Food Feature of the Week: Lunar New Year

As many of you know, this past week cultures across the world celebrated the Lunar New Year. This event marks the beginning of the year of calendars that are based on the lunar cycle. We frequently know this date as simply Chinese New Year, but other festivals fall on this day as well, such as Tét, Korean New Year, and many more!

One of the best parts about holidays is the special dishes made to commemorate the entrance of the New Year. Many recipes made on Chinese New Year are presented in order to ensure a plentiful year to come. For example, noodles are featured as a representation of long life, and sweet desserts such as sticky rice symbolize rich, sweet, and abundant life. Notably, on Chinese New Year foods gain significance from their qualities as homonyms, or words that spell or sound the same as other words. Tangerines and oranges are popular because their Chinese names sound like luck and wealth, respectively. Words for different types of fish often sound like those for wish and abundance, so meals on New Year’s Eve frequently feature fish towards the end of the courses.

The Vietnamese New Year Celebration Tét tends to mostly be vegetable-based because it is believed to be good luck to start the New Year as a vegetarian. One of the most popular Tét dishes is banh bhung, a broiled rice cake wrapped in banana leaves, a traditional celebratory dish. This portable dish notably was fed to the early soldiers, particularly during the victory of the Dong Da battle over the Chinese, which occurred during Tét in the late 19th century.

Traditional Korean New Year dishes include white rice cake soup, mung-bean cakes, and sweet rice beverages. These dishes are significant because of their circular shape, debated to either be referencing coins or the sun, and because of the cleanliness and purity represented by the white rice and clear broth.

Happy New Year!

Photo courtesy of Flickr/sonictk.

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