Chinese New Year is without a doubt the most important and hugely celebrated holiday in much of Asia, especially here in Malaysia. It’s the time for families to gather for a reunion and indulge into festive delicacies. And when it comes to food, Chinese like to play with words and symbols. A typical CNY dinner is a lot like a treasure hunt. It consists of various dishes and ingredients that have symbolic meaning or sound similar to words and phrases that everyone wishes or expresses during Chinese New Year. Read on to find out the essential Chinese New Year dishes that must be present on every reunion dinner.

Chinese New Year Raw Fish Salad

Yú Sheng, an increase in abundance

Yú Sheng or Lo Hei in Cantonese is a definite must-have on every reunion gatherings during Chinese New Year. The term Yú Sheng literally means “raw fish” in Mandarin but sounds the same as the phrase “increased abundance”.  Therefore, greeting someone “nian nian you yu” means you are wishing them an increase in prosperity. The dish is prepared like a cold salad and is eaten after the ceremonial “prosperity toss”. Every ingredient in a Yu Sheng has symbolic meanings and representations.

Nian Gao, higher income or position

Nian gao are sticky cakes made from glutinous rice and are popular during CNY because it literally translates to “year cake,” sounds similar to the phrase “higher each year.” It is believed that when you eat nian gao, your luck will be increased in the coming year.

Pen Cai, usher in prosperity

Pen cai iconsidered to be a treasure pot cause of the many symbolic and luxe ingredients in the dish. It is best cooked in a wooden or ceramic pot with auspicious and rich ingredients layered according to texture such as abalone, mushrooms, vegetables, seafood, pork and chicken. Attentive layering of the ingredients contributes to the overall taste of the dish.

Dumplings, ushering wealth

Dumplings are traditionally shaped as ingots (a form of currency in ancient China), that’s why eating dumpling on CNY is believed to bring in wealth.

Longevity noodles, long and prosperous life

These long egg noodles are prepared and served uncut to symbolize a wish for a long life. Cook the noodles together with mustard greens to symbolize long life for parents.

Chicken, unity of families

Traditionally, the chicken should be served whole with the head and feet still attached. This signifies the unity and good marriage between families.

Pineapple tarts, good fortune and good returns

Chinese New Year will not be the same without trays and plastic containers full of pineapple tarts. It is believed that pineapple brings wealth, luck and excellent fortune when eaten.

Orange, more riches and wealth, (gold nuggets/good fortune)

Eating and giving oranges is believed to bring good luck and fortune because orange sounds like the word “wealth” in Chinese. The colour orange can also be considered to symbolize ‘gold’ which makes it an auspicious fruit believed to bring good luck and wealth.

Overall, each families have their our tradition and specialty meals every reunion dinners. the most important of all these is the time spent every reunion dinners to rebuild and reconnect with all family members.

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