Photography by Irene Fong Credits: Photography by Irene Fong
Fish is almost always served whole during the holiday—head and tail attached—to symbolize family unity and the beginning and end of the year. The word for fish in Cantonese, yu, is similar in pronunciation to the word for abundance, which means that you will have plenty of luck and happiness for the year ahead.
2. Lucky fruit
Mandarin, or gum in Cantonese, is similar in pronunciation to the word for gold.
Oranges represent a wish for good fortune and make ideal hostess gifts during the Lunar New Year. The beautiful red arils in pomegranates represent fertility and the round pomelo symbolizes family togetherness and unity.
3. Lettuce wraps
A crisp cup of lettuce filled with stir-fried meat or vegetables is believed to bring good luck. The pronunciation of the name of this dish, san choy bau is similar to "rising fortune" in Cantonese.
4. Buddha's Delight
This is a very popular vegetarian dish also known as jai in Cantonese. It often contains lotus root, tofu, snow peas, mushrooms, carrots, napa cabbage, cellophane noodles, dried bean curd sheets, lily buds and fatt choy (dried seaweed threads). Each ingredient is symbolic of the many hopes and wishes for the New Year. Eating Buddha's Delight is considered to be a sign of purification, which also helps to start the year off with a clean conscience.
5. Long noodles
Long noodles signify a long, healthy and happy life, so slurp away!
6. Dumplings or pot stickers
These little packages of meat or vegetables are made to resemble gold and silver ingots, once used as currency in China. Eating dumplings during this holiday encourages good fortune and riches for the coming year.
7. Spring Rolls
Golden, crisp spring rolls symbolize stacks of gold bars, which bring wealth for the New Year.
8. Rice cakes
Often prepared as a dessert, nian gao, or rice cakes, are a wish for a sweet year ahead. In Cantonese, nian gao sounds like "higher, year after year." Eating these cakes is said to bring a family prosperity and status.
Get inspired with delicious recipes, learn about your Chinese zodiac and learn about feng shui techniques for the new year in our Lunar New Year special.