8 Auspicious Foods that Bring Fortune for Chinese New Year
DURING CHINESE NEW YEAR, it's hard to deny that food is the centre of the celebration. We gather round the food for reunion dinner and visit homes bearing a pair of mandarin oranges. We also munch on Chinese New Year goodies all day. But have you wondered about the significance of some of the baked treats and savoury delights we eat during this 15-day period? What are the reasons for these auspicious foods?
From pineapple tarts to mandarin oranges, we take a closer look and find out the rationale behind eight auspicious foods that you'll encounter in almost every household during this festive period.
8 Auspicious Foods of Fortune for Chinese New Year
Eating this large Asian citrus fruit is thought to bring continuous prosperity. Because the Chinese word for pomelo (柚 yòu) sounds like 'to have' (有 yǒu), except for the tone, and exactly like 'again' (又 yòu), so the more you eat, the more wealth it will bring. Pomelos are also a symbol of good health, fertility and family unity.
It's almost impossible to go through 15 days of Chinese New Year without eating a pineapple tart. Besides being a buttery favourite for many, the Hokkien pronunciation “Ong Lai” refers to the arrival of prosperity.
For Chinese New Year here at Cedele, we've brought back our Pineapple Pocket Pies, our bestseller made with melt-in-your-mouth pineapple jam and coated with a crumbly crust. Alternatively, our Pineapple Cranberry cake makes for a great gift idea to usher in a fortune-filled year. It is a moist butter cake dotted with cranberries and topped with golden pineapple slices and osmanthus flowers.
We also made sure to include pineapple in our in-store offerings. Visit Cedele All Day Dining or Bakery Kitchen outlets to try our Pineapple Red Tofu Mushroom rice and our Huat! Salad with chicken & salted egg.
Since they bear an uncanny resemblance to ingots (Yuan Bao), the old Chinese currency, dumplings (饺子 Jiǎozi) symbolize wealth and profit. This tradition is popular in Northern China, where the dumplings are made with soy-ginger cabbage and pork filling, and eaten at midnight. Some even literally hide a gold coin in one of the dumplings to bring extra luck to the eater. Others also tuck in other "lucky" foods like peanuts, which symbolize wishes for a long life.
When making dumplings, make sure that there are a good number of pleats. They should also be arranged in lines instead of circles - circles of dumplings signify that one's life will go round in circles, never going anywhere.
Since the Chinese word for fish (鱼 Yú) sounds like 'surplus' or ‘abundance’, you can expect it on the menu every Chinese New Year. Fish is typically served whole with the head and tail intact, to represent a good start and finish to the year. According to tradition, you should also leave some of the fish uneaten to represent the "surpluses" of the coming year. A common saying during the festivities, 年年有余 (nián nián yǒu yú) is a wish for others to always have more than they need in the New Year.
We offer our Sea Bass Wakame pasta for our in-store Chinese New Year menu. Grilled sea bass is laid on a bed of wakame salad and linguine, topped with crispy garlic and ginger flakes. Try it now at any of our Bakery Kitchen outlets.
5. Mandarin Oranges
Characterised by their loose and peel-able skin, mandarin oranges (also known as tangerines) are believed to bring prosperity thanks to its Cantonese pronunciation, gum, which sounds similar to the word for gold. The Chinese for orange is 橙 (chéng), which sounds the same as the Chinese for 'success' (成). One of the ways of writing tangerine (桔 jú) contains the Chinese character for luck (吉 jí).
As part of Chinese New Year tradition, you usually offer a pair of oranges to respected seniors and hosts during house visiting. Upon your departure, your hosts will also offer a pair of oranges in return. Note that when visiting you can only give a pair of oranges, nothing more or less. Two pairs is the ultimate taboo.
This year, Cedele's Mandarin Orange Polenta cake is a great way to usher in the festive season. Made with polenta, ground almond and poached whole mandarin oranges, this moist cake is also gluten-free.
6. Chinese New Year Cake (Nian Gao)
Directly translated as "year cake", Nian Gao (年糕 Nián gāo) is a sticky rice cake made from glutinous rice flour and sugar. Because “gao” sounds like ‘high’ in mandarin, eating the cake symbolizes achieving new heights in the coming year. There are various ways of cooking and eating Nian Gao, some steam it, while others fry it with an eggwash to add a crispy bite to the chewy treat. Some version of Nian Gao come with white sesame seeds or red dates, while others are shaped into a pair of carps of ingots to represent surplus and wealth.
7. Yu Sheng
This extremely popular Chinese New Year dish gained popularity locally in the 1960s thanks to the '4 Heavenly Culinary Kings' of Singapore. Yu Sheng translates to "raw fish", which are symbols of abundance. It can be consumed throughout the festive period, but particularly on the 7th day: “Everybody’s birthday” (人日, ren ri).
This should be familiar: the raw fish salad is typically set up on a communal table, with each ingredient chosen for its symbolic meaning. Family and friends gather round to toss the salad vigorously while exchanging well-wishes and auspicious phrases. They say that the higher you toss the salad, the greater your fortunes will be.
Toss to bountiful fortune and great health with Cedele's very own Yu Sheng. Our version of Yu Sheng (pictured above) includes five superfood heart-healthy grains and our homemade plum sesame dressing.
8. Longevity Noodles
Although longevity noodles (长寿面 Chángshòu Miàn) are eaten year round, they bring extra meaning to birthday and Chinese New Year celebrations. The very long, unsevered noodles are to signify the eater's long life and a wish for longevity. Some also cook their noodles with mustard greens to symbolize long life for parents.
HERE'S WISHING YOU a Chinese New Year season filled with flavours of fortune and a sweet time with family and friends!