During Chinese New Year, the kinds of foods served and the gifts guests should bring when visiting friends and family are important customs to consider. These are some traditional dishes and food items you can find in a Chinese home during this festive season.

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What they symbolise: wealth

Did you know that dumplings have a history dating back more than 1,800 years? Widely popular in China, especially in the north, it is traditional for Chinese families to make and eat dumplings together on CNY Eve. Formed in the shape of a Chinese silver ingot, it is said that the more dumplings you shove into your mouth, the more wealth you will accumulate in the new year!

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Photo credit: wikiHow

Glutinous rice cake

What it symbolises: growth

We’re talking about work promotions, grades in school, height… anything you want to ”grow“! From Chinese to English, ”glutinous rice cake“ translates literally to “higher by the year”. In Hong Kong and Guangdong, it’s usually sweetened with brown sugar, then steamed and sometimes also pan-fried.

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Photo credit: Rasa Malaysia

Glutinous rice balls

What they symbolise: reunion

Gotta love glutinous rice balls for their chewy texture and traditional fillings like sesame and peanut. Their round shape signifies family togetherness, when everyone comes together for a reunion. They’re typically served in a sweet, clear broth that’s heavy on the ginger.

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Photo credit: The New York Times

Longevity noodles

What they symbolise: long life

More traditionally served in China, legend has it that the longer the noodles served to you, the longer you will live!

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Photo credit: Nicole Lana


What they symbolise: luck and success

Pump up your loved ones’ and your own luck when you display or gift someone tangerines. Not only are they bright and orange, resembling golden ingots, the Chinese pronunciation for tangerine can either sound like ”success“ or ”luck“.

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Photo credit: Chinese New Year


What it symbolises: prosperity

In Chinese, the word for ”fish“ (鱼 – yú) has the same pronunciation as 余, which means “surplus” or “extra”. A typical CNY blessing is 年年有余 (nián nián yǒuyú), wishing someone to have a surplus (or fish) of food and money that year.

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