people line up to buy this porky treat.

Rouwan

Particularly popular in the Sichuan area of the country, these meatballs are fried until crisp and then served in a sweet and sour sauce.

Rouwan are believed to be a sign of the reunions to come in the New Year.
 

 
Chinese New Year Spring rolls in basket.

Spring Rolls

Spring rolls are an important part of the Spring Festival, which is part of the New Year.

These iconic stuffed pastry rolls are eaten by hundreds of thousands of people during the Chinese New Year.

Decorated Jiaozi

Dumplings are another key part of any celebration, these dumplings are often decorated with white thread or an edible silver colour to make them special and positive for the Chinese New Year.
 

 

Chinese New Year Food: Nian Gao also known as Chinese New Year cake are popular to eat during these celebrations. Discover the other 22 foods that you can't miss during Chinese New Year.

Nian Gao

These sweet rice cakes are ideal for a New Year banquet as they are sweet and tasty.

The name also has a significance promising a prosperous New Year, with the most popular varieties made with chestnuts and dates.

Tangyuan

Another sweet treat popular during the Lantern Festival. 

These sweet rice balls are made by boiling the rice flour and often include fillings such as chocolate paste, fruit preserves or a sesame paste.

Chang Nian Cai

These leaves are the most common green vegetables eaten during the festival, as they can be boiled easily to cook.

Chang Nian Cai have a distinctive flavour that tastes like cabbage but with a hint of a horseradish mustard flavour.

 
Chinese New Year Food: Tangerines are popular to eat during these celebrations. Discover the other 22 foods that you can't miss during Chinese New Year.

Tangerines

Fresh fruit is another important type Chinese New Year food.  The full shape and golden colour of the tangerine is significant. As is the sound of the name in Chinese, which is similar to the word for success.

New Year Cake

Many different types of cake are common during the festival. Yet one that is popular in eastern China is prepared with glutinous rice flour. It is combined with brown sugar and provides a sticky sweet texture.

Miswa Noodles

Long noodles are said to bring long life. These noodles are most commonly served in a broth with pig intestines that have been fried, which is a lot tastier than it sounds!

Laba Congee

This porridge type dish is made with beans, rice and nuts, and often includes dried fruit or tofu.

Laba Congee is commonly eaten during the Spring Festival.

Tradition dictates it should be eaten on the eighth day of the twelfth month of the year too.

 

Chinese New Year Food: Pomelos are popular to eat during these celebrations. Discover the other 22 foods that you can't miss during Chinese New Year.

Pomelo

Also known as a shaddock, this type of citrus fruit is larger than a grapefruit.

It has a tasty sweet flavour, and the name also has a particular significance for the New Year.

Luo Buo Gao

This type of turnip cake can be prepared in several ways depending on the region. Yet it is usually steamed or fried.

Luo buo gao sounds like the Chinese word for fortune so it’s considered a good dish to eat during the celebrations.

Jujube

These dates are another dried fruit that are sweet and tasty. Jujubes have a distinctive red colour when they have been dried or candied.

Jujubes signify good luck for the coming year, along with meaning wealth, prosperity and fertility.

 
Chinese New Year oranges hanging from tree with Chinese signs in red with gold lettering

Oranges

These tasty citrus fruit are common throughout the celebrations. 

Eating oranges during the New Year celebrations is said to bring good luck to the individual in the year to come.

Catfish

Fish and dumplings are a common meal during the New Year.

For those who have just one fish for several meals it is traditional to eat the upper part of the catfish on the eve of the New Year.

The remainder is eaten on the first day of the New Year.

 

Fried Chicken

Many families will serve a whole fried chicken as a centrepiece to their New Year celebrations.

In order to signify unity for the coming year, it is important that the head and the feet of the chicken are not removed before cooking.

 
Chinese New Year Food: Hot pot is popular to eat during these celebrations. Discover the other 22 foods that you can't miss during Chinese New Year.

Hotpot

There are hundreds of different recipes for the warming hotpot stews in China. 

And many of these are eaten during the festival, as they are not only very tasty, but the red color of the broth in the stew is lucky for the coming year.

If you miss this Chinese New Year food don’t worry, you can get it other times of the year.

Dried Apricots

Small, sweet and tasty, these dried fruit are a common sight in bowls around Chinese houses throughout the celebrations.

Dried apricots can also add flavour and sweetness to many different types of dishes during the festival.

Bean Sprouts

These are often cooked into many of the noodle dishes that are prepared during the celebrations.

Their name can be interpreted as ‘silver sprouts’, which is often believed to indicate good fortune to come in the New Year.

Seeds

Eaten as snacks, lotus seeds and watermelon seeds are important during the Chinese New Year. 

They are a sign of fertility for the year to come. Seeds are often given to young couples as a sign that they will have a large number of children.

Are there any Chinese New Year foods I missed? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Pin it For Later: Food For Chinese New Year

Images (c) Dee Dee WilliamsShanna S, Lavinia2070, George Gonzales, Spring rolls (c) Joshua Hoehne, oranges (c) Yuwei Shaw

Join the Conversation

  1. This is a whole lot of food to try. I celebrate Tet (Vietnam’s equivalent of Chinese New Years) and some of these are the same so I know these are delicious indeed. Thanks for the wonderful list.

  2. I think I’ve tried almost everything there but I’m not a fan of carp or catfish, there’s just a strange taste for me and visual that doesn’t jive with my gut

  3. I love these ideas. i will definitely be visiting my chinese market and try a few.

  4. Riz - Chocolates & Chai says:

    Oooh, that is a big list of foods to try….I’ve tried a few, but I’m definitely curious to try a few more now that I know they’re out there. I wonder what is the general favourite?

  5. Wow, living in the West Coast we have many Chinese restaurants but I’ve honestly never tried 1/2 of those dishes! Now I totally am craving Chinese food and I’ll be sure to try some of the ones I’ve never tried, thanks for the run down!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      China is such a gigantic country I’m sure you could spend your entire life just eating a dish once and never get through all the food. That actually sounds like a good challenge…

  6. WOW, that’s lot of foods to try, prefect post for foodies like me :p thanks for sharing.

  7. Pam Summers says:

    I love the article, It shows the meaning of Chinese culture in the food that they prepared, It also shows that the family is of great importance as it is the foundation of society. The significance of the family is most apparent in the Chinese New Year food they prepare during what they consider to be the most important holiday of the year.

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