Top 12 Most Popular Chinese New Year Lucky Dishes for 2021

Chinese new year, a 15-day-long traditional Chinese lunar year festival that is considered the most important festival in China. In 2021, Chinese New Year falls on 12th Feb, 2021, and it’s going to be the Year of the Metal Ox.

There is a name for this Chinese new year eve dinner called: 年夜饭.(pinyin: nián yè fàn; pronounced: neeyan yee-eh fan, literally means: year, evening, meal) So what do Chinese people eat for the new year eve feast nián yè fàn or “年夜饭”

The truth is, it varies from house to house and province to province.
Since it’s a family feast, it is of course also influenced by personal home cooking, family eating preferences, and regional styles of cooking.

But, there are certain auspicious dishes almost every house makes during Chinese New Year as beneficial symbolism for prosperity, longevity, wealth, and good luck. Here they are:

6 most common and must-eat Chinese New Year traditional lucky foods: Dumplings, Fish, Spring rolls, Braised pork meatballs, Chicken, and Nian gao (sticky rice cake);

6 popular Chinese New Year dishes: wonton, tangyuan, longevity noodles, Chinese cabbage meat rolls, hotpot, and seafood.

1. Dumplings: wealth

Chinese New Year lucky food dumplings
Chinese New Year lucky food dumplings

Auspicious meaning and why it is lucky?

Dumplings, 饺子, pinyin: jiǎo zi, (pronounced jiaow tze) is a signature dish in Chinese cuisine. Not only it is eaten on new year’s eve feast, but it is also a major player at many mealtimes during the Chinese new year festival time.

Because its appearance looks like the ancient Chinese silver ingot, which symbolises money and wealth, the tradition is that the more dumplings you eat during the new year festival, the more money you make next year!

Chinese ancient money ——ingot
Chinese ancient money ——ingot

Usually, people wrap a coin in one of the dumplings, so it becomes a secret ‘lucky dumpling cracker’, and whoever eats it gets the most luck and money fortune of this year. (Nowadays, for safety concerns the coin sometimes gets replaced by peanut or candy.)

2. A whole fish: abundance

Fish, pinyin: yú, pronunciation: Eeew! (Really!) the same as another Chinese character ,meaning surplus / abundance. The Chinese habit
is to save and make a surplus for the future, eating a surplus fish, symbolising, always having abundance and surplus year after year.

Tips on eating a Chinese new year fish dish

  • The fish head should be placed toward the distinguished guest or elderly for respect.
  • Don’t flip over the fish when eating – it can mean reversal of fortune.
  • Never finish the fish on this meal, always save some leftovers.
Chinese fish dish
Chinese fish dish

3. Spring roll: wealth & fresh start

春卷, pinyin: chūn juǎn, (Pr: Twun Juen) meaning spring roll, is auspicious because of its appearance, like a golden bar symbolising wealth. The fillings are mostly a mixture of vegetables, meat, or even sweets. Wrapped up using unleavened dough wrappers then fried till golden-yellow colour.

Chinese New Year auspicious food spring roll
Chinese New Year auspicious food spring roll, meaning wealth and a fresh start

4. Braised pork balls in sauce: good fortune, high salary, healthiness, and happiness

This is a traditional lucky dish not only just during the Chinese new year festival but also gets listed on the lucky food menu of most feast occasions such as a wedding banquets or longevity banquets for a senior’s birthday.

Chinese lucky dish braised happiness meatballs
Chinese lucky dish braised happiness meatballs

The Chinese name is 四喜丸子, pinyin: sì xǐ wán zi, (Pr: ser shi wan tzi) literally means four happiness balls. Each represents, fú fortunate,   lù official pay 寿  shòu healthiness, 喜 xǐ happiness, and it is often made from quality minced pork balls and braised in juicy gravy sauce, sounds month-watering isn’t it?

