A famous Chinese proverb saying “From this well-filled stomach suffuses and radiates a happiness that is spiritual”. The Chinese relies upon instinct that when the stomach is right, everything is right, food is medicine and medicine is food. Other than ingridients and their benefits, Chinese cuisine is also full of philosophy, as there are hopes and prayers within.
Whether a belief or tradition, the philosophy of the typical Chinese New Year cuisine below is very interesting for us to learn, such as:
Served at family dinner before Chinese New Year, a whole fish (Yu) is a staple intended to welcome prosperity for the entire year. In Mandarin, the word for “surplus” (余) is a homophone of “fish” (鱼). There is also an idiom Nian Nian You Yu (年年有余), which means “to have surplus every year”.
It’s customary to serve the fish with the head and tail intact and only eat the middle because of another expression: 有头有尾 (yǒutóuyǒuwěi), which literally means “to have both a head and a tail.” This means to be disciplined and finish everything that one starts. For added luck and a sign of respect, the fish should face the elders.
A whole chicken is usually served to represent family togetherness. As chicken is high in protein, some believe that chicken during the new year representing rebirth. In certain households, the chicken’s feet are reserved for the breadwinners of the family to help them grasp onto wealth.
Following the circular concept, certain round fruits are eaten during Lunar New Year to encourage family unity. Oranges and tangerines are especially popular because their golden color is believed to attract wealth, while the word for orange 橙 (chéng) is a homophone for “success” (成 chéng). Another word for orange is 橘子 (júzi), which sounds similar to the word for good luck (吉 jí).
4. Basket/Moon Cake
Getting its name from the plaited leaf shaped as a basket which is used as a cake mold, very few still use the leaves and most of it are already packed with plastis nowadays. This cake is made from glutinous rice flour, coconut milk and sugar, which is cooked and stirred for hours, until it becomes a sticky mixture and poured it inside the cake mould. Its sticky texture symbolizes the closeness of the family and its sweet taste is a symbol of harmonious relationship.
5. Layered Cake (Lapis Legit)
The tradition of serving this cake during Chinese New Year may only be found in Indonesia. Layer cake itself is a cake that was brought by the Dutch and developed with added Indonesia local spices and is famous as one of the most delicious cakes in the world today. This cake symbolizes fortunes through its layers.
6. Pinnaple Tart Cake (Nastar)
One fascinating snack that is often fund in big festive seasons, such as Christmas, Eid Mubarak and Chinese New Year is Nastar Cake. The shape of a cake resembles a money coin, with sweet taste and golden-coloured contents, symbolizes fortune and prosperity. Making Nastar cake was a family ritual, however, it has becoming very rare for families to make this cake together from scratch. Of course, every family has their own special food, but the idea of serving this food during the Chinese New Year is to preserve tradition and celebrate togetherness. So, if you don’t celebrate Chinese New Year but want to taste this delicious food, just go straight to the home of your closest relatives or neighbors who celebrate it. Don’t worry, you don’t need to provide Angpao, they will be more than happy to welcome you.