Chinese New Year is the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar and this year it falls on Monday, February 8th, marking the start of The Year of the Red Fire Monkey. In China, people celebrate the holiday for seven days starting with Chinese New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s Eve, generations of families get together to celebrate at “reunion dinners” which are considered to be the most important meals.
Chinese New Year is a huge celebration wherever it is observed with dragon dances, music, fireworks, and lots of fun performances. Houses and streets are decorated with gold for power and red for prosperity and luck. Children and retired seniors receive gifts of red envelopes filled with money. Then there’s the food. Not only is Chinese New Year filled with food that’s fun and delicious, but many of the foods have symbolic meanings. Here are some of the best ideas for your own Chinese New Year celebration.
1. Fruit for Good Fortune
During the Chinese New Year period, certain fruits are considered good luck and are displayed as decoration and eaten. Oranges, tangerines, and pomelos are symbolic of good luck and prosperity because of their colors, round shape, and the similarities of their Chinese names with the words for “good luck” and “to have.” Luckily, all of these fruits are also in season during the winter months. Start your Chinese New Year meal with a lucky salad featuring these fruits like this Pomelo Salad with Roasted Coconut, Spelt Salad with Oranges, Cranberries and Feta, and Wild Rice Salad With Orange, Sweet Potato, Cherries and Pecans. Serve these Sticky Peanut Orange Cauliflower Wings and these Tangerine Roasted Root Veggies. Chinese dishes with orange include this Orange “Chicken” with Zucchini Noodles and this Orange Cauliflower. You’ll definitely feel you’ve been showered with good fortune when you eat this Lemon and Tangerine Cake, Orange Zest Madeleines, Orange Cake with Chocolate Ganache, and these Chocolate-Dipped Candied Oranges.
Pomegranates are filled with colorful seeds for fertility and are a bright vibrant red, which represents happiness and repels evil spirits. Keep those evil spirits away with this Warm Fennel and Pomegranate Salad, Pomegranate and Hazelnut Moroccan Grain Salad, Pomegranate Sweet and Sour Tempeh, Raw Matcha Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Cups, and these Pomegranate Peanut Flour Cookies with a Chocolate Drizzle.
2. Warming Soups
It’s cold so everyone will appreciate a hot bowl of soup. Try this Garlic and Ginger Soup or this Szechuan Hot and Sour Soup. If you love noodle soups, you’ll want to make this Savory Mushroom and Raman Soup or this Miso Ramen Bowl with Tellicherry Black Pepper Tofu. This Cranberry Bok Choy Soup is just beautiful as is this Warming Carrot Ginger Soup. Get more recipes in 15 Hearty Soups to Keep You Warm and Satisfied All Winter.
3. Long Foods for Long Life
Noodles are a staple of Chinese cuisine and especially so during Chinese New Year. Long noodles represent a long life so when you serve noodles during this holiday, keep them as long as possible. When it comes to noodles, there are more options than ever. Noodles can be made from flour, gluten-free flour, beans or vegetables. See Gluten-Free Pasta Options, How to Make Bean Pastas, How to Use Spiralized Veggies as Noodles, and How to Make Pasta from Vegetables without a Spiralizer for ideas and recipes.
Then get your noodle on with amazing recipes like this One-Pan Singapore Noodles, You Po Mian: 10-Minute Chinese Hot Oil Noodles, Miso Zoodle Soup with Fava Beans and Greens, Noodles with Creamy Peanut and Orange Sauce, Chilled Peanut Noodles, Peanut Bliss Rice Noodles, Gluten-Free Asian Noodle Salad, and Vegetable Lo Mein with Creamy Peanut Sauce.
Another traditional Chinese New Year food is Chinese dumplings, also known as pot stickers and dim sum. It is customary for the family to get together and make them on New Year’s Eve. Dumplings are thought to bring prosperity because their shape is similar to silver ingots. Some families hide a coin or good-luck foods like peanuts into one of the dumplings. Whoever finds it will have a lucky year. Dumplings are easy to make. They can be boiled, steamed or pan-fried. They can be filled with whatever foods you love and those fillings can be cooked first or put into the wrapper raw and cooked with the dumpling.
