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Kung hei fat choi [moved from Boston board]

In my last post, i found out that chicken stuffed with glutinous (sweet) rice was Chinese New year fare. what other chinese dish can be considered a must-have for Chinese New Year. I know of Nian Gao has to be in the dining table, (is it available in the chinatown groceries yet?) I heard Steamed Fish is a must also.
Please tell us your ideal or real chinese new year food selections.

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  1. It ain't Chinese New Year without lo han jai (sometimes known as "Buddhist's Delight").

    1. You need lots of things.

      As you've mentioned, fish is a must. It's supposed to be good luck. Most people generally have a dish of each type of meat, beef, pork, chicken, duck.

      Nian gao is also a traditional dish, and so are "tang yuan" for dessert sometimes.

      At our house, dumplings are a must. When I was little, all of the kids would try and find the one dumpling that was made with sugar. Finding and eating it was supposed to bring good luck in the new year.

      And no Chinese New Year passes without a long night of mah jiang.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        ipse, what do you mean by "the dumpling that was made with sugar"? Are these pork dumplings?

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Traditionally, the one lucky dumpling was one that had a coin hidden in it. Either way, your teeth are in jeopardy -- from breaking or from decaying ;-)

          1. re: Xiao Yang


            We stopped using coins because it became too obvious when the filling was nappa cabbage as opposed to Chinese chives.

          1. re: Humbucker

            yes, yes, but never one of my favorites. I always had to have at least one bite, as per tradition and my mom.

            1. re: justagthing

              I enjoy fat choy (it's like black mossy vermicelli) but it's unfortunate that its harvest is not ecologically friendly

              Also shrimp can be served during this occasion.

            2. re: Humbucker

              After reading the wikipedia article on fat choy, no wonder I can't remember anything. Scary. I'm glad that it isn't being used so much any more. My mom pulled the last of her stash out for CNY dinner the other day.

            3. Sweet trays.... candied lotus seeds, winter melon, lotus root. melon seeds.
              We have jai ( veg dish that includes fat choy, dried oysters and lettuce...all of these ingredients sound like something good in chinese) for the new years day dinner. But the family dinner on new years eve we always have a whole fish and a whole chicken...don't know why.

              6 Replies
              1. re: sweetie

                oh and don't forget, oranges. Everyone gets oranges for some reason that I can't recall????

                1. re: justagthing

                  The way you pronounce "mandarin orange" in mandarin sounds like word "gold" so it symbolizes fortune and good luck ... much like the number "4" is bad luck because phonetically it sounds like death.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Actually, it's the pronunciation in Cantonese that's the same - "gam". In Mandarin it's "gan" for the orange and "jin" for gold.

                2. re: sweetie

                  'But the family dinner on new years eve we always have a whole fish and a whole chicken...don't know why.'

                  Its for a good beginning and a good ending for the year.

                  1. re: sweetie

                    candied wintermelon is the best!

                  2. It never occurred to me that rice-stuffed chicken had New Year's connotations, other than it's a good banquet dish. (We are wont to order it year-round in San Fancisco).

                    I think the traditional musts are jiaozi in the north, sweet nian gao in the south, and tang yuan everywhere. At our house, celebrating Spring Festival demands the Shanghainese specialty soup "yan du xian" and sometimes Wuxi New Year's Soup, which contains a whole poached egg in each serving. My wife makes yuanzi anytime between New Year's day and the Lantern Festival.

                    1. I think all has been mentioned - uncut noodles in some fashion for good luck. And a chicken dish for sure. I know that's a must in Taiwan - believe Chicken in Taiwanese rhymes (or is a homophone with another character) for something like good luck. No mah jhong though! Still hoping I am not to old for a hong bao!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: scoopG

                        chinese good luck money envelopes are to be given to not only children, but i was told, also to singles. so, if you are still single, then it would be appropriate for older adults to give them to you, hee hee.

                      2. I always make Yuan; since getting married, I miss my red envelopes ;o) Long life noodles are a must too.

                        1. We also have those fried dough cookies. Its shaped into little round balls and cylinder shapes.

                          "Lai see tong" Red envelope candy can be purchased in chinatown.

                          A big yellow pomelo! It looks like a big grapefruit. In chinese it sounds like "to have".

                          Chinese new year turnip cake.

                          'Yu' Fish in chinese also sounds like "surplus" in chinese.

                          Everything must have a head and a tail. Its for a good beginning and a good ending for the year.

                          My toisan grandmother used to make 'Hom shui Gok' and 'Jeen Doi'. I miss those the most.

                          We would never visit a home without a bag of oranges and sweets.

                          1. What a nice post--brings back wonderful memories of my parents, both of whom are no longer here. We always had oranges, pomelos and various sweets on the table, the latter to symbolize a sweet life. And, for the longest time, we had those "White Rabbit" candies. And, as others mentioned, fish, long-life noodles, and fat choy, which I loved, loved, loved. Long-grain rice for a long life. Lily buds, aka golden needles, to symbolize gold.

                            And no crying, sweeping, taking out the trash or washing one's hair on New Year's so you won't sweep/trash/wash away all your luck!

                            A wonderful New Year to all.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: gloriousfood

                              Heh, that reminds me that my grandmother scolds me if I get a haircut around any special or important celebration day (such as this)

                            2. Half moon shaped sweet dumplings filled with ground peanuts, sweetened flaked coconut, brown sugar, and sesame seeds. You have the get the right wrappers to get the nice crispy texture when fried, plus the brown sugar melts onto the wrapper on the inside. Gok doi in cantonese.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: peppatty

                                gok jai in cantonese..gok doi is toisan.