The Lunar New Year celebrates the start of a new year in the lunisolar calendar. Commonly called the Spring Festival, this event also marks the transition from one animal of the Chinese zodiac to the next. This year will signal the start of the year of the Tiger, which is known as the king of all beasts in China and symbolizes strength and braveness.
To honor this festive holiday, people across the globe, especially in East and Southeast Asia, celebrate with lantern festivals, traditional dances and lots of food. It's customary to serve and eat dishes that are believed to bring good fortune. Noodles, dumplings (don't forget the dipping sauce!), spring rolls and steamed fish are just a few of the tasty offerings usually prepared for this joyous occasion. Ring in the Lunar New Year with these lucky and delicious recipes.
These quick and easy Chinese noodles are good luck all year long! Two whole teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper add a warm, tingly taste to this savory dish. The heat plays perfectly with the rich beef and sweet shrimp.
Korean sweet potato noodles (which, by the way, are gluten-free) have a wonderful springy texture. They're on the long side, so they tend to get tangled. If that happens, just cut them with kitchen scissors after cooking and rinsing them. This recipe calls for shrimp but is traditionally this dish is made with beef. Any protein, such as tofu, scallops or chicken can be substituted here.
Sweet and savory Chinese sausage gets chopped with fragrant ginger, garlic chives and cilantro. Shiitake mushrooms add an earthy flavor to mix before getting enclosed in tender dumpling wrappers. This is versatile dumpling filling that can also be used as chunky meat sauce.
For Lunar New Year, it is traditional to eat a whole fish because the word for fish in Chinese is similar to the word for surplus. Prepare a whole fish to have good luck in the beginning and end of the New Year as well as throughout the year. This dish is also great for entertaining because the ingredients can be gathered and prepped for the fish the day before and just steam and sizzle day of.
Dumplings are a universally loved food. Every culture has some type of filled dumpling. For Lunar New Year, dumplings represent good luck and the rounded shape resembles the shape of gold ingots from ancient China. Usually, the Chinese eat boiled dumplings at New Year's, but Hsiao-Ching Chou's family loves eating the pan-fried version. Make this a group activity and set up an assembly line, and the prep time will shrink!
This humble dish gives more than it takes. It's soupy and hearty without being heavy. For Lunar New Year, this dish represents a big, happy family.
It's traditional to serve a whole animal for Chinese New Year — whether a whole fish or a whole duck. The whole animal is a symbol of unity and completeness. Oranges are also symbolic because they are golden orange in color, which is a symbol of "gold" wealth and therefore prosperity.
Judy Joo grew up making these tasty dumplings. "Plump dumplings neatly lined up on plates and trays covered every surface of the kitchen," she says. "I used to only eat the skins, shaking out the meaty insides for my sister. As I got older, I learned to savor those juicy gems as well, but the crispy skins are still my favorite part."
For the Lunar New Year feast, it's important to have a balance of dishes, as well as a mix of flavors and textures. Having plenty of stir-fried vegetables is key. Lettuce is symbolic of prosperity, so a hearty green leaf lettuce can be substituted for the baby bok choy in this recipe to ensure good fortune for the year.
This delicious, deep-fried snack is commonly known as spring rolls, but in Indonesia they're called lumpia. It's a tradition to make these golden, crispy and moreish snacks for special occasions and make the perfect appetizer for Lunar New Year. They are also great for enjoying past the holiday as they can be frozen in a single layer on a tray, then piled into a bag or container and kept in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Mie goreng translates to "fried noodles," and there are as many variations as there are islands in Indonesia. Common to each version are the chewy egg noodles that form the base of the dish, coated in a delicious sweet and salty sauce, stirred together with vegetables, meat, tofu or seafood. Enjoyed by both young and old alike, this comforting Indonesian meal will satisfy even the fussiest of little eaters and is a great meal to cook for the whole family.
This recipe can wear many different hats because you can change the protein and vegetables according to what you have on hand. During Chinese New Year, families enjoy eating noodles, because the noodles represent a long life — especially if the cook makes homemade noodles that are extra long.
It is a Korean tradition to serve this deeply flavorful soup for the Lunar New Year. The meaty dumplings, tender oxtail and chewy rice make this festive meal. It's a delicious way to celebrate with friends and family.
Pineapples symbolize luck and wealth and thus are very popular during Lunar New Year. The word for pineapple in some Chinese dialects sounds like prosperity.
For Korean New Year's Day, it is tradition to serve mandu a few ways. They're commonly steam-fried or enjoyed in the celebratory soup, Dduk Mandu Guk (Rice Cake and Dumpling Soup). Whichever way mandu is serves, it'll certainly be a delicious start to the new year.
