Chinese New Year Recipes

Don’t put away your party shoes just yet! I know you think that the new year celebrations are over, but for many Asians all over the world, the biggest holiday is yet to come! January 26th is the beginning of Chinese New Year, a 15-day long celebration and the start of year 4707 according to the Chinese calendar.

Each year of the Chinese calendar is symbolized by one of twelve zodiac animals, and this year, it’s the Year of the Ox. According to the wise, old sage who created the system thousands of years ago, the ox symbolizes a hardworking, honest animal. What does that mean to us? Hopefully, 2009 will be a year of strength, stability and hard work. Which quite frankly, after the tumulus and erratic Year of the Rat, this is just what we need.

And guess who was born the Year of the Ox? President Obama. Boy, oh boy, I hope the Chinese are right about this strength and stability stuff!

No matter what your ethnicity, I invite you to partake in a few of the food traditions that symbolize abundance, good fortune and prosperity for the coming year. I’m sure we could all use a little more luck, eh?

First things first, though…let’s talk about lucky money before we even get to the food. Red lucky money envelopes (“hong bao” in Chinese) are given by family and close friends to the unmarried younger generation. The amount of money you give really doesn’t matter much, but it’s nice make sure that the money is new and free of wrinkles or stains. Usually, I will visit the bank and ask for new dollar bills to insert into the envelopes. For my children’s classmates, as a fun way to wish them and their families good luck, I will put a two crisp one dollar bills in each envelope and hand them out to the class. By the way, money should always be given in EVEN numbers, except for number that is between 3 and 5.  Yes, I’m playing it safe and being totally superstitious, so I do not want to utter that number that comes after 3 but before 5, because that particular number is very, very bad luck. Sigh, silly Chinese! I know, but HEY, do you blame me? I need all the luck and prosperity I can get this Chinese New Year! Anyways, even numbers are good, odd numbers are for funerals.

When my brother and I were little, we wouldn’t be able to sleep the night before Chinese New Year, as we would huddle together on the bed with the monster Sears catalog propped on our laps, daydreaming of all the fabulous toys to buy with our lucky money! Jay and I used to love visiting our relatives on Chinese New Year, because the wealthy ones would stuff our envelopes with a coupla hundies. $CORE. You can buy packages of red envelopes at any Asian market, the more modern ones have cutesy artwork on them, like Disney characters, Hello Kitty and Pokemon.

To help you celebrate, I’ve compiled my list of favorite Chinese New Year Recipes from around the blogs and on I hope you enjoy!


Chinese New Year Recipes Chinese New Year would not start off right if you didn’t have a stack of Chinese Egg Rolls that represent golden bars. Bring on the prosperity, baby! This is my Mom’s Famous Chinese Egg Rolls recipe – complete with step by step rolling instructions or Vegetable Spring Rolls with video (egg rolls look like gold bars, which symbolize wealth) 
Chinese Potstickers represent prosperity too – the folded dumpling resemble golden ingots. These are really fun to make with your kids or with a couple of friends. I’ve got step-by-step photo instructions on how to make these Chinese Potstickers!These potstickers will surely be served for Chinese New Year at our home. Chinese Potstickers
Fish in Chinese is “yu” and this dish represents abundance or “always having more than enough” in the coming new year. Most Chinese families will serve a whole fish, head and all, but don’t worry, you don’t have to. Fillets are just fine.My Mom’s recipe for Chinese Steamed Fish will show you how to make Chinese restaurant style steamed fish.
Chinese Marbled Tea Eggs are incredibly easy to make, they just require q few hours of soaking time in the soy/tea mixture.These are eaten for Chinese New Year to also represent prosperity.

I love to eat them as a snack!

Chinese Tea Egg Recipe
happy_shrimp_stirfry_recipe Mom calls this dish “Hee Hee Ha Ha” as these red shrimp symbolize happiness for Chinese New Year.Shrimp in Chinese is pronounced “haa” which of course sounds like laughter!

Mom’s recipe for Happy Shrimp Stir Fry is over at my column at Simply Recipes.

RasaMalaysia has a recipe for honeywalnutshrimpwalnutprawns Honey Walnut Shrimp which I think you’ll love – it’s sweet, crunchy and the creamy sauce luxurious. You can never go wrong with her rasamalaysia_bok_choy Baby Bok Choy with Shrimp Stir Fry for Chinese New Year either.

Sunday Nite Dinner has a recipe for Chinese Sticky Rice For Chinese New Year Chinese Sticky Rice that I think I’ll make for my family.

For dessert, these Sesame Balls for Chinese New Year Chocolate Filled Sesame Balls symbolize growing prosperity. Or for a fun cookie, how about making your own chinese_fortune_cookie_chinese_new_year Chinese Fortune Cookies stuffing them with auspicious wishes for the Year of the Ox!

But whatever you do, DO NOT serve chinese_squid not for chinese new year squid for Chinese New Year – called “Yow Yu.” In the olden days, workers would have to travel far from home to work, often bringing personal belongings rolled up in a blanket. When a worker was fired, he was ordered to “yow,” or roll up his blanket, packing his stuff to go home. Serving squid symbolizes being fired in the coming year. If your co-workers or subordinates pleasantly surprises you with a dish of succulent squid on January 26th, be very, very suspicious.
Infographic: What to eat for Chinese New Year!