Happy Chinese New Year!
Greetings, #giantfoodies. I hope you’re ready to keep the holiday festivities going and get into the spirit of Chinese New Year with me! Also called Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, it falls on January 25th.
In the Chinese Zodiac, this year begins the Year of The Rat. Do any of you remember placemats in some Chinese restaurants with the animals of the Zodiac? When I was a kid, I’d study mine to learn all about my sign, The Dragon! While I don’t recall much of what I read, I can still smell the fragrant ginger and toasted sesame oil and see the bright, colorful veggies peppered throughout the dishes—snap peas, carrots, broccoli. The food was just as much a feast to my child eyes as my little belly!
Food plays a central role in Chinese New Year celebrations—surprise, surprise! But the symbolism behind the food makes this holiday so unique and fun. Certain Chinese dishes are thought to bring good luck for the year ahead. Their meanings are deeply rooted in Chinese cultural tradition. As someone who’s into anthropology, I absolutely love this.
Here are a few dishes you can easily pull together for your Chinese New Year spread. And we’re in luck! Giant’s got everything needed to make these recipes.
These little stuffed pockets of deliciousness have a long history as a staple food in China, specifically the northern region. They are thought to be a symbol of wealth because their shape resembles the gold or silver ingots which were traded as currency in imperial China.
Dumplings are the best! For one, they're proof that food doesn't need to be fried to be mighty tasty. And the medley of flavors and textures inside are an incredible treat for the senses. And they're fun to eat with or without chopsticks. I could go on. Typical fillings include minced pork, diced shrimp, fish, ground chicken, and beef. And they almost always feature veggies like cabbage, mushrooms, green onion, or bamboo shoots, which makes this nutritionist very happy.
Try your hand at making dumplings using this Savory recipe, which features ground turkey to shake things up. Better yet, host a dumpling-making party and offer a variety of pre-prepared fillings to suit everyone's tastes! What a great way to bring your favorite people together (and put them to work, ha!)
Not up for getting your (and your guests') hands dirty? No stress! Just grab some P.F. Chang’s dumplings from our freezer aisle and make them your own by whipping up a sauce to go with them. Your secret’s safe with me.
Oh, and you may want to try Ocean’s Halo kelp-based No Soy sauce for some extra marine-based nutrients. I'm excited to share that the seaweed farms from which they source their kelp require no fresh water, no deforestation, and no fertilizer. And best of all, they donate 1% of their revenue to ocean conservation! I can definitely get behind that.
Originally, these were meant to combine the season's freshest vegetables in one dish to celebrate spring. These days, you can find spring rolls with all kinds of ingredients, with the most typical recipes including pork, cabbage, mushrooms and cabbage. There are also sweet versions made of custard or red bean, which I haven’t tried yet, but yum! And like dumplings, people see gold in spring rolls—they’re traditionally said to resemble gold bars, and eating them is said to bring good fortune.
Here's a recipe for Chicken Spring Rolls that only requires 6 simple ingredients. Or you can pick up some frozen Spring Rolls from Giant’s very own World Menu line!
For a long life, eat noodles! At least that’s the thinking during Chinese New Year. If they can be eaten without biting through them, and breaking the strands, it’s considered even more auspicious. What a fun challenge! True to the name, longer-than-usual egg noodles are traditionally used, with various vegetables and proteins served alongside them. Here’s a pork, mushroom and snap pea version topped with crunchy bean sprouts that, believe it or not, only takes a half hour to make!
Swap out the chicken stock with this Ocean’s Halo Veggie Broth for an added dose of Vitamin D and Iodine from seaweed! And you’ll be protecting our oceans at the same time. That’s not just good luck—it’s good.
Since the Chinese word for fish, yu, sounds like the word for surplus, it is believed that eating fish symbolizes abundance in the coming year. A whole fish, usually steamed, is a staple New Year dish as it is intended to welcome prosperity for the entire year. There's also an important custom that accompanies the fish: As a sign of respect, the head of the fish is placed towards elders or distinguished guests. How cool is that?
On that note, wishing you all a happy and healthy Year of The Rat! May good food and good fortune come your way. Until next time, eat well and try something new!
Min is a registered dietitian and in-store nutritionist for Giant Food who is all about adventures through traveling and exploring off the beaten path. She has a passion for cuisines of the world and their beneficial ingredients. In her series “International Foodie,” she takes you on culinary journeys through distant lands and shows how you can create some of those special experiences right here at home.