Cover Image by: V 电影
During Chinese New Year, eating became one of the most crucial activities. Family members who are usually busy at work could finally take the chance to return to their hometown for a New Year reunion. Having a family come together to enjoy a boisterous meal feels particularly festive! As children, we may get to happily enjoy the sumptuous spread of dishes, but our mothers would be swamped with the preparations! Although each New Year dish might differ slightly amongst each other due to different dialect group, but the following 12 dishes are absolute must-haves!
Yong Tau Fu (Stuffed Tofu)
Yong Tau Fu is a trademark Hakka dish and is commonly used to treat guests. Also, we found that not only the Hakka people, Guangxi people have their own Guangxi Yong Tau Fu too! While we are blessed in abundance of food choices in Malaysia, most Chinese love to have Yong Tau Fu as one of their New Year dishes!
Roasted pork cooked with garlic
In Mandarin, garlic and ‘counting’ are homonyms, hence people believed that eating garlic would drastically improve your mathematical prowess. Later, a mandarin proverb emerged, roughly translated as ‘eating garlic brings you good fortune for counting money”. The pork has always been a favorite of the Chinese; with its crispy and fragrant outer skin combined with succulent meat. Other than that, the crunchy red pork skin implies a booming new year full of fiery energy, which is a good omen.
Sliced white chicken (Cantonese poached chicken)
Every Chinese would worship their ancestors at the eve of every New Year, and they would offer different dishes made of livestock. Per a Chinese proverb, it was held that the Cantonese loved poultry dishes. The cooking method for this dish is simple, but the ingredient which sets it apart from the rest lies within the dipping sauce that accompanies it. The sauce is made from a combination of ginger, sesame oil, and chopped parsley. The result is a chicken that is simply delicious.
Steamed pork with taro
Normally, this rustic dish is prepared by steaming or stewing pork first until it is thoroughly cooked then inversely placed in a bowl, which resulted in its name. Common cooking methods include ingredients such as yam or preserved vegetables. The latter provides a salty hint to enhance the soft pork meat. Additionally, using yam instead would result in a dish with multiple taste levels. Having said and done, it is still crucial to purchase a beautiful cut of the key ingredient — streaky meat.
Per Chinese believe fish represents yearly prosperity. While having New Year’s dinner, most dishes are bursting rich with flavor, and a perfectly steamed fish would harmoniously balance our palate. During Chinese New Year, it is a taboo to finish up the fish. As the pronunciation of fish is homonymous with “having extra”, it is believed that fish shall not be finished to bring prosperity. Many others, especially fishermen believe that fish served on the dining table cannot be flipped, or it will bring impending disaster (such as overturning boat or car accident).
There is a popular belief that eating lettuce could make you rich. Other than being homophonic of the mandarin word of ‘rich’, the Chinese also named their dishes in accordance to various prosperous phrases, such as ‘enrichment’, ‘prosperity’ and so on.
Fried spring rolls
Since the Lunar New Year is also known as the Spring Festival, fried spring rolls seemed to fit the occasion perfectly. This dish symbolizes the meaning of spring and brings about the blessings of the festival. After frying, the skin on the rolls turns to become a beautiful gold shade. In Malaysia, some families prefer spiced meat rolls to replace traditional ones!
Hainan Chap Chye (Hainan Mixed Vegetable Stew)
This traditional Hainanese-style mixed vegetable stew consists of a simple cooking method with no key ingredients. Eating this dish during Chinese New Year dinner resembles the togetherness of a family and symbolizes reunion. The many ingredients used in this dish include yellow sprouts, mushrooms, garlic, dried shrimp, and dried soy skin. By placing knotted enoki mushroom on the inside, it presents a greater symbol of reunion as well!
Pork trotters cooked with vinegar
The older generation of Hakka believes that the trotters resemble longevity as it looks fairly plump. Eating vinegar pork trotters on this festive season represents reunion and fully being together. It is said that the Hainanese will rear a certain number of pigs according to the number of members in their family. When slaughtering the adult pigs in the preparation for the New Year, they would draw lots when giving away different cuts of meat. And, it is commonly believed that those which ended up with trotters will have a plentiful harvest for the year.
Pig belly soup
The shape of a pork belly looks quite like a purse which is full. Certain families prefer their soup with radishes as it symbolizes good fortune in business.
The pot-stewed meat had always been a favorite of Teochew people, and braised duck is an indispensable food for reunion dinner. The duck is stewed for two hours or more, and the secret to this dish lies in the marinade sauce. By adding some rich marinade to plain rice or porridge, the whole bowl could simply be finished in no time!
The Hokkien celebrate their reunion dinner with fried noodles. Although the dish may seem rustic and overly simple, but the long noodles represent moral longevity.
So, which are your favorite dishes during reunion dinner? Do you realise that reunion dinner always taste better than usual? This is because these dishes are the core essence that represents the diet of many generations, and are filled with motherly love as well! Nevertheless, the spirit of a successful reunion dinner not only depends on mouth-watering traditional dishes but the company of family members as well. We hereby wish you a very happy golden Rooster year!
Translated from: 12道马来西亚式年菜。你知道他们都寓意什么吗？那一道是你的最爱快向老妈子下单吧！