These Perfect Veggie Dumplings can be prepared either steamed or fried, but since this type of decisions can be tough, we suggest making them both ways. These Homemade Butternut Squash Potstickers are not only unique, they are delicious right out of the pot and even cold, served with sesame-tamari dipping sauce. Filled with shiitake mushrooms, spinach, baby bok choy, and so many other good things, these Perfect Vegetable Dumplings are served with soy-agave dipping sauce. Instead of pork buns, serve these BBQ Jackfruit Buns and get your green on with these Kale Edamame Dumplings With Simple Dipping Sauce. Dumplings can even be made as desserts – you might know about Chinese bao or steamed buns but these Steamed Chinese Bao with Peanut Butter are filled with peanut butter. These may not be traditional, but they are really delicious.
5. Spring Rolls
Spring rolls are another Chinese favorite. Extremely versatile, they can be filled with anything and everything. The wrapper can also be different – rice paper wrappers are great as are large green leaves. You’ll be inspired by the creativity of these Spring Rolls with Wakame, Collard Spring Rolls with Cashew Mustard, Sweet Potato Spring Rolls, Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce, Red Cabbage and Jicama Spring Rolls With Peanut Dipping Sauce, Avocado and Veggie Spring Rolls, and Fresh Veggie Spring Rolls With Peanut Satay Sauce.
6. Veggie’s Delight
Buddha’s Delight, also called Jai, Vegetarian’s Delight or Buddhist’s Delight, is a traditional all-vegetable dish served on New Year’s Day. Vegetables are believed to cleanse the body. The dish is filled with different veggies including cabbage, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, and other symbolic foods. We couldn’t agree with this tradition more and suggest it be observed every day of the year.
Get tips for the perfect veggie dish in Secrets to Sautéing and Stir-Frying Chinese Style and then be delighted with this Fermented Sweet and Sour Cauliflower, Kimchi and Brussels Sprouts Stir-Fry, Chinese Seaweed Salad, Fish-Flavored Eggplant, Sautéed Chinese Hollow-Stem Spinach (Kong Xin Tsai), and Quick and Easy Fried Rice.
7. “Meaty” Dishes
It’s tradition for Chinese New Year to serve whole fish and chicken for good luck, prosperity and to represent family, togetherness and rebirth. Tofu, tempeh, seitan, jackfruit, and store-bought meat substitutes can be used in any traditional Chinese dish. You can also use my gluten-free Veggie Meat and Veggie Chicken.
Check out The Ultimate Guide to Vegan Meats and Meat Substitutes and then try dishes like this Sweet Chili Tofu, Vegetable and Grilled Pineapple Stir-Fry, BBQ Jackfruit Buns, Kung Pao “Chicken,” Moo Shu Jackfruit, Tofu Scrambled Fried Rice, Vegan Sweet and Sour “Chicken,” General Tso’s Tofu, Sesame Tofu, and Sweet and Spicy Vegan Pork.
For more tips, see How to Make Your Own Chinese Food at Home. One last thing: it is considered bad luck to eat white food on Chinese New Year so make sure your tofu and tempeh are cooked to a nice golden color and opt for healthier brown rice.
Every New Year’s celebration has to have sweets to symbolize a sweet year ahead. Celebrate the lucky color of red with red desserts like these Red Velvet Cupcakes With Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting, Chocolate Beet Cake, Red Velvet Bars, and Apple Pie Stuffed Apples. Eat lucky ingredients for dessert like this No-Bake Sweet Potato Cake topped with pomegranate seeds, this lovely Persimmon Parfait With Hazelnut Crunch, and this Double Orange Chocolate Cheesecake.
Steamed buns are often served for breakfast but these chewy Steamed Purple Yam and Cocoa Rolls sound like a yummy dessert as well. Of course, you can’t have a Chinese dinner without fortune cookies. These Egg-Free Fortune Cookies are just waiting for you to slip your own personal fortunes inside them.
If you want even more ideas and suggestions, take a look at How to Celebrate Chinese New Year Vegan-Style, Don’t Order Takeout! Make These 20 Vegan Chinese Dishes Instead and 25 Epic Vegan Recipes for Chinese New Year. At One Green Planet, we wish everyone a Happy Chinese New Year filled with prosperity and happiness!
Lead image source: You Po Mian: 10-Minute Chinese Hot Oil Noodles