Unlike Burmese cuisine, Chinese cuisine is familiar to most Americans. People can order whatever they want even without looking at the menu. But there are wonderful nuances to Chinese fare that are not well known that I take great pleasure in sharing-particularly relating to Chinese culture and some symbolic foods that help us celebrate the Chinese New Year.
Given the importance of food in Chinese culture, it's bit surprising that food plays a major role in New Year's celebrations. From appetizers to dessert, all the foods served throughout the celebrations must be "lucky" foods.
What gives a certain food symbolic significance?
Some lucky foods are based on appearance:
Jiao Zi: this is the most important lucky food to celebrate the New Year. These round dumplings signify a family reunion. In northern China, families traditionally spend the entire New Year's eve together preparing the dumplings, which are eaten at midnight. Crescent-shaped Jiao Zi dumplings are a symbol of wealth and prosperity because they resemble ancient Chinese silver money.
Spring Rolls (or Egg Rolls): Spring rolls symbolize wealth because their shape is similar to a good bar.
On the other hand, food may have special significance during
Chinese New Year because of how it sounds in Chinese:
Lettuce Wraps: the Cantonese word for lettuce sounds like rising fortune, so it is very common to serve a lettuce wraps filled with other lucky foods such as chicken.
Fish: Fish also play a major role in New Year's celebrations. The word for fish, "Yu," sounds like the words both for wish and abundance. As a result, on New Year's Eve it is common to serve a fish at the end of a meal, symbolizing a wish for abundance in the coming year.
Sweet-and-Sour Pork: This dish is popular with families hoping for a numerous grandchildren, as the Cantonese word for "sour" sounds like the word for grandchild.
Oranges: Oranges are great presents for friends because the word "orange" sounds like luck, wealth and respectability.
The are a number of other symbolic foods that help celebrate the Chinese New Year ĘC the above are just some samples to illustrate the rich depths of our Chinese food and culture. All the lucky foods are good wishes, echoing our best wishes for our friends and customers as we strive to blend the very best of Chinese and Burmese cuisine.