Cooking up a few Chinese New Year recipes is one way to indulge in this flavorful holiday.

The Chinese New Year starts on Feb. 19 this year, and for 15 days the Chinese and those who appreciate the Chinese culture will celebrate this important traditional holiday. Like the Western New Year’s celebrations, Chinese New Year’s celebrations begin on New Year’s Eve with lots of food.

The Chinese New Year’s Eve feast is a family affair known as the reunion dinner. Traditionally, families gather together for dinner on New Year’s Eve, but the celebrations and feasts can last throughout the 15 days of the holiday.

There is a lot of symbolism associated with the foods of the Chinese New Year. If you would like to celebrate the Chinese New Year with some traditional, symbolic holiday food, here are a few recipes for dishes that are common during the festivities.

Jiaozi dumplings

Photo: John/flickr

Jiaozi – These boiled Chinese dumplings are a traditional Chinese New Year’s Eve dish, and they are usually eaten at midnight. Dumpling wrappers are filled with a mixture of cabbage, pork, scallions, soy sauce, wine, oil and ginger, and then they are boiled for 8-10 minutes. Traditionally, a gold coin is put into one of the Jiaozi, but if you’re going to add a coin to one of your dumplings, make sure your guests are aware that they might be biting into a surprise. Serve with soy sauce for dipping or make your own Black Rice Vinegar Sauce.

Steamed fish

Photo: Alpha/flickr

Steamed Fish with Black Bean Sauce – The Chinese word for "fish" and the Chinese word for "abundance" are homonyms. Fish is often served during the Chinese New Year to signify abundance during the new year. Often, some of the fish is purposely left uneaten to symbolize having too much. Steamed whole fish is one of the most common ways to prepare fish during the holiday. Any firm, mild white fish would work in this recipe, but check out Seafood Watch to find out if the fish your considering using is a sustainable choice.

A plate of spring rolls

Photo: stu_spivak/flickr

Spring Rolls – Spring rolls are shaped like gold bars, and they symbolize wealth. This vegetarian version of Chinese Spring Rolls is filled with bean sprouts, carrots, mushrooms and bamboo shoots. The wrappers are rolled tightly around the filling, and then the rolls are fried in a wok or deep fryer. Serve with soy sauce for dipping or the Black Rick Vinegar Sauce mentioned above for the Jiaozi.

Long life noodles

Photo: stu_spivak/flickr

Long Life Noodles – If you’re serving noodles during the Chinese New Year, do not under any circumstances cut them. Long, uncut noodles symbolize long life. If you serve your guests cut noodles, it might be considered an insult. This recipe for Long Life Noodles uses linguine and traditional Chinese vegetables and flavors in a stir-fry. Make sure you have a wok or pan large enough to handle the long noodles.

Filling for lettuce wraps and the lettuce

Photo: Geoff Peters/flickr

Lettuce Wraps – Lettuce is a symbol for growing wealth and prosperity, and using lettuce as a wrap for fillings is common during the Chinese New Year. Ground beef or turkey is used as the base for the filling in these lettuce wraps, and the meat is sautéed with Chinese spices and sauces. If you have vegetarians or vegans coming to your celebration, try Ridiculously Delicious Vegan Lettuce Wraps in addition to the meat filled ones.

Baked Nian Gao

Photo: sstrieu/flickr

Nian Gao (Chinese Sticky Cake) – No celebration is complete without a dessert, especially an American version of any celebration. Nian Gao is a sticky cake made with rice flour, brown sugar and chopped dates or other dried fruit. This cake symbolizes good luck or raising oneself higher in the coming year.

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