Lunar New Year — Food

Note: Next week is mid-winter break for the fam. I will most likely be taking the week off from writing.

This is the third week in a row I’m writing about food. My friend Shukri said I need an intervention, perhaps a sambusa intervention – pillowy little triangles filled with lentils, potatoes, or meat and veggies. The reason for another food post – LUNAR NEW YEAR! I love lunar new year. It is a time of renewal, a chance for Asians to celebrate our Asianess, and of course the food and celebrations.

Many Asian countries follow the lunar/moon calendar. Lunar new year marks the start of the new year and welcoming of spring. It is a big deal in many Asian countries – China, Viet Nam, Singapore, Korea, Tibet, and other countries. Some Asian countries, like Japan, adopted the Gregorian/imperial calendar and celebrate their new year on Jan 1.

As a quick note, I am referring to the holiday as Lunar New Year to encompass many different cultures. Each culture that celebrates Lunar New Year has their own name for the holiday — Chūn Jié in China, Tết in Viet Nam, Losar in Tibet. This is also the Year of the Ox on the Chinese zodiac.

If you want to learn more about Lunar New Year and read your Lunar New Year un-fortune check out our previous year blog posts.

Foods of Lunar New Year

Each culture has their own way of celebrating Lunar New Year. In many of the celebrations gathering together to welcome the new year take place. Due to COVID19 many of these celebrations are cancelled or drastically different this year. As an example my friend Stacy, said her church is delivering hot pot kits to their fellowship and meeting over Discord — a new way to gather and be together. Another friend and I joked about starting new traditions that are less traditional like Lunar new year donuts — very not Asian, but one can rationalize the moon is round like a donut *shrug — I might be stretching here.

Eating well during the new years celebration foretells good eating the rest of the year. In the Chinese tradition serving two fish is customary, eating one and saving one for leftovers to start the year with a surplus. My friend Kam steams her fish and serves it with ginger scallion soy sauce. A whole chicken is traditional, but she prefers duck, and a vegetarian vermicelli dish to honor Buddha.

Many Chinese new year meals also include dumplings since they look like gold coins, and spring rolls resemble gold bars – both to signal financial prosperity. Long noodles are served to welcome a long life – don’t cut the noodles as you don’t want to cut your life short. If you want to get cooking here is a good starter menu.

In Vietnamese culture bánh chưng and bánh tét are served. Wrapped in banana leaves and string, these little packages are stuffed with glutinous rice and filling, then cut and fried to deliciousness. Learn the difference between the two here.

Tteokguk (떡국) Korean rice cake soup is believed to bring good luck in the new year. The soup is made with rice cakes swimming in a delicious broth and veggies.

When I polled my friends for their Lunar New Years food the picture of Stacy and Richard’s Taiwanese beef noodle soup made me want to lick my screen. Stephanie shared this video featuring Seattle local ingredients in Taiwanese Lunar New Year celebration.

Transcending pan-Asian cultures the snack tray – a round tray filled with different number (5, 6, or 8 depending on culture) of goodies – the tray of togetherness. Megan, a friend, put oranges in the middle a traditional Lunar New Year Food.

My friend Bao said I should skip writing and just post pictures of Lunar New Years food. So I’ll stop writing now and share all the pics of the celebration food. I always listen to Bao, she’s very smart, especially when it comes to food.

Tray of Togetherness — photo from Megan
Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup — Photo from Stacy
banh chung — Photo from Diana and Sadie (the dog)
Hot pot fixings — photo from Bao
hot pot fixings – photo from Bao

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