I love Chinese New Year. It is an important time for Chinese families to get together to have a “reunion dinner” or “Tuan Yuan Fan”. For many families in China and around the world, it is the only occasion during a whole year, where one would get to see all their families. So, on such a special occasion, mothers and grandmothers would make sure the New Year feast is one that will be remembered and reminisced for the rest of the year! A traditional celebration feast, welcoming in the New Year is a series of dishes that represent all of the good wishes you have for the family in the coming year. Typically, the feast will include a noodle dish, which symbolises longevity; vegetable dishes as 'cai'—a moss with a very fine texture, which stands for prosperity; golden, pan-fried dumplings as a symbol of wealth, because they look like golden ingots; stir fried prawns to represent laughter and happiness; whole steamed fish to symbolise abundance; a roasted duck as a symbol for fidelity; a whole roast suckling pig as a symbol for completeness; nian kao, a sticky rice cake, for 'rising the ranks'; and spring rolls for prosperity, as they resemble bars of gold. It sounds like a lot, but the idea is to get the extended family together and the feast goes on for hours. We also gather all this food together at New Year because for many Chinese people, these ingredients were expensive and hard to come by, so they became traditional festival foods used at different celebrations throughout the year. New Year, though, is the only time most households have them all. You don’t have to have them all at your own celebrations, but it would be fun to include a couple in your dinner knowing what they represent. Each Chinese New Year is characterised by one of 12 animals. Legend has it that Buddha summoned 12 animals before him when the world was created and these now represent the Chinese zodiac. This year it's the Year of the Monkey, the ninth animal in the cycle. Each sign has their own unique characteristics and the Monkey is seen as being smart, clever, quick-witted and intelligent, especially in their career and wealth. Happy cooking and blessings and... GONG XI FA CAI! Love, Ching xx
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