What Chinese Eat for Breakfast during Chinese New Year?
It’s a tradition across the world to hold a lavish celebration during the Chinese New Year (CNY). Festive red lanterns, fire crackers, auspicious door decorations, new clothes, and haircuts are part of the celebrations as families gather to see out the old year and usher in the new. And it is also a tradition to enjoy special meals with our loved ones, as the most important element of all.
Food is one of the things that the Chinese take the most pride in. The dishes are created to give blessings for the new year. The names and looks of the food are symbols of wishes for prosperity, happiness, and auspiciousness. Though every household may have different customs, there are some common dishes seen on every table, and let’s see what are the foods Chinese eat to kick start their CNY day!
- Spring Rolls
Eggrolls or springrolls are probably the most well-known of Chinese cuisine. They are eaten during the Spring Festival to celebrate the coming of Spring, the most specifically first day of Spring (立春—lì chūn). Spring rolls are a Cantonese dim sum dish of cylindrical-shaped rolls filled with vegetables, meat, or something sweet. Fillings are wrapped in thin dough wrappers, then fried, when the spring rolls are given their golden-yellow color. Eating spring rolls means eating a ton of gold- because fried spring rolls look like gold bars, it is a wish for prosperity. Here’s how to enjoy spring roll in a healthier way, instead of deep-frying, try baking of air frying.
Another well-known dish, the dumpling is a classic lucky food for the new year. Legend has it that the more dumplings you eat, the more money to can make. Dumplings consist of minced meat and finely-chopped vegetables wrapped in a thin and elastic dough skin. They can be cooked by boiling, steaming, frying or baking. The lucky saying for eating dumplings is bringing in wealth and treasure- a wish for making money and a fortune in the new year. To enjoy dumplings in a healthier way, choose boiling and steaming accompanied by a soup or dipped with vinegar, or you can enjoy baking.
In Chinese, fish sounds like “surplus”. Fish is a traditional CNY dish and Chinese people always like to have a surplus at the end of the year. This is because they think they have managed to save something extra at the end of the year so that they can make more in the next year. Steamed fish is one of the most famous CNY recipes and it definitely a healthier choice.
- Sweet Rice Balls- Tang Yuan
“Tang Yuan” is associated with reunion and being together. They’re made of glutinous rice flour and water, They’re always served in a seasoned, typically sweet, syrup soup. Chinese people eat “Tang Yuan” for a happy reunion. But, the amount of sugar used in making the sweet broth is high, for better options, go for raw cane sugar instead of white sugar, minimize the amount of sugar or you can substitute with stevia, a sugar substitute that comes from a plant.
- Longevity Noodles
Longevity noodles symbolize a wish for longevity. Tradition is you are not allowed to cut them and should not to chew either. The longer the noodle, the longer your life will be. That’s when you see people slurping the noodles. It’s good to enjoy these noodles with many vegetables and meats, especially since these ingredients have symbolic meanings as well.
Eggs: big and healthy family
Lobster: endless money rolling in
Shrimp: fortune and wealth
Roasted pig: peace
Tofu: happiness and fortune for the entire family
Fish: surplus and wealth
But, for healthier options, choose lean proteins like tofu, fish, and eggs. Also to top with more vegetables. After all, great health gives you longevity, right?
There are many more dishes Chinese enjoy during this festive season, and we often get so carried away by overindulging. A reminder to you is always to be mindful of what you eat, go for healthier food choices and drink plenty of water! Let’s enjoy the New Year with great health and wealth!
Written by: Jasmine Lim
(Love Earth Nutritionist)
[Bachelor of Science Degree in Dietics (major) &
Food Science (minor) lowa State University, USA]