Cooking up a feast this Lunar New Year? The Chinese has a belief that CNY dishes must contain auspicious ingredients to ensure the year ahead is filled with happiness, prosperity and good health. Stock up these auspicious festive ingredients and roll in good blessings in the Year of the Rat.
Known as “Hai Shen” (海参) in Chinese, the latter character sounds like “sheng” (生), which gives a symbolic meaning of new offspring blessings in the new year. In Cantonese, it is a homophone for “good heart” (to avoid conflicts), which is representative of smooth sailing relationships. Although this delicacy is almost tasteless on its own, it soaks up the taste of the broth and ingredients it is cooked with, and is best used for soups and braised dishes.
Dried Hokkaido Scallops
For a good dose of sweet and rich sea flavour, dried scallops are a must-have to enrich the flavours in soups, sauces and braised dishes. It is also symbolic of prosperity. The high-quality ones come from Hokkaido. Whenever you run out of meat or stock, just grab a handful of dried Hokkaido scallops to infuse a rich savoury flavour to your food.
Chinese New Year reunion meal without fish maw soup is never complete. The Chinese pronunciation for fish is a homophone for abundance. If you prefer a soup that is rich in collagen, try the dried fish maw or dried fish tube instead of fried fish maw. While both carry a chewy texture, dried fish maw is thicker and has a stickier and chewier texture that is expected of a collagen-rich food.
Having abalone during the New Year is symbolic of “guaranteed surpluses” and prosperity. Canned abalone requires little preparation too. Simply slice the abalone thinly and lay over your vegetable dish, or add some slices to your fish maw soup for extra huat.
Red is a symbolism of good luck and happiness during the Lunar New Year. Don’t forget to add a dash of red to your soups, vegetables, meat or desserts. Rich in antioxidants, vitamins A and C, red wolfberries bring good meaning of staying forever young and beautiful too.
Here’s to adding a sweet start to the new year. Other than its auspicious colour, red dates symbolises having a good head start and prosperity for the year ahead. This is because “dates” (枣zao) have the same pronunciation as “early” (早 zao). Make a red date tea or use them to sweeten soups or desserts.
You can’t celebrate the festive season without some sweetness. Dried longans symbolise fortune and reunion, and are a wonderful ingredient for dessert soups. You can also make dried longan tea to nourish one’s vitality.
For a sweet year ahead and sweet blessings, snow fungus dessert soup can be served at the end of the reunion meal. Add some lotus seeds, dried longans, red dates and wolfberries to nourish the blood, calm the mind and promote youthful looking skin.