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10 auspicious food for Year of Wood Dragon |

Food and Leisure

10 auspicious food for Year of Wood Dragon

Dolly Dy-Zulueta -
10 auspicious food for Year of Wood Dragon
Assorted dumplings by King Chef
Dolly Dy-Zulueta

MANILA, Philippines — It has become a tradition for Chinoys to sit down together with family and friends for a Chinese New Year lauriat lunch or dinner on Chinese New Year itself (which falls on February 10 this year) or the day before. This is often done in a really good Chinese restaurant or the Chinese restaurant of a five-star hotel, which is reputed to serve excellent Chinese cuisine.

Each family platter, served course by course, represents an auspicious dish closely associated with Chinese New Year because they are considered as lucky food.

While the seasoned executive Chinese chefs of these restaurants draw up their own menus, they do not stray too far from each other because they stay within the list of lucky ingredients or dishes.

These are the food items that are said to be lucky for the Chinese New Year. 

Whole fish. It symbolizes abundance and prosperity, so Chinese New Year lauriats always include one, usually Steamed Lapu-Lapu or Garoupa. It can also be catfish or carp. Serving whole fish for Chinese New Year is like an assurance that there will always be a little more than what you need throughout the year. 

Whole chicken. It stands for luck or wholeness. The chicken is served whole, with head and feet still intact. My mom used to have a supplier for such whole chicken, whom she calls when there is a special occasion. The chicken is usually roasted or braised.

Chinese dumplings. Besides being excellent appetizers, they represent wealth. So, aside from serving the usual siomai in different flavor variants and forms, chefs sometimes make Money Bags for Chinese New Year. These are a variation of dumpling fillings shaped into balls and wrapped in oversized wrapper with their edges collected on top and tied with spring onion to look like a “money bag.” Some dumplings, such as Scallop Siomai, can even be shaped to look like Chinese ingots, or oval-shaped “money bars” that are slightly turned up on both ends.

Spring rolls. Symbolizing wealth, they are a Cantonese fried dim sum item. Fillings of meat and vegetables are wrapped in thin spring roll wrappers, rolled and fried in hot oil until golden and crispy.

Noodles. They mean longevity or a long, healthy and happy life. The ingredients may be different, but there always has to be a noodle dish in every special celebration. The noodles are left uncut so they will be long and thus serve their purpose, and they are usually stir-fried or served with a light broth.

Meatballs. The Chinese people love to serve meatballs during special occasions because their round shape symbolizes family unity. Fried, steamed or braised, or served with sauce, meatballs are very versatile.

Stir-fried Shrimps by Dolores Cheng
Dolly Dy-Zulueta

Eight Treasures Rice. Known as Babao Fan in Chinese, this sweet and sticky rice symbolizes good fortune because it contains eight “treasures” in the form of dried plums, gingko seeds, goji berries, lotus seeds, jujube, dried longans, apricot and red bean paste. The combination of “eight treasures” may vary and include other similar ingredients.

Shrimps. They represent life and good fortune. They are cooked into different preparations, sometimes used as main ingredient for noodles.

Glutinous rice balls. Called Tang Yuan in Chinese, these glutinous rice balls, served with a little sweet and syrupy broth, represent togetherness and family unity.    

Nian Gao or Tikoy. It symbolizes a “higher year,” which means an improvement from the previous year. It can mean job promotion, higher salary, or successful business venture. Besides, since it is made with glutinous rice, it is sticky, and its stickiness means the family and circle of friends and colleagues will stick to each other the whole year through. It means harmony, unity and support for each other.

Fried Tikoy or Nian Gao by The Bellevue Manila's Phoenix Court
Dolly Dy-Zulueta

RELATED: Chinese New Year 2024: Filipino-Chinese traditions to ring in new Lunar Year

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