Celebrate the Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) with these delicious recipes you can make at home, including dumplings and egg tarts!
Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, marks the beginning of the traditional Chinese calendar. People across the world celebrate this festive occasion with red lanterns, fireworks, family gatherings and lots of food!
Food is an important part of Chinese culture in general, but it’s an especially essential part of this annual celebration. In fact, many dishes that are enjoyed for Chinese New Year are chosen specifically for their symbolism (i.e. to bring good luck, fortune and health for the coming year). Traditional dishes can differ from family to family, depending on local customs and regional cuisine.
Obviously, I’m not Chinese and my family doesn’t celebrate the Lunar New Year. However, one of my best friends, Mandy, is Chinese and does celebrate the occasion. Mandy actually started this blog with me waaaaaaay back, so I try to post something for her on the blog every year.
In previous years I’ve shared a recipe, but this year I thought it would be nice to create a roundup of recipes that anyone could make at home. Hopefully, they’ll bring you good luck this year.
Chinese New Year Appetizers:
Spring rolls are a popular choice for Chinese New Year festivities. The golden colour and long shape of the rolls is similar to gold bars, so these are often included to symbolize wealth.
Bee’s authentic spring rolls are filled with shredded cabbage and pork, then are fried to crispy perfection.
Dumplings (jiaozi) represent wealth because they look like an ancient form of currency called ingots. I recently read that they are traditionally made on New Years Eve, and are eaten after midnight to ring in the new year.
These potsticker dumplings are made with ground chicken and mushrooms, and are pan-fried (because I love how the bottom gets golden-brown and crispy), but you could steam them instead if desired.
Wontons are another type of Chinese dumpling, which consists of a thin dough (called wonton skins) filled with minced meat, seafood or vegetables. These dumplings are also considered lucky because they resemble an ingot.
My shrimp and mushroom wontons are easy to make, and fry up crisp on the outside and juicy in the middle. I can eat an entire plate of these to myself…
Ok, so this might be a bit of a push, but hear me out. While this might be more of a local favourite than an actual traditional Lunar New Year dish, pork buns always seem to be super popular around this time of year. Bloggers come out with adorable animal shaped buns to celebrate the specific year (I loved all the piggy buns last year), and they’re popular at Asian markets here.
Actually, I just had a conversation with an Asian blogger about a similar issue. Mooncakes seem to be popular here for Chinese New Year, but apparently they don’t have anything to do with Chinese New Year. They are traditionally eaten for the Mid-Autumn festival in August (remember, Chinese New Year is the SPRING festival).
Anyhow, Saveur’s Chinese steamed pork buns look silky and luscious, and are probably really tasty… So while it probably doesn’t have a place on a traditional table, it is a tasty recipe worth trying.
Chinese New Year Main Dishes
Peking duck with red skin is often served at Chinese New Year because the red colour symbolizes good luck, and a whole bird signifies completeness. However, cooking a whole peking duck isn’t an easy feat!
Instead, try making these duck pancakes with stir-fried vegetables. According to Maggie from Omnivore’s Cookbook, “duck pancakes, or mandarin pancakes, have a totally different name in China. We call them chun bing(春饼), which literally means spring pancakes. It is a dish that we northerners cook as part of our celebration of Spring Festival (Chinese New Year).”
Crispy Noodles with Seafood
Long noodles symbolize longevity and long life, so it’s important not to cut the noodles when cooking or eating them. Nami’s crispy noodle dish features stir-fried seafood, pork, fish cake, cabbage, bean sprouts, and other veggies on top of pan-fried egg noodles.
Traditional Lo Hei is a salad-like dish made with about 14 ingredients which include shredded vegetables, fruit and something crispy (like crackers or fried shallots). It often also has raw fish and is served with a sweet plum sauce. This dish is symbolic of prosperity, as it’s made with a wealth of ingredients.
My version is a riff on Chef Susur Lee’s Lo Hei – the Singaporean Style Slaw. Chef Lee’s dish is iconic in Toronto, and also a dish that Mandy and I really enjoy so we wanted to create a version at home. The Singaporean Style Slaw is similar to traditional Lo Hei in that it has many ingredients, and incorporates thinly slices veggies and crispy elements, but the restaurant version is dressed up with micro greens and edible flowers, and is complicated to make.
Obviously, my recipe isn’t as good as Chef Lee’s, but it’s pretty tasty and extremely healthy too.
Chinese Hot Pot
Eating hot pot for Chinese New Year seems to be a modern trend that has been gaining popularity in North America over the years. Hot Pot is traditionally eaten during the cold winter months, and it’s a fun family-style meal that is easy to prepare, so it makes sense. If you’re hosting a Chinese New Year party for friends, or are looking for a less traditional way to mark the occasion, then hot pot might be a good option for you.
You can still incorporate the dumplings, wontons and long noodles into your hot pot dinner, too. If you’re new to hot pot, you can check out my in-depth guide to making Chinese hot pot (created with the help of my Chinese friends).
Chinese New Year Dessert
Egg tarts are a traditional Chinese pastry filled with a slightly sweetened egg custard. If you’ve ever had dim sum, you’re probably familiar with these sunny little treats.
The golden colour of these tarts makes them a great addition to a Chinese New Year menu, and Lily’s silky egg tarts only take 15 minutes to make!
While this isn’t the most traditional of lists, I hope it inspires you to make something to celebrate Chinese New Year. If there’s a dish that you love to make for the occasion, let me know in the comments!