Celebrate Chinese New Year with these auspicious foods
At the heart of the weeks-long Chinese New Year holiday is food shared with family—much of it surrounding the New Year’s Eve feast or reunion dinner and the closing Lantern Festival. A variety of lucky foods are traditionally eaten for their symbolic meaning determined by either their Chinese pronunciation or physical appearance—with individual dishes representing specific aspects of good fortune to come in the new year.
So, with the Year of the Dog beginning on Feb. 16, we rounded up essential Lunar New Year dishes you can enjoy in Utah. Don’t forget to wish your friends “Gung hei fat choi!” (Cantonese for “Congratulations and be prosperous.”).
Dumplings = ingots of prosperity
Dumplings are customarily eaten on Chinese New Year’s Eve to imply a wish for wealth and prosperity due to their pleated boat shape—representing a Chinese silver ingot. Some suggest that the more dumplings you eat, the more money you’ll make in the new year. Dumplings are filled with minced pork, diced shrimp or other protein and vegetables including cabbage or radish and are often served either steamed or fried but also baked and boiled.
You’ll find a wide variety of dumpling choices at Dim Sum House, including the steamed crystal prawn har gow dumplings with plump shrimp enveloped in a translucent wrapper, or deep-fried shrimp dumplings for a crispy crunch.
1158 S. State, SLC
Noodles = happiness and longevity
Their length representing the eater’s life, noodles symbolize a wish for happiness and longevity. Ideally, one should not cut or bite the noodles as they are eaten. Long noodles are served either fried on a plate or boiled with broth in a bowl.
Glancing at the Mom’s Kitchen menu turns up a long list of noodles. Try the Taiwanese-style noodles with ground pork featuring toothsome housemade noodles submerged in meaty broth studded with cabbage for color and texture. For a spicy kick, order the bean-thread noodles with pork with layers of chiles and spices that you’ll remember into the new year.
2233 S. State, SLC
Spring rolls = gold bars of wealth
Spring rolls get their name because they are typically eaten during Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). Because fried spring rolls look like gold bars, they bring a wish for wealth and prosperity. Filled with vegetables and meat, the rolls are encased in thin dough wrappers and fried to a crispy, golden brown. In America, we commonly refer to them as egg rolls and they’re ubiquitous on virtually every Chinese restaurant menu.
Red Corner China Diner offers both Americanized and authentic Chinese options, including cabbage-filled vegetarian spring rolls and crunchy pork or chicken egg rolls.
46 W. 7200 South, Midvale
Catfish = surplus
In Chinese, the word fish sounds like “surplus” so eating fish on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day brings an increase in prosperity. Both carp and catfish are particularly prized for their auspicious homophonics—bringing good luck, fortune and abundance. Custom suggests that whole fish should be the last dish eaten with some left over (a surplus) and that the head should face elders or distinguished guests, who should also eat first as a sign of respect. Steamed fish is most popular, as well as braised preparations and boiled fish served in a spicy broth.
Stop in at Café Anh Hong for their Cantonese steamed fish dressed with scallions and ginger. It’s the perfect way to end a meal, as the ginger adds flavor and settles the stomach.
1465 S. State, No. 12, SLC
Sweet rice balls = family reunion
Sweet rice balls are traditionally enjoyed on the 15th day of the new year known as the Lantern Festival—the end of the Spring Festival celebration. The pronunciation and round shape of the rice balls are associated with reunion and togetherness and signify unity within the family. The hallmark dessert of Chinese New Year, these can be considered the sugary equivalent of a dumpling and are often filled with black sesame, red bean paste or ground peanuts that are boiled and served in water or a sweetened syrup.
Head to Boba World to find sticky rice balls in sweet wine as the only dessert on the menu.
512 W. 750 South, Woods Cross