Nancie McDermott, author of 10 cookbooks on Asian cuisine including Quick & Easy Chinese: 70 Everyday Recipes, talked with me about good luck, good eats, and the impending Year of the Tiger. Here’s her rundown of typical Lunar New Year dishes:
Visually Lucky Foods. “Long and winding, a pile of noodles has no end in sight, and that says, ‘Longevity!’ They’re an edible expression of the long, happy, healthy, and prosperous life we want to have.”
Round things. “From tangerines and oranges to plump little chewy rice dumplings served in a warm, sweet adzuki bean soup, anything round says, ‘Perfect, whole, complete.’ The round dining table, the roundness of the full moon, the circle of family members feasting around the circular dining table—it’s all a reminder of harmony and completeness.”
Whole things. “Whole fish first and foremost, as well as duck or chicken served whole. These things are whole and complete, referencing the idea that all’s right with the world.”
Dumplings: “Particularly in Northern Chinese provinces, plump dumplings have long been a New Year’s food tradition. It’s said that their shape resembles that of plump rounded silver ingots in ancient times. Plus, the tradition of gathering with family on New Year’s Eve or during the 2 week celebration to roll out wrappers, fill, shape, and cook pork dumplings, is an auspicious, fun and delicious way to welcome the New Year.”
Other lucky foods. “Lettuce; candied fruits, nuts, coconut, and melon seeds; and sticky rice ‘cakes.’
Gong hei fat choi!