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​Lucky food for Chinese New Year

Have you wondered why some delicacies only seem to be available during the Lunar New Year?

Well, that's because these dishes have a special meaning – they are often very auspicious, representing good luck, fortune, and health for those who enjoy them during the Lunar New Year!

Here are eight auspicious foods for the lunar new year that'll fill your tummy with all the good luck and fortune you'll need.

1. Whole fish (鱼): 

As the Chinese saying goes, nian nian you yu (年年有余) which means having abundance every year. In fact, the Chinese word for fish (鱼) sounds like the word for abundance (余).

It is important for the fish to be served whole – intact, with the head and tail still on – so as to represent a good and lucky year ahead, from start to end.

2. Noodles (面): 

When served during the Lunar New Year period, noodles are usually not cut so as to ensure that they are kept as long as possible. As they representing longevity, the longer the noodles, the longer our lives!

If you are tired of those calorie-laden Lunar New Year goodies and have decided to opt for a healthier meal, try a simple bowl of longevity noodles, also known as chang shou mian (长寿面).

3. Mandarin oranges (桔子): 

Mandarin oranges represent luck and prosperity as the pronunciation of its Chinese character – jú​ (桔) – sounds similar to the word for luck (吉). Also, its colour, orange, is the closest to gold.

Try your best to choose oranges with leaves on them, as the leaves symbolise longevity as well. Furthermore, these oranges are often sweet, therefore bringing sweetness, wealth, and luck when presented in pairs during visiting. However, be mindful not to put these oranges in fours as that might be seen as representative of death (死), which is highly inauspicious!

4. Raw fish salad (鱼生)*: 

A CNY favourite in Singapore, this dish is made up of strips of raw fish mixed with vegetables, sauces, and other condiments such as peanut crumbs and fried crisps. It is commonly known as yu sheng (鱼生), which sounds like an increase in abundance (余升) when pronounced in Mandarin.

Furthermore, its Cantonese term of lo hei (捞起) also sounds like rising abundance. In addition, auspicious wishes are said out loud when the ingredients and sauces are added into the base before the toss starts. Thus, it is no surprise that this dish symbolises ample abundance, prosperity, and good fortune.

5. Egg rolls (蛋卷): 

In Chinese tradition, eggs represent fertility and mortality, which explains the reason red eggs are usually given out in the first-month celebration of a new-born.

In addition, the shape of egg rolls also resembles that of gold bars. As such, egg rolls are an auspicious festive delicacy, symbolising wealth and fertility in the household.

6. Dumplings (饺子): 

Though uncommon for Singaporean Chinese families, eating dumplings (jiao zi, 饺子) during Lunar New Year is an old tradition in China. This is said to bring wealth and prosperity, as the shape and colour of these dumplings resemble that of silver ingots used in ancient China.

For that reason, these dumplings are sometimes even called yuan bao (元宝). They are usually made of dough, and are filled with meat and cabbage. However, for additional luck and longevity, some even add in peanuts! If you are getting some from the supermarket, be sure to check out those with the Healthier Choice logo – that might help you save some calories!

7. Sea moss (发菜): 

Black sea moss is usually served with braised oysters as an auspicious Lunar New Year dish, or with other assorted premium delicacies in a "treasure pot" (also known as pen cai, 盆菜).

This is because black sea moss translates to fat choi (发财) in Cantonese, which means becoming wealthy. With the most popular greeting in the Lunar New Year being gong xi fa cai (恭喜发财), it is no surprise that this ingredient is often included in auspicious dishes!

8. Rice cake (年糕): 

Ubiquitous in every Chinese household in Singapore during Chinese New Year, rice cakes are a very popular dessert during the festive period. Its sweetness represents a rich and prosperous year ahead, and its round shape symbolises family reunion. Also, the Chinese word for cake (糕) sounds like the word for high (高).

When combined, rice cakes (年糕) means soaring towards greater heights in the New Year. While these rice cakes are usually served sliced and fried, you can also opt for the healthier cubed and steamed option, which is equally tasty with a dash of fresh grated coconut. ​​

*Members of the public should note that there are always risks involved in consuming raw food as harmful bacteria may be present. Those who wish to purchase ready-to-eat (RTE) raw fish dishes are advised to do so from retail food establishments that have separate processes to handle RTE raw fish from other raw food meant for cooking.