Chinese New Year falls on February 1 this year and will celebrate the Year of the Tiger.
There are plenty of ways to bring luck and prosperity for the coming year. We’ve put together a list of eight lucky foods and dishes to eat during the holiday, and places to order them from in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
1. Lettuce wraps
Chinese lettuce wraps or san choy bow are a favourite for Chinese New Year, as lettuce is considered symbolic of fortune and prosperity. Moreover, the combination of savoury chicken, fish or any other protein over a bed of crunchy lettuce is not only delicious – it’s also low carb, and a tasty snack for any time of the day or year.
You can make it at home or, in the UAE, PF Chang’s is known for its Chang’s lettuce wraps, a signature dish made from a family recipe, featuring chicken or vegetarian options.
Chang’s lettuce wraps are available at PF Chang’s across the UAE for Dh48.30
2. Peking duck
No Chinese feast is complete without Peking duck, a dish that was considered fit for emperors. The dish comprises thin, crispy slices of roasted duck, rolled with other fillings such as hoisin sauce, thinly cut cucumber and spring onion, and wrapped within a pancake.
Dubai residents looking for something offbeat for Chinese New Year can try out Hutong’s flaming duck, which gives the traditional recipe a twist, as flaming the duck elevates the taste and makes the meat moist.
In Abu Dhabi, Shang Palace has a signature roasted Beijing duck that requires 30 minutes to prepare.
Flaming duck from Hutong is Dh498; in Shang Palace, it is Dh260 for half the duck and Dh415 for the whole duck
The Chinese staple is a traditional must-eat food as they are believed to symbolise longevity and wealth. The dumplings are also often shaped to resemble gold ingots, an early form of Chinese currency.
In the UAE, there’s no dearth of restaurants that serve variations of dumplings. For authentic versions, you can’t go wrong with Din Tai Fung, which has branches across Dubai and also delivers in Abu Dhabi. Or you can order them from Dragon Bao Bao in the capital, from Dh30.
Steamed chicken and vegetable dumplings from Din Tai Fung go for Dh26 for six pieces; available in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Beef celery dumplings from Dragon Bao Bao start at Dh30 in Abu Dhabi
4. Sweet rice balls
Tang yuan or sweet rice balls are a mochi-like dessert made out of glutinous flour and a favourite on Chinese New Year. According to tradition, eating them is a symbol of togetherness and family.
In Abu Dhabi, you can enjoy the sweet dish at Beijing Restaurant, which offers it year-round.
Glutinous rice balls are available for Dh28 at Beijing Restaurant, Abu Dhabi
5. Steamed fish
An emblematic dish of Chinese New Year, steamed fish is often eaten on the day as a sign of auspiciousness. The fish should be the final dish served, with some of it left over at the end as a way to symbolise abundance. The Chinese character “yu” means fish but also sounds similar to the word for surplus.
It’s a simple dish to cook at home. One of the more traditional ways to prepare it is by steaming the fish with ginger, spring onions and soy sauce.
Abu Dhabi’s Noodle Bowl offers a steamed fish fillet with ginger, spring onion with soy sauce for Dh38; Dai Pai Dong offers steamed whole fish as part of a family-style course set menu; China Club in Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek serves a steamed red snapper with soya and spring onion for Dh148.
6. Longevity noodles
Just as their name suggests, longevity noodles are thought to symbolise happiness and, of course, longevity. They can be any type of noodle, although they are typically made from eggs. The dish should be eaten without being cut or broken up, with the idea that the longer the noodles are, the more luck that awaits in the new year.
There are many different ways to use the noodles in a dish. It is said that extra luck can be added through items such as mushrooms for prosperity, and green vegetables such as watercress for wealth.
Longevity noodles can be purchased from 1004 Gourmet, which delivers to Dubai and Abu Dhabi for Dh6
7. Spring rolls
Also known as chun juan in Chinese, spring rolls are easy to find in most Chinese restaurants. They are eaten to welcome the new year as their golden cylindrical shape is representative of gold bars, which symbolise wealth. They usually contain a meat or vegetable filling, are deep-fried and are sometimes served with a sauce.
Royal Orchid, with various locations in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, offer spring rolls with either a meat or vegetable filling, from Dh25. The Shanghai vegetable spring roll costs Dh55 at Maiden Shanghai in Five Palm Jumeirah
8. Nian gao
Nian gao, also known as New Year cake, is a sweet, sticky dessert that can be eaten all year round but is most popular during the holiday.
While the dish is difficult to find in the UAE, it is easy to make. Nian gao can be made with as little as three ingredients: glutinous rice flour, sugar and water.
Here’s a recipe to try at home:
220g glutinous rice flour
1. Add water to the sifted glutinous rice flour and mix well to create a dough.
2. Add the sugar and combine until it turns into a fluid mixture. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes.
3. Pour the mixture into a container to get rid of any bubbles. Steam the mixture for 10 to 12 hours with a piece of cloth over the container.
4. Allow it to sit overnight before consuming.