Chinese New Year, starting Tuesday, February 1, and ending with the Lantern Festival today, on February 15, bids farewell to the Year of the Ox and ushers in the Year of the Tiger. Babies born this year will be brave, confident, and competitive, and 2022 will likely be a year that sees major change.
Celebrations of the Lunar New Year are joyful and festive, with decorations, gift exchanges, fireworks, dragon dances, sacrifices for ancestors, and of course, tons of delectable food at the New Year’s Eve family feast.
Spring rolls, dumplings, noodles, fish, and nian gao are traditional, but clever cooks can find plenty of ways to branch out while avoiding taboo food groups (cabbage and radishes with dumplings are fine, but sauerkraut is a no-no).
What foods can you add to your celebration of the Lunar New Year for 2022? Here are a few ideas that will surely have the foodies in your house salivating.
Turkey Spring Rolls
Spring rolls, associated with wealth and prosperity, are a staple of Lunar New Year festivities — the celebration is also known as the Spring Festival, so it makes sense. Typically, spring rolls are filled with a variety of minced veggies and pork, or sometimes chicken. For 2022, change it up with turkey instead.
There are two great reasons to try this swap. For starters, turkey is a good source of lean protein. True, spring rolls are fried, so they are not strictly a healthy food. But finding ways to make your favorite dishes a little healthier never hurts.
Plus, you might have a lot of leftover turkey in the freezer after the holidays, and this is a brilliant way to put it to good use. Vegan spring rolls (swap in mushrooms for the meat) are another option to consider.
Garlic Longevity Noodles (Yi Mein)
The concept here is simple: the longer the noodle, the greater your longevity, so leave them uncut. Yi mein can be as simple or complex as you like.
These cooked noodles are typically sauced with soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sesame oil and tossed with garlic, mushrooms, and green onions to create a satisfying flavor and surprising array of textures.
Add beef, chicken, pork, or seafood for more substance, but make sure to save room for the fish dish, typically served at the end of the New Year’s Eve feast.
Of course, some people opt for dumplings on New Year’s Eve and save yi mein for New Year’s Day. Funnily enough, the fillings are similar to the ingredients used in noodle dishes, and you can make as many varieties as you like. Pork and chive dumplings are delightful, although you can also sub in tofu for vegetarian or vegan diners.
There are a lot of rules surrounding fish dishes for the Lunar New Year. The type of fish is important — carp and catfish are traditional — and there are guidelines for placement, service, and reserving leftovers as a symbol of future prosperity. With that being said, how you prepare the fish is pretty open, as long as the fish is whole.
Steaming is common, and the easiest way to do this is to make folded packets with foil or parchment paper and cook in the oven. Plus, you can add any flavoring you like to the packet. Try a combo of soy sauce, ginger, and scallions for a riot of flavor when you open your steaming packet.
A wish for success, this sweet rice cake is vital for Chinese New Year celebrations. If you want to bravely take it to the next level for the Year of the Tiger, try adding taro, purple yam, or red bean paste to punch up the color and flavor, or sneak in some chopped nuts or dates for an entirely new texture.
No matter what you serve at your Lunar New Year festivities, make sure to focus on joy, luck, and success in the coming year, and enjoy the time you have with the ones you love.