Lunar New Year is marked by the traditional feast families have for dinner, which incorporates a wide variety of delicious food from Chinese cuisine. Here, several faculty and students share their favorite New Year dishes, such as dumplings and steamed fish!
Lixia Ma, Instructor in Chinese
饺子 & 清蒸鱼
“You make the dough first, mix the flour with the water [with the] right proportions, then make the dough, and then cut them into smaller pieces, and then you roll them into the round thin skin. And then you make the fillings; there are so many different kinds of fillings, but the ones I always make that are so popular with the kids here are the pork; ground pork, minced pork, and the cabbage. Just chop them well, and then mix them together. And then you add a little sauces like a little salt, soy sauce, sesame oil,[…] and mix them together, into [the] filling, and then you wrap them up. And then boil a pot of water and put them in there, maybe for ten to fifteen minutes should be enough. And if you like fried pot stickers, you can put them through the frying process, but it’s a little tricky and a little greasy, so I tend to do the boiling process.”
“On Chinese New Year people like to eat fish […] you can just steam them, it’s called 清蒸鱼[qīng zhēng yú: steamed fish], just wash and clean [the fish], […] add the fish onto the plate, and maybe add a little ginger or Chinese scallions, a little salt, and put it in a boiling water pot, and then steam it until it’s fresh––not too long, ten, fifteen minutes should be enough. So it sounds [like a] very simple dish, but [there are] still some techniques there to make it really delicious.” – Ms. Ma, Chinese department
Huiying Zhao, Instructor in Chinese
“To Lunar New Year, food is a good excuse for people to get together and meet for families…we just want to be together and food is a good way to celebrate the family get-together. I can only explain what I have seen, in my personal life, [and] when I grew up, [food] brought additional joy to family gatherings and not just family relationships [but also] other social relationships, including friendships and also professional relationships. [Food] is definitely an important part of Chinese culture that I know of.”
“I love 茄盒 [qíe hé: stuffed eggplant] […] 茄盒 basically uses two thin slices of eggplant, and you put meat sauce in between and you fry them, deep-fry or pan-fry, it’s very delicious.” – Ms. Zhao, Chinese department
Michelle Yao ’23 (in an email to The Phillipian)
While it is not exactly the dinner, my family always makes 豆面汤圆 [dòu miàn tāng yuán: glutinous rice balls coated in soybean powder and brown sugar syrup/Chinese warabi mochi] when the clock strikes 12. Before the pandemic hit, my grandmother would usually come to Singapore from Yunnan to celebrate Lunar New Year with us, and this is a recipe local to our province. It is a simple dish, but I feel personally connected to it through the memories I associate with it: my dad would make the dough while my mom, grandmother, and I roll them out into individual balls to boil and toss in dressing. It is a moment in which the usually (geographically) separate members of my family can come together and bond over our shared love for cuisine. The symbolism behind 汤圆 is the phrase “团圆”, meaning union, and I think that captures our spirit particularly well. If others do try this dish, I hope that they can also enjoy the cozy, earthly warmth it brings, reminiscent of the visits back to my hometown.
Editor’s Note: Michelle Yao is a Multilingual Editor for The Phillipian
Dakota Chang ’23 (in an email to The Phillipian)
“卤水鹅肝 [lú shǔi é gān: marinated/braised foie gras] is a local dish famous in Hong Kong and Chiuchow. My grandma was from Chiuchow, and my family resides in Hong Kong, so this dish has always been a staple in our culture. Also, the sauce used to marinate is a specialty of Guangdong Cai (Hong Kong/Guangdong food), and it fits our taste very well. Although most of the recipes are cut out from a newspaper, there were a lot of slight adjustments and years of experience and trial and error annotated onto the pages. I think that’s what makes home food spectacular: the experience, patience, and love from your family.”
Pauline Huang ’23 (in an email to The Phillipian)
“火锅 [huǒ guō: hot pot] is a dish that makes it easy for family members to gather together. The air in hotpot restaurants, usually foggy because of steam, forms a special kind of tie that connects people, as we sit close to each other and enjoy the tasty food. Relatives chatting with each other about trivial things in their lives, children playing video games together around the table, friends watching ChunWan (a traditional Chinese show during Lunar new year). Those memories cross my mind when I think of the dish. While hotpot nowadays represents reunion in China, it also represents our hometowns to those who aren’t able to go back home during Lunar New year.”