Foods for the Lunar New Year

February 10, 2005

Happy Lunar New Year! This is a time of celebration, unity, and family. Customs honored during this period are symbolic and thought to direct one’s fortune in the coming year. Food is a central component of the festivities, and certain foods are eaten to ensure a good year. This week’s produce highlights are traditional, seasonal, and significant decoratives and edibles used during Lunar New Year celebrations. Look for them at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Quince and Plum Blossoms: Placing the clipped, blossom-laden twigs of quince and plum around a clean house symbolizes hope and rebirth.

Long Beans: Uncut long beans and noodles are eaten to symbolize long life.

Chicken and Fish: Served whole (heads, fins, feet and all), chicken and fish represent family unity, and are often only partially eaten to symbolize plenty.

Oranges and Tangerines: The Chinese words for these citruses sound like the words for luck and health. They are commonly given as gifts to family and friends with leaves left intact to assure stable relationships with those to whom they are given. Small citrus fruits also represent prosperity because they look like nuggets of gold.

Pomelos: The Cantonese word for pomelo sounds like the word “to have” and these ancient fruits thus symbolize abundance.

Eggs: Eggs are served whole and symbolize fertility. Baked goods with seeds are also eaten to encourage fertility.

Oysters: Oysters are used dried, fried or in sauce to promote receptivity to good fortune.

Duck: Duck is eaten to symbolize fidelity because ducks have only one mate during their lives.

Spinach: Spinach is steamed and served unchopped. It is considered bad luck to use a knife for the first three days of the New Year.

Honey: Honey is smeared on the lips of a Kitchen God altar days before the New Year to encourage him to speak sweetly of the household.