Traditional Lunar New Year Foods for the Year of the Ox
Lunar New Year is a time for festive foods, whether you're celebrating Chinese New Year, Vietnamese Tet, or Korean New Year, called Seollal. Read on to learn more about what foods to make and how to celebrate.
Lunar New Year is a time to clean and decorate your home, gather with family, honor ancestors, and share a feast with foods that symbolize prosperity in the New Year. Join in and cook up these lucky Lunar New Year recipes for your own celebration.
Chinese New Year Foods
Most of the dishes served during Chinese New Year are symbolic of something positive and hopeful. Here are some of the most popular types of foods served during Chinese New Year celebrations.
Symbolizing wealth and prosperity. In some areas of China, coins are placed in the center of jiaozi. Whoever bites into one of these dumplings will have an exceptionally lucky year.
Chinese dumpling recipes to try:
Symbolizing strength, wealth, and blessings.
Fish symbolizes happiness and prosperity — especially when served whole.
Symbolizing family and unity.
More Good Luck Dishes for Chinese New Year
Good luck dishes are also chosen based on homonyms — words that either are spelled the same or sound the same as other words. Fish (yu) is served because it sounds similar to the Chinese word for plenty; whole fish represents abundance. Turnips are cooked because their name (cai tou) also means "good luck."
Niangao — a steamed sweet cake made of glutinous rice — is a popular dessert for the new year, as it is a homonym for "higher year." Try this baked version topped with sesame seeds, another good luck food:
Dishes made with oranges represent wealth and good fortune because they are China's most plentiful fruit. Bean curd or tofu, however, is avoided because its white color suggests death and misfortune.
Related: 21 Recipes for Chinese New Year
Foods for Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year)
Tết is the biggest celebration of the year in Vietnamese culture. As Andrea Nguyen explains on her blog Viet World Kitchen, "While many ideas are borrowed from the Chinese (e.g., firecrackers, lion dances, red money envelopes), the food part is pure Viet!" Enjoy these following must-haves for your Tet celebration:
Caramel Sauce Dishes
Other Tet Food Traditions
- Banh tet and banh chung, rice cakes stuffed with pork and mung beans and wrapped in banana leaves
- Candied fruits and seeds, such as melon seeds
- Vietnamese sausage (gio cha)
- Pickled onion, cabbage, and small leeks (Dua Hanh & Kieu)
Korean New Year
Marking the first day of the Korean lunar calendar, Seollal or Korean New Year is celebrated by paying respects to one's ancestors, giving gifts, playing games with family and friends, and -- of course -- feasting on some of these traditional Korean New Year foods:
Tteokguk (Rice Cake Soup)
This is a must-eat Korean New Year dish. As recipe submitter mykoreaneats explains: "Tteokguk is a traditional dish enjoyed by many (if not all Koreans) during the Lunar New Year holiday. The rice cake used to make tteokguk is first made into a long, white cylinder shape called garae tteok. Its shape and length is symbolic, wishing for longevity in life."
Try mykoreaneat's recipe for Tteokguk (Korean Rice Cake Soup).
Manduguk, a soup similar to Tteokguk but with dumplings, is another popular Korean New Year dish.
In addition to tteokguk, rice cakes can be served on their own. Part of many Korean celebrations, try any of these rice cake recipes for your Korean New Year spread:
See our collection of Lunar New Year recipes for loads more festive traditional foods to celebrate Lunar New Year. Also check out our related recipe collections: