Saturday, March 03, 2007

Chinese New Year Foods

According a 2000 Hong Kong government report, Chinese New Year "signifies hope and joy". "A number of special foods are taken during this period as part of the celebration and they exemplify strong local features. " Most Hong Kong residents are from Southern China. Their Chinese New Year food reflects the Guangdong (Cantonese) cultures. The Hong Kong government classifies Hong Kong Chinese New Year Foods into five main categories:
  • steamed puddings (Sweet puddings of flour, sugar, and perhaps vegetables or coconut milk and salty/savoury puddings of flour, preserved meat, turnip or taro),
  • fried dumplings,
  • sweetened fruits and vegetables,
  • glutinous rice balls and
  • seeds.
The focus of their Safe Food Report was actually the food preservatives and colorings found in Chinese New Year foods in 1996 - 1999.

Whole fish, practically a requirement for new Year's eve dinner, was not listed at all. If you are Cantonese - or a boater - do not turn the fish over. You do not want to capsize your boat! After eating one side of the fish, remove the bone and eat the other side - but not all of it. Save some for "new year" - the next day. You want to ensure prosperity - but always having [more/extra fish]. "Fish" and "Extra" sound the same in Chinese.

In Northern China dumplings(jiaozi) are common, perhaps especially for New Year's eve. Long life noodles are eaten for Chinese New Year in some parts of China. I have taken noodles in - with grated carrots, grated cucumber, and sauce on the side to preschools and mixed-age school groups. Last time, we looked at this Long Life Noodle recipe before heading out to shop for ingredients. I always tell them what is in it and never substituted peanut butter for sesame paste (tahini) due to potential allergy issues.

Nian gao (sticky rice cakes) are more common in the south - where more rice is grown.

Someone on the faculty at the University of Victoria posted a more traditional look at Chinese New Year foods and their symbolism. Asian Art Museum has a two-page Fruits and Flowers for Chinese New Year brochure online that discusses a lot of symbolism. For more on foods special to Chinese New Year, read Wikipedia's Chinese New Year Food entry.

1 comment:

fireflygal said...

That food sounds delicious, and it's a cool post about the Chinese New Year! I like Chinese food.