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Gong Xi Fa Cai - Happy Lunar New Year

Derek_Woo
Grazer [Associate]
Grazer [Associate]

I am most honored to have my first conversation with this community be, wishing you great happiness and prosperity this Year of The Rabbit! To tell you a little bit more about myself, I am a first generation American born Chinese (I like to refer to myself as an ABC) person. 

The most important of holiday in my life growing up and now, is Lunar New Year. Like any important holiday, food and family are deeply engrained as part of the celebration. To the Chinese, food is very symbolic and plays a very important part of our New Year tradition.

On New Year it is important for us to have an even number of dishes served. We do not like to see odd numbers on the New Year, so we try to table dishes in total that are 6-8-12-14 and so on. Being that my family and I are big eaters, we tend to be around 12 dishes on this day as a minimum. 

The most important and most symbolic of foods that you will find on our New Year spread would be:

  • Noodles - which are symbolic of a long life.
  • Eggs - symbolizing the unbreaking circle of life, family, and friends.
  • Nain Gao (rice cakes) - often thought to improve life and luck at work or undertakings.
  • Whole Fish - This one comes with a lot of tradition. The fish must be served from head to tail representing a beginning and end. As well, the fish must not be flipped over to eat the other side, rather it must be deboned laying as is. Much of the folklore to the no flipping of the fish has to do with the history of Chinese Fisherman. To flip the fish at the table could also invite their ship to capsize. As well, the head and eyes are always very sought after at the dinner table. Usually, the eldest wins out and gets to consume them.
  • Dumplings (popularly referred to as Pot Stickers in the USA) - My family often cooked these with coins in some of the dumplings. Then we would compete to see who could eat the most. The more you ate the more luck you were said to have. Those of us who were lucky enough to find a coin in our dumpling could then exchange it with the cook for money which was another huge motivation for me to eat more.
  • Spring Rolls / Egg Rolls - Always a staple on regular occasions, but very important during the Spring Festivals and Chinese New Year. They fried to a golden brown color and many have compared them to appearing like gold bars, hence, they are valued as a symbol of good fortune in the coming year.
  • Oranges / Tangerines - Used to be a beloved and rare gift for the wealthy. They symbolize the unbreaking circle theme which is similar to eggs. They represent a sweet life and prosperity. 
  • Cabbage - May not seem exciting, but it too, is a very important part of Lunar New Year. Cabbages and oranges are a MUST to have on hand if you are business owner and a Dragon Dance happens to pass by your shop on New Year. Failing to present the Dragon with oranges and cabbage to eat, would cause it to not stop at your business and not bow before the door. If you ever attend a Dragon dance, watch the front door of any business the dragon passes. You will notice every owner will come out with red fire crackers, oranges, a red envelope, and cabbage. These are gifts to the Dragon to ensure prosperity and good fortune from receiving it's blessing.

I could go on and on and on, but I've listed the food that matters most in my family. You will find many different dishes matter in this celebration, but they are also very different family to family. These are very consistent with what you would find at my family Lunar New Year celebration. Certainly, my family's way of celebrating it is not gospel or exactly how every other family would do it. While we do many of the same things, there are variations, but rather than bore you with all this writing, let me show you what a WOO FAMILY NEW YEAR LOOKS LIKE! Believe me, you have not really lived a full life until you've eaten with a Woo.

Peking DuckPeking DuckDeep Fried Whole FishDeep Fried Whole FishWhole Crab and Deep Fried TofuWhole Crab and Deep Fried TofuHot and Sour SoupHot and Sour Soup27972603_1555053447924623_4769829179310933642_n.jpgWhole Crab, Duck, LobsterWhole Crab, Duck, LobsterDeep Fried TofuDeep Fried TofuWhole FishWhole FishYes, we usually take up at least half a dining roomYes, we usually take up at least half a dining roomOysters, Spare Ribs, and ShrimpOysters, Spare Ribs, and ShrimpDerek pictured in orange as an Emperor during a Chinese New Year PlayEmporerDerek pictured in orange as an Emperor during a Chinese New Year PlayEmporer

Thank you so much for having me join your community! Wishing you and your family a Happy, Healthy, Successful, Long, and Prosperous Life!

8 REPLIES 8

SnacksNSneakers
Community Manager
Community Manager

And Happy Lunar New Year to you! Thanks for sharing your story-and the food looks amazing. My sister's husband and her family are Chinese, so we've had the occasion to celebrate with them on a number of holidays and celebrations and I am always impressed [overwhelmed?] with the amount of delicious food.

Happy New Year to you! Wishing you prosperity, good health, and good luck this year! Yes, we really take our food seriously. It is a joy have such wonderful food. It's a greater joy to share with friends and family!

Dulke
Junior Chef IV
Junior Chef IV

This is so fabulous!!! When I started my first job after finishing graduate school (I had gone to night school), I found myself at loose ends in the evening. I ended up taking nine months of Chinese cooking lessons at the local community college. I probably cooked Chinese at least four times a week. I had tried every Chinese restaurant within reasonable distance, and they were uniformally mediocre. I'd order three dishes, and they'd all taste the same. So cooking my own was the only solution. Now, thirty years later, we have some excellent local spots, but I still like cooking CHinese. But I've never ever tried to make a dozen dishes all at once!!! For Lunar New Year I will stop at my favorite local place and order hot and sour soup, steamed dumplings, a noodle dish, and some other dish. And I'll eat it for three days, three happy days. Best wishes to you and your family!

Derek_Woo
Grazer [Associate]
Grazer [Associate]

Thank you so much for reading and for sharing! Taking grad school and a cooking course? Wow, you must be great with time management! Agreed, the best is always home cooked, but there are some real gems out there. I'm so thrilled you found a couple local spots you love. More impressed that you learned about cooking Chinese cuisine!

Our family usually has everyone help with the cooking to take some of the pressure off, but we do tend to go overboard! And yes, I love to order extra dishes and week them for a week.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and most prosperous New Year!