Enter the Year of the Dragon

thumbnailCAOYW8KNOver the past two weeks you have undoubtedly read and heard about the traditions and symbols of the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday. And if you were paying attention you know that  food and feasts are a huge part of the celebrations.

Over the next 15 days families and friends around China will gather to celebrate the New Year with tables full of symbolic , if not delcious dishes.

If you are lucky to be included in a Chinese New Year’s eve feast, you might start the evening by helping to make jiaozi, the familar pork and vegetable dumplings that are cleverly shaped to resemble ancient Chinese money, something everyone wishes for in the New Year. The meal might also include Tang Yuan soup, a sweet concoction of round and slippery glutinous rice balls stuffed with the magical black sesame paste.  The smooth round shape of the rice balls symbolizes the togetherness of the family for all time. And without a doubt the New Year’s eve meal will end with a  platter of steamed fish,  a  traditional wish for abundance in the coming year to all who partake.

These are just a few of the dishes you are most likely to see on a banquet table set for the New Year. There are plenty more.  Mandarin oranges and kumquats both “abundant” at this time of year, are not only round but their bright colors remind the family of the happiness of being together. If  your host offers you  extra long noodles symbolizing a long life, be flattered, but don’t cut them. The Chinese believe that by cutting them you just might be “cutting  your life short”. This is the time to twirl.

From a nutrition standpoint all these dishes have something good to offer and you won’t go wrong trying each and every one.  Like most holidays, eastern or western,  moderation is the key to survival.  Gong Xi Fa Cai !