Chinese New Year is a season of fellowship whereby family members and loved ones will reunite together. In Malaysia, when and where people gather, it automatically means that delicious food will be involved! #nomakannofun Apart from the customary reunion dinner that is held at the eve of first day of the Chinese New Year, there are also a variety of snacks and finger food to binge on. If you want to show off or impress your loved ones, here are some of the top food choices to learn how to cook as we welcome the upcoming Chinese New Year.
1) Yee Sang (Prosperity Toss Salad)
How often are you able to play with your food without the elders giving you the death glare? Well, Yee Sang is a way to do it this Chinese New Year and guess what? Even the most upright adult will probably join you! A tasty salad that symbolises abundance and vigour, the dish comprises of many ingredients including raw fish, daikon, carrots, toasted sesame seeds, plum sauce, sesame oil, and the list goes on, making for a sweet and tangy salad that stimulates the taste buds.
The English name of this dish should suggest what you will be doing with the dish. It is believed that the higher and more vigorous the toss, the better the new year will be! And don’t forget to shout out all the auspicious wishes that you can remember! Rather than buying ready-to-mix versions from stores and restaurants, make one yourself through this recipe.
2) Pineapple Tarts
The Chinese believe that the pineapple (pronounced as ong lai in Hokkien) attracts prosperity and attracts good luck, two attributes that anyone would like to have as we welcome a new year. This makes pineapple parts a much loved and adored snack during the festival. These delectable golden nuggets are not that hard to bake and its sweet, yet citric taste will certainly put a smile to your guest’s face if you pull it off (These snacks might lead to an unintentional pig-out session, you have now been warned!)
Want to learn how to bake your own batch of this delicious delights? Check out the recipes available here as they include the traditional method as well as new spins of making pineapple tarts.
3) Pen Cai aka Poon Choi
Another dish that is usually eaten during Chinese New Year is the Pen Cai (Mandarin) or Poon Choi (Cantonese). This auspicious dish is portioned to be a communal meal, usually consisting of generous amount of ingredients which includes pork, beef, fish maw, prawns, bean curd, various vegetables and mushrooms, and so on. It is also said that attentive layering of the ingredients contributes to the taste of the whole dish.
Instead of spending a fortune and purchasing a poon choi prepared from Chinese restaurants (they usually cost at least a few hundred ringgit), why not try your hands on making your own? This way, not only can you control what ingredients you want to add, you can also be the star during the reunion dinner if you pull it off. But you need to keep in mind that there will be a lot of work involved but if you are up for the challenge, here is a good recipe to follow.
Fish is one of the main meat dishes that is often seen on the reunion dinner table. In Mandarin, “fish” is pronounced “yú” which sounds similar to another word that means ‘surplus’. Hence, eating fish symbolises that there is surplus of wealth and resources at the end of the year.
Typically, any fish that can feed the number of people eating it comfortably should suffice. In terms of the cooking method, you can choose whichever that fancies you most – be it boiling, steaming, braising, frying, etc. Usually, the healthier cooking methods such as steaming and boiling will be preferred, as a (futile) effort to counter the high-calorie dishes you will be having during this festive season. Moreover, steamed fish should fit everyone’s the palate, be it old or young.
Here is a simple steamed fish recipe that is easy to follow this Chinese New Year.
5) Fried Spring Rolls
Another simple yet utterly satisfying to try out this CNY is spring rolls. Traditionally eaten during the Spring Festival, these rolls are usually filled with ingredients comprising of sliced vegetables, small chunks of meat which are then rolled in thin dough wrappers and are then fried until crispy golden brown. Spring rolls are a popular dish during Chinese New Year as its golden-brown colour and elongated shape represents golden bars. Not to mention that they are delicious too.
Homemade spring rolls are easy to make; simply follow this recipe and you are good to go!
6) Peanut Brittle
To the Chinese, peanuts signify longevity and multiplication of wealth and good fortune. Let’s end this list with a sweet note with some addictive peanut brittle snack. Sweet, crunchy, and fragrant, what more can you ask for? Usually eaten as a pre-meal snack or a post-meal dessert, they are usually sold in markets and stores especially during this festive period. But if you are feeling adventurous and want to try making them at home yourself, why not? With this simple recipe, your Chinese New Year this year is that much sweeter.
Jonathan works for an e-commerce website and is all the rave about things about tabletop games, K-pop and movies. I am a keen writer on lifestyle and business-related topics too.