Chinese New Year – this year on Feb. 10 – is the most significant of the traditional Chinese celebrations. Known in China as "Spring Festival," it marks the end of winter and lasts 15 days, ending with the Lantern Festival.
Customs include purchasing gifts, decorations, new clothing and food, and households are cleansed thoroughly to sweep away any bad luck associated with the past year and make room for the new. Red paper decorations outfit doors and windows. On the eve of Chinese New Year, families set off firecrackers and share a large meal. In the morning, children are given money in red paper envelopes. Try making Katie and Leeann Chin's Firecracker Shrimp recipe for a festive hors d'oeuvre at your Chinese New Year celebration that echoes the traditional fireworks.
Below are some of the traditional foods of Chinese New Year:
Buddha's Delight is a vegetarian dish eaten on the eve and on the first day of the New Year. This tradition stems from the Buddhist practice that encourages a vegetarian diet during the first five days of a new year, to cleanse the body and the spirit. Buddha's Delight usually includes at least 10 ingredients, but some variations are made up of 18 to 35. Try Nava Atlas' recipe for Buddha's Delight Stew With Seitan, Green Vegetables and Mushrooms.
Fish is a common food for Chinese New Year, as its pronunciation is similar to the word for "surpluses." Serving an entire fish steamed or fried, with the head and tail still attached, is symbolic of the wish for an abundant beginning and ending to the New Year. Katie and Leeann Chin's recipe for Steamed Whole Fish includes black beans, fresh ginger and sesame oil. Prosperity Steamed Fish by Martin Yan is seasoned with cilantro and soy sauce.
Dumplings are classic Chinese New Year treats, the idea being that luck is packaged inside along with the filling, and then consumed. Some dumplings are meant to resemble Chinese coins. Sometimes, a coin will be hidden inside one of the dumplings, bringing extra luck to the family member who uncovers it. Dumplings include a wide range of fillings, from Pan Fried Pork Dumplings by Katie and Leeann Chin to Pan Fried Dumplings Stuffed With Chicken and Mushroom by Wai Hon Chu and Connie Lovatt.
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