Dumplings are such a well-loved Chinese staple often made with minced pork or veggies. This elevated version by using a moreish pulled short-rib filling instead, which creates such a surprise for dumpling lovers. It also keeps well in the freezer; you can them make in larger batches and whip some out whenever the dumpling craving strikes.
This is a staple shrimp-based dumpling filling, made brighter and more complex by chrysanthemum. They are garlicky, savory, sweet and fragrant and perfectly plump yet still light. They tick every box for perfect dumplings.
A fun variation on the beloved tomato and egg, this brings in shepherd's purse — a common vegetable found in Shanghainese cooking — for a pop of green and round, vegetal flavor. If shepherd's purse can't be found, simply substitute with spinach.
Achieve the balance of tender, yet crispy spare ribs by first braising and then frying them. Finish them with a sweet and spicy hoisin chili sauce glaze. This recipe takes some time, but the result is well worth the wait.
Turon and halo-halo are the most popular desserts in the Philippines. Halo-halo is a wildly delicious dish, but it's not the easiest dish to make. Turon, on the other hand, is much easier to make. It is like the dessert version of lumpia — a sweet spring roll filled with banana, jackfruit and brown sugar. This is traditionally made with a plantain-like banana called saba, which is a firmer banana. But regular bananas are equally good here.
This dish has for decades been the go-to order of culinary historian Dr. Jessica B. Harris when dining at Chinese restaurants around the world. "I am not sure where I tasted this classic dish for the first time," she says. "No matter what the genesis of my love for the dish, it is one that is equally at home on a weekday dinner table and at a multi-course feast, and I delight in checking out the subtle ways that chefs take on the classic and transform it into their own."
This simple chow mein dish is most commonly served at dim sum restaurants, where the noodles are fried on the spot in the traveling hot trolley. At home, this is a breakfast staple, made from scant pantry ingredients. Garlic chives add a distinct aromatic flavor, dark soy sauce adds the signature caramel color to the noodles and a fried egg to amplifies the breakfast feeling.
Joanne Molinaro, aka The Korean Vegan, has fond memories of this family recipe. "I will never forget how my father waited patiently on the living room sofa as my mother frantically fried dozens and dozens of egg rolls for his work holiday party," she says. "It was around midnight because my dad worked the night shift. It was the one time of the year that my father, who was probably the most introverted and socially awkward employee at the United States Postal Service, became the most popular man at the office. The holiday party wasn't complete without my mom's egg rolls. I've used my mother's egg rolls to win over grumpy teachers and colleagues alike, and even my own mother-in-law declared them to be worthy of attempted bribery."
This is a classic Chinese takeout recipe that's so easy to make at home. This crispy chicken packs a doubly lemony punch with zest in the breadcrumb coating and freshly squeezed juice in the sauce. Serve the strips on skewers so they can easily be dipped into the sauce.
Jet Tila's lo mein is a deceptively simple dish. If you have all the ingredients, you can have a plate of delicious noodles on the table within 15 to 20 minutes, prep included.
Sticky, citrusy and sweet, these wings are so easy to make and a great crowd pleaser. The orange juice and the hoisin marry very well giving the wings a delicious fruity and savory flavor. A finish of sliced chiles adds the perfect hint of heat to cute the richness of the glaze.
"My mom used to make these dumplings every weekend by the dozen for my brother and me," says Joanne Chang. "As soon as I was old enough to learn how to make them with her, I relished the experience. They are full of juicy pork, zingy ginger and garlicky chive, steamed until tender then crisped to perfection on the bottom. We always made so many because we could never stop eating them. This recipe will make about 40 to 50 dumplings total, so you don't have to either!"
These slow-cooker char siu spareribs are more tender and more delicious than the usual take-out Chinese restaurant standard. The key is a super flavorful braising broth made with ginger, garlic, hoisin, honey, soy and spicy chile sauce that becomes a sticky, finger-licking glaze.
Say goodbye to bland tofu! The technique of pressing helps to squeeze out extra water from the tofu which allows it to better absorb flavors. Here the pressed tofu gets soaked in soy sauce and rice wine vinegar, then cooked and tossed in a spicy finishing sauce with crisp veggies. The result is an exciting dish with deeply developed flavor and perfectly textured tofu.
"My family was among the first to introduce this dish to America nearly 50 years ago and the American version differs slightly from the native one," says Jet Tila. "The super bright orange was accentuated with paprika instead of the traditional addition of chile paste to give it a slight tint. And we typically finish this dish with garlic chives vs. green onions. I always say pad thai is like pancakes. You'll burn a few before you get the knack for it." (But it's well worth it.)