The Lunar New Year was on Feb. 16, and 2018 is the Year of the Dog. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Chinese Zodiac, each year corresponds to a Chinese Zodiac animal that follows a 12-year cycle. Luck and superstition are very integrated into Chinese culture, and there are actually many traditional foods that are popular around Lunar New Year that will help bring you a lucky new year!

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Niangao (Glutinous Rice Cake)

Niangao is a steamed glutinous rice cake made up of sticky rice, brown sugar, chestnuts, dates and other different ingredients depending on the regional cuisine. In Chinese, niangao sounds like the term for “higher year,” implying that eating this rice cake will result in a job promotion, higher grades, children growing taller or self-improvement.

Jiaozi (Dumplings)

Traditionally, Chinese dumplings that are eaten on Lunar New Year’s Eve are filled with cabbage, ground pork and scallions. Dumplings symbolize wealth because they are made in the shape of Chinese silver ingots, and legend has it that the more dumplings you eat, the more money you will make during the year.

Chun Juan (Spring Rolls)

Spring rolls also symbolize wealth and prosperity because their golden-yellow color makes them look like gold bars. This dish is popular even in Western cultures, but traditional-style spring rolls are filled with carrots, shiitake mushrooms, cabbage, bean sprouts and pork and are deep-fried and eaten with soy sauce.

Changshou Mian (Longevity Noodles)

Changshou Mian directly translates to “live long noodles,” which is why they represent longevity throughout the new year. These noodles are longer than usual and are uncut, symbolizing a long, healthy life. They are usually fried and served with oyster sauce, but you can also eat them in a simple broth with bok choy.

Good Fortune Fruit

Good Fortune Fruits are oranges, tangerines, kumquats and pomelos. Their round shape and golden color symbolizes fullness, wealth and success. These fruits bring luck when displayed or given as gifts, and the more you eat, the more luck you will receive.

Tang Yuan (Glutinous-Rice Balls in Sweet Syrup)

These sweet rice balls are a type of dessert that is the center of attention for China’s Lantern Festival. The round shape is thought to represent reunion and family, and they are made with glutinous rice-flour stuffed with black sesame paste and served in a bowl of sweet warm syrup.


Winnie Lam
Winnie Lam serves as the 2020-2021 On The Menu Editor. She has an unhealthy obsession with Trader Joe's and she loves all things matcha.