Explainer: Seven Chinese New Year dishes that carry good wishes

February 06, 2024

Whether the Chinese New Year is being celebrated in the east, west, south, or north of the country, it is a moment of family happiness and collective well-being for every Chinese individual. This traditional festival carries the anticipation of family reunions and food. New Year’s culinary delights carry not only delicious flavours but also profound cultural significance, symbolising wishes for abundance, prosperity, and joy in the coming year. On the eve of the year, people cherish laughter and family time, turning the ups and downs into sumptuous dishes.

1. Dumplings

In northern China, dumplings are an essential delicacy on the table of every household during the Chinese New Year. Typically on New Year's Eve, families gather to make the dumplings, using different types of meat and vegetable fillings and unique folding techniques. In some regions, coins are placed inside the dumplings, symbolising a prosperous financial year ahead.


2. Rice cake

The New Year's rice cake in China is either sweet or savoury. Sweet rice cake is typically filled with ingredients like sugar, red dates, and peanuts, while savoury rice cake is often made with glutinous rice flour. Flavours vary across regions. The round shape of the rice cake symbolises completeness, reunion, and happiness, signifying the hope for a higher quality of life and good fortune in the upcoming year.

Rice cakes

3. Fish

Eating fish during Chinese New Year is a common tradition. The fish is often served whole, symbolising abundance each year. In addition, it represents wealth, prosperity and family harmony.


4. Eight Treasures Rice Pudding

In southern regions of China, such as Guangdong and Fujian, Eight Treasures Rice Pudding is a traditional delicacy renowned for its rich symbolism and unique preparation. It combines glutinous rice, red dates, lotus seeds, osmanthus flowers, pine nuts, peanuts, red beans, raisins, and other ingredients, symbolising the auspicious wish for abundant blessings and complete family harmony.


Eight Treasures Rice Pudding

5. Sugar gourd

In northern China, sugar gourd (named for its round shape, not because it contains gourds) is also a common delicacy during the New Year. The New Year’s preparation process is similar to how traditional sugar gourds are made, using fruits as the main ingredients coated with syrup to form a hard candy shell. Its appearance is crystal clear and colourful, adding to the festive New Year atmosphere and making it a delicious snack full of the flavour of the season.


Sugar gourd

6. Deep-fried doughnut

Deep-fried doughnut is a well-known food in Guangdong province. The preparation involves kneading flour and water into dough, fermenting it, rolling it into thin sheets, wrapping it around fillings, rolling it into a triangular shape, and finally frying it until golden and crispy. The outer layer is crispy and the filling is full, symbolising good luck and prosperity.

Deep-fried doughnut


7. Sugar lotus root

Sugar lotus root is a traditional Chinese sweet and an indispensable dish on the table during the Chinese New Year in Jiangsu province. Its appearance is semi-transparent, with a crispy texture. It is sweet but not overly so, with a subtle lotus root fragrance. With its delightful taste and unique preparation process, sugar lotus root holds a special place in Chinese traditional culture.

Sugar lotus root

By Meiting Shu Ye, Yilin Li and Wenhao Ye
Edited by Tamara Kaup and Patricia Pieterse

February 06, 2024


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