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Chinese New Year must-have dishes

What are the traditional dishes to bring to a Chinese home for a new year's dinner -- what to get from restaurants, delis, etc.?

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  1. I think this might depend on exactly where said Chinese people are from. Personally, I get most excited about the pineapple tarts:


    ...which are likely not even a new year's thing for most Chinese people, but are definitely part of the festivities if you're from Malaysia/Singapore/Indonesia.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mogo

      I think it depends too, but I was a HUGE fan of bak kwa when I lived in Singapore - soooo yummy!!

    2. Faat Choy, or black moss with Dried Oyster for wealth and prosperity and Noodle dishes signify longevity. I've also had the Dried Oysters with Waterchestnuts served in lettuce cups at traditional Chinese New Year celebrations.


      1. Different regions in China have their own distinct dishes, so it depends on the family.

        1 Reply
        1. re: raytamsgv

          Cantonese...jai, white cut chicken, kau yuk, what else?... You're right, it depends on the family as well.

        2. Bring oranges and/or tangerines with a small piece of stem and leaf still attached to symbolize your wishes for a prosperous new year.

          1. Are you sure the "must-haves" aren't already going to be covered? For example, I would want a whole fish on the table, but I wouldn't just cross my fingers and hope that someone showed up with one. So if you're interested in contributing in that way, I would definitely contact the hosts and coordinate with them.

            But otherwise, just about anything you bring can be justified symbolically if you try hard enough. Lasagna has wide, flat noodles that symbolize peace and prosperity. Stuffed vine leaves are little purses filled with pearls. Fried chicken… well, it's fried, so people will eat it. And the oil reminds us of the miracle of the lamp that stayed lit for 8 whole days, even though… oh, hold on a second, that's the wrong index card. Here we go: The Chinese word for "chicken" also means "accumulation". So bring it on.

            3 Replies
              1. re: DeppityDawg

                "The Chinese word for "chicken" also means "accumulation"."

                I think you mean that the two words are homophones. Chicken is 鸡, accumulate is 积

                1. re: PorkButt

                  You're right, it's much funnier that way. ;)

                  If the dinner was at your house I'd skip the 饑 and bring 珠 instead.

              2. In my husband's family his parents prepare the meal and I never knew what to bring so I started bringing flowers. 20 yrs later I still bring flowers - red, pink and orange tied with gold ribbon and his mom always enjoys this gift.

                4 Replies
                1. re: juliewong

                  We used to bring flowers and plants when the parents were able to cook their delicious dishes, but now they can't, so I was hoping to bring things from a restaurant or deli instead, but not sure what would be appropriate and most of all, "vital"...

                  1. re: Sarah

                    If you haven't already done so, perhaps you should ask them which dishes they prefer. My relatives used to eat completely traditional dishes, but one year, someone introduced them to Popeye's fried chicken. They've been eating it ever since.

                    1. re: Sarah

                      First the idea of "whole-ness", meaning a whole chicken, and a whole fish (including the head and feet). Second always a vegetarian dish, no killing on the new year. Third, something that sounds like getting rich. Faat Choy ("hair vegetable) is one such, but it's difficult to find and expensive. So lettuce (also sound like getting rich) does nicely.

                      Then fruits (oranges, tangerine), candies (Chinese markets all sell these candy trays).

                  2. My wife always has 12 fruits (mostly Asian) on the table - jackfruit, sugar apple, lychee, rambutan, etc.

                    1. As mentioned before, chicken in some form (preferably whole with the head and feet attached), citrus fruit (in even numbers), and if they have any Buddhist leanings nothing with beef (a nod to Buddhism's Hindu origins)

                      There are restaurants that put together something called "poon choy" originating from Hong Kong which roughly translates to tub meal - it's a large bowl with layers of food starting with stewed daikon on the bottom and the meats on top.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: PorkButt

                        Thanks! It's things like the chicken with head and feet attached that I need to know about...