Chinese Good Luck Foods for the New Year


Updated: 2013-02-05

The quantity of food prepared signifies prosperity and wealth of the household and there is an old custom of serving a platter which made up of five meats or five vegetables, referred to as "the five blessings of the new year" representing longevity, peace, righteousness, wealth and wisdom.

Individual foods and recipes also have specific meanings and are widely served during the Spring festival. Examples include, Chinese dumplings which have the appearance of the old Chinese silver ingots (the legend is that the more dumplings you eat, the more money you will make in the coming year); spring rolls which resemble gold bars; and noodles which represent long life.

But it’s not just the appearance of the food which counts. Sometimes the name of the foods served are the significant factor.

For instance the Chinese word for fish sounds like the words “wish” and “abundance” which has led to the tradition of serving a whole fish (head and tail in tact) thus ensuring good fortune from the beginning to the end of the new year; the name Nian Gao (a glutinous rice cake) sounds like "getting higher year by year" the Chinese believing the higher you are, the better off you are; the name for turnips also means "good luck”; the word for lettuce in Cantonese sounds like “rising fortune” so it is very common to serve foods in a lettuce wrap especially if it’s another lucky food; and tangerines and oranges are both given and eaten as their names sound like “gold” and “wealth”.

Another favourite is Sweet and Sour pork as the Cantonese word for sour sounds like the word for grandchildren, so serving this dish will help ensure the continuance of the family.

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Click here to ask a culinary question Chinese New Year Menus and New Year Recipes

Why not celebrate the Chinese New Year by whisking up an authentic Chinese meal. Visit our Chinese Selection page for lots of recipes. We've also got a special Canton Cooking by Country section if you want prepare a truly authentic menu.

To make things even easier, below are some full Chinese New Year menus.

Chinese New Year - Dim Sum Menu As mentioned above, dumplings, spring rolls and lettuce wrapped foods and considered lucky dishes to eat during the Spring Festival. Coincidentally, they can all also form part of a Dim Sum menu - an excellent way of serving lots of different dishes which is especially useful when entertaining larger gatherings at Chinese New year celebrations.

Here's a sample Dim Sum menu for 6 - 12 people (depending on whether it's for dinner or with drinks) which includes some good luck foods.