Like many other Asian Americans, I get the opportunity to celebrate not only one but two new years: the New Year based one the Julian calendar (i.e. western New Year), and the Lunar New Year, which follows the traditional lunisolar calendar. Last year's Year of the Tiger welcomed adventure, risk-taking, and an energetic shift, but this year—Year of the Rabbit—is all about calmness, relaxation, and nourishing our bodies and souls.
While every Lunar New Year is different, the traditions and customs I practice remain the same. Lanterns are hung, red or traditional clothing is worn, and my family and I head to Chinatown to partake in all of the Lunar New Year festivities, be it popping firecrackers to watching lion dancers perform. But my favorite activity of all is stocking (and eating) auspicious foods around the table for and with loved ones.
In Chinese culture as well as other Asian cultures, the foods we eat are symbolic of good fortune. Dumplings symbolize wealth, sweet rice balls for family, noodles for longevity, and steamed pork belly and fish for prosperity. Eating these foods are believed to extend good luck, health, and happiness into the new year—which is why I have them stocked in my fridge and cabinets throughout the months of January and February.
This year's Lunar New Year starts on January 22, and you can partake in all of the festivities, too. Whether you celebrate the Lunar New Year or not, check out these foods for Lunar New Year that will bring you luck and good fortune for the months to come.
Duck symbolizes happiness and health, which is why I’ll find no shortage of roasted duck at the dinner table. While I usually buy duck at a Chinese BBQ shop in Manhattan or Flushing, Queens, this duck kit makes for a perfect way to prepare my own at home. The kit features all the ingredients needed to prepare this juicy and tender dish, including a whole duck, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and more spices and herbs. Wrap the duck in duck wrapper or pair with baby bok choy and rice for the ultimate feast. Insert drool here.
Another Lunar New Year staple, longevity noodles are longer than regular noodles and are symbolic of a long life. This pack of He Fong Dried Noodles carry natural flavors, are preservative-free, and can be fried or boiled in broth. Top if off with your favorite protein and veggies to complete the dish.
Fish is another popular dish among Asian households, especially during the Lunar New Year. It represents prosperity and is cooked in anti-inflammatory ingredients like ginger. You can make fish, too thanks to this Fish Recipe Kit. What’s included? Two large red tilapias, green onion, cilantro, ginger, and soy sauce—all the ingredients you need to whip up a prosperous year.
For a sweet treat at the end of dinner, my favorite thing to prepare is rice balls. Made from glutinous flour and filled with black sesame paste, these rice balls are sweet and chewy. To prepare, I cook them in boiling water and add a hint of rock sugar for sweetness. Since they represent family and togetherness, this dish is usually consumed with loved ones.
Enter my kitchen during the Lunar New Year, and you’ll see a plethora of fruit, especially oranges—which signify fullness and wealth. Even if I don’t eat all of the oranges, having them on display is believed to bring good luck, fortune, and success.
No Lunar New Year is complete without dumplings. Standing for wealth and treasure, dumplings usually consist of meat and finely chopped vegetables like this pack. These Ajinomoto dumplings are stuffed with chicken, pork, onions, and cabbage, and you can either fry or steam them. My favorite, however, is when they’re fried for a bit of crispiness.
If you like your dumplings with broth, Fly By Jing makes slurpable, flavorful pork soup dumplings that are incredibly easy to make (and also very, very delicious with the brand’s Sichuan Chili Crisp). Get a 2-pack, 4-pack, or 6-pack if you’re really dedicated (or just have a lot of company coming over—these won’t last long on the dinner table). These tend to sell out quickly, so grab yours ASAP.
For a wealthy and lucky year, I’ll eat baby bok choy as a side to rice and duck at dinner. Harvested from young baby bok choy plants, these baby bok choys are extra tender, and can be sautéd, steamed, or boiled.
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