Order tip: 4 happiness or line head meatballs

These two dishes get confused often, they are all meatballs, the slight differences in their cooking method these days are not easy to tell anymore, but, just remember one thing:

chinese-food-lionhead-ball

Lion head meatball is bigger compared to the four happiness meatballs, hence they usually served as a single ball in as a dish while the four happiness meatballs are always served as four in one dish.

5. Chicken: Auspicious

Chicken, 鸡, pinyin: jī, (Pr: jee) sounds like another Chinese character jí 吉, which means fortunate and auspicious, hence eating a chicken dish during the Chinese new year festival is lucky.

chinese auspicious dish chicken
Chinese new year auspicious food: chicken

6. Sticky Rice Cake: Year of great Achievement

Auspicious meaning and why it is lucky?

Called as Nian Gao in Chinese, (年糕, pinyin: nián gāo, literally means: year, high) is made from glutinous rice, sugar, nuts, and China dates, etc.

This dish is lucky because it sounds good. Meaning a year higher on all your achievements, such as a better study score for students, a better income for employees, or a more prosperous year for business.

Chinese New Year lucky food nian gao
Chinese New Year lucky food nian gao

Taste recommendation: In terms of good taste in eating, it’s not to everyone’s taste; sticky and sugary… But it’s always on the festival table for its auspicious meaning.

7. Chinese Cabbage Meat Rolls: Wealth

Auspicious meaning and why it is lucky?

翡翠白菜卷, pinyin: fěi cuì bái cài juǎn, (Pr: fey tswei bai tai juen) literally means jade cabbage roll, is lucky both for its fortunate name and the bar-like shape. If you use yellowish Chinese cabbage to make the meat rolls, it looks golden and yellow symbolising golden bars, meaning wealth.

Chinese auspicious dish cabbage meat rolls
Chinese auspicious dish cabbage meat rolls

Easy homemade recipe video for this lucky Chinese new year dish

It is often made with minced pork stuffing mixed with vegetable ingredients in the ‘bar’, with some tomato gravy, the taste is splendourus-yummy, check the video – learn how to make this lucky Chinese dish:

New year lucky recipe: Chinese cabbage meat roll
You might also be interested in our other Chinese New Year articles

8. Longevity noodles: longevity

长寿面, pinyin: cháng shòu miàn, literally: longevity noodle. This dish explains itself, is a very traditional auspicious dish that gets eaten on all kinds of occasions, birthdays, weddings, new year, etc.

Chinese auspicious food longevity noodles
Chinese auspicious food longevity noodles
Chinese auspicious food longevity noodles
Chinese auspicious food longevity noodles

9. Sweet rice balls ——family togetherness

Chinese New Year lucky food tang yuan

汤圆, pinyin: tāng yuán, (Pr: yuen) sounds like the Chinese word for togetherness: 团圆,tuán yuán, hence a lucky dish.

10. Wonton: wealth and treasure

馄饨, pinyin: hún tun, (Pr: Hwentwen) is also a lucky dish for Chinese new year, like dumplings, its shape also look like ancient Chinese silver ingot, symbolising wealth.

11. Hot pot: great festival occasion choice

火锅, pinyin: huǒ guō, (Pr: huwar guwar) meaning hot pot, if you are a truly Chinese food lover, you would know this dish by now. You cook it at the table itself! Strictly speaking, I couldn’t think of any particular auspicious meaning of this, but it is popularly eaten all the time in China and a good choice for a bunch of friends and families sitting together having a good time – it’s a sharing ‘all-dip-in’ kind of meal.

popular Chinese food hot pot
Popular Chinese food: hot pot

12. Seafood

Seafood doesn’t really have any auspicious meanings but it is quite common to see various seafoods on the Chinese feast meal table.

Chinese popular seafood spicy crayfish
Popular Chinese dish: spicy crayfish

You might also be interested in our other Chinese New Year articles

You can find Easy to Make Chinese Recipe ideas on our YouTube Channel:
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