Here in the United States, we're already a month and a half into our New Year, but in East Asia, the new year begins on Feb. 16. The Lunar New Year, also known as the Chinese New Year, is the biggest holiday of the year. They don't celebrate with just one night of revelry followed by a day of nursing a hangover or watching college football. They have a week-long celebration with plenty of festivities accompanied by traditional food and drink.
Americans are embracing the Lunar New Year, particularly those who live in or near cities where the holiday is celebrated in neighborhoods where there is a strong Asian influence. If you want to celebrate a second new year this year, you may not be able to take the week off from work, but you can whip up some traditional Lunar New Year dishes. These recipes may even bring good luck and fortune.
Chun Juan (Spring Rolls)
The resemblance of spring rolls to gold bars symbolizes prosperity in the new year, and who doesn't want a little (or a lot) of that? Try making these Homemade Spring Rolls filled with marinated shredded pork, carrots, napa cabbage, mushrooms and bamboo shoots with a soy/Worcestershire dipping sauce.
The filling is cooked before it's added to the spring roll wrappers. When you deep fry the rolls, it only takes a minute or so for each roll to become golden and crispy.
Tang Yuan (Glutinous Rice Balls)
The Lunar New Year is a time for families to get together, and Tang Yuan symbolizes that togetherness. The filling in the recipe for these Glutinous Rice Balls can vary. It can be made of red beans, sesame or nuts. Experimentation is encouraged.
A simple dough is made from glutinous rice flour and regular rice flour, and then balls of the dough are stuffed with the filling — sesame or nuts combined with sugar and lard or coconut oil. They couldn't be easier to cook and are served in the same hot water they're cooked in.
Jiaozi (Chinese Dumplings)
Shaped like ancient gold or silver ingots, Chinese dumplings symbolize wealth. (Photo: yuda chen/Shutterstock)
Clearly, wealth and prosperity are a common theme with Lunar New Year foods, and Jiaozi are important symbols of both. This recipe for Homemade Chinese Dumplings starts with a simple dough of flour, water and salt that's filled with a pork or beef mixture and includes green onions and napa cabbage.
Yu Sheng (Raw Fish Salad)
Yes Sang means raw fish, and it sounds very similar to Yu Sheng, which means an increase in abundance; as a result, this raw fish salad has been given that name. Try this recipe for Yu Sheng for two that has vegetables like carrot, white radish, and cucumber, topped with raw salmon or abalone and a plum sauce.
There's a whole ceremony around eating the salad, complete with greeting each ingredient. When all the greeting is done, guests toss the ingredients high in the air with their chopsticks shouting their good wishes for the upcoming year.
Loh Bak Goh (Turnip Cake with XO Sauce)
Sometimes called turnip pudding and symbolizing good fortune, this combination of grated radish or turnip, rice flour and Chinese sausages is steamed then served pan-fried. Try this Loh bak goh recipe that explains how to make both the cake and the XO sauce that's made from dried seafood.
Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)
Chinese New Year Sticky Rice Cake is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed for hours. Don't worry about the hours part of it though. This recipe for Nian Gao comes with instructions for using the Instant Pot or a slow cooker to make it easy and no fuss.
The cakes made from glutinous rice and dark brown sugar truly are sticky. The story goes that when the kitchen god who resides in each house makes his yearly report during the Chinese New Year, offering him one of these sticky treats will make it difficult for him to open his mouth and report anything bad.
Ginger Lemon Tiger Sour
In Asia, 1.4 billion bottles of Tiger Beer are consumed during Lunar New Year — that's 111 bottles each second. You can certainly just drink one for the celebrations, or you can use it in a beer cocktail. This Ginger Lemon Tiger Sour recipe comes courtesy of Tui Te Kaaho, beverage director at New York City's Chinese Tuxedo.
- .75 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1 oz ginger syrup
- 1 bottle tiger beer
- To make ginger syrup, juice one ginger, adding an equal portion of sugar to the juice. (i.e. 50g of fresh ginger to 50g of sugar). Add contents into a pot set at medium heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.
- Once cooled, add ginger syrup and lemon juice into a beer glass
- Pour beer, swizzle, then serve.