We are making 8 festive dishes to surprise my family for a Lunar New Year feast!
Happy Lunar New Year! 新年快樂！Missing our much-anticipated trip to Taiwan this Lunar New Year was a heartache for my family and me. What better way to turn our disappointment into a celebration than with a feast that brings the spirit of Lunar New Year to our dining table?
Today, I’m excited to share with you eight delectable dishes that are a mix of traditional Lunar New Year favorites and our family’s beloved recipes. From the prosperous symbolism of Braised Pork Belly Rice to the comforting warmth of Spicy Wontons, this feast is the perfect way to welcome the Year of the Dragon.
Lunar New Year 2024 – Year of the Dragon
Lunar New Year, falling on February 10 this year – the exhilarating Year of the Dragon, is a time for family, celebration, and setting the tone for the months ahead. As a food lover, I’m fascinated by how different regions across Asia mark this occasion, each with its unique culinary twists.
Did you know that traditional Lunar New Year dishes are steeped in symbolism? From a chicken dish representing family unity to a fish dish symbolizing abundance, each element of the Lunar New Year feast has a story. Vegetables for health, fruits for wealth, and regional specialties add to the diversity and richness of this Asian tradition. So, in our own little way, we’re continuing this beautiful tradition, blending our family favorites with these timeless New Years symbols of hope and joy.
Braised Pork Belly Rice, or 滷肉飯, is a staple of our Lunar New Year dinner table, and honestly, it’s my favorite Taiwanese dish to boot! The fatty pork, rich in both flavor and cultural significance, symbolizes wealth and abundance – key wishes for the New Year. It’s a culinary hug that wraps you in warmth with every bite.
There’s something almost therapeutic about hand-cutting the pork belly, ensuring each piece is just right for that slow, loving braise. When it’s cooked to that perfect level of melt-in-your-mouth tenderness and served over fluffy rice, it’s like a party in every bite. As the pork simmers to tender perfection, its rich aromas fill the whole house, and makes me so hungry every time I make it. Gathering around this dish every year, we’re not just sharing a meal; we’re reveling in the rich, savory flavors of our heritage and creating new memories together.
Braised Pork Belly Rice Ingredients
- 2 lbs of Pork Belly
- 1/2 cup of Fried Shallots
- 1/4 cup of Soy Sauce
- 1/4 cup of Chinese Cooking Wine
- 1/8 cup of Dark Soy Sauce
- 3 cups of Water
- 2 tbsp of Five-Spice Powder
- 2 tbsp of Sugar or Rock Sugar
- 5 Hard-Boiled Eggs
Every Lunar New Year, my grandma’s Sticky Rice, or 油飯, takes center stage in our family feast, and it’s always a crowd favorite! This dish isn’t just about its irresistible savory taste; it’s steeped in tradition and symbolism. The stickiness of the rice is particularly significant – it represents family members sticking together, a beautiful metaphor for unity and togetherness. Making my grandmother’s Sticky Rice recipe is a joyful annual ritual. There’s a unique warmth in following her steps, from selecting the perfect ingredients to getting the rice consistency just right. Her guidance, filled with tips and family stories, turns the cooking process into a memorable experience. It’s always a blast mixing in the mushrooms, shallots, and those special seasonings, each one adding its unique flavor to this festive dish.
Sticky Rice Ingredients
- 3 cups of Glutinous Rice (soak for 3 hours+)
- 400ml of Mushroom Water or Chicken Stock
- 5 pieces of Chicken Thigh (bite-sized pieces)
- 3 tbsp of Soy Sauce
- 1 tsp of White Pepper
- 1 tsp of Sugar
- 1.5 tbsp of Sesame Oil
- 4 Shallots (sliced)
- 1 cup of Dehydrated Mushroom (soaked in water to hydrate)
- 3 tbsp of Dehydrated shrimp (rinse clean 2x)
- 2 tbsp of Soy Sauce
- 2.5 tbsp of Vegetarian Oyster Sauce
Chicken is an absolute must-have for Lunar New Year’s Dinner, but this year, I decided to shake things up a bit. The tradition of serving chicken, often whole, is tied to the belief that it brings a sense of completeness and wholesomeness to the New Year celebrations. Instead of the traditional whole chicken, we went for something a little more fun and casual: Popcorn Chicken aka 鹽酥雞. This dish might not be your typical New Year fare, but it’s become a family favorite, bringing a modern and playful twist to our festive table.
Preparing it is so easy – marinating bite-sized chicken pieces in a mix of delicious spices and then frying them until they’re irresistibly crispy and golden. It’s a wonderful way to honor the tradition of having chicken, while also embracing the joy and spontaneity that Lunar New Year celebrations bring.
Popcorn Chicken Ingredients
- 6 Pieces of Boneless Chicken Thigh with the skin on (cut into 1-inch cubes)
- 2.5 Tbsp of Soy Sauce
- 3 Tbsp of Chinese Cooking Wine (optional)
- 2 Minced Garlic ~ 1 tbsp
- 1 Tbsp of Five Spice Powder
- One Large Egg
- 3.5 Tbsp of Rice Flour
- 1.5 Cup of Thai Basil
- 2 Cup of Tapioca Starch
Amidst a table laden with rich Lunar New Year favorites, our Spicy Cucumber Salad stands out as a refreshing hero! It’s the perfect palate cleanser, adding a burst of freshness and zest to the feast. This dish, a personal favorite, brings a lively contrast to the heavier, traditional dishes. The crisp cucumbers, tossed in an invigorating blend of spices, offer a rejuvenating crunch that everyone loves. It’s like a breath of fresh air on your plate, invigorating the senses with each spicy, tangy bite.
While it may not have historical ties to New Year celebrations, it has quickly become a much-anticipated staple at our family gatherings. The Spicy Cucumber Salad isn’t just about flavor; it’s about balance, adding a vibrant, refreshing touch to our Lunar New Year feast.
Spicy Cucumber Salad Ingredients
- 2 whole English Cucumber
- 1 Tbsp of Sugar
- 1 Tsp of Salt
Garlic Eggplant may not be the first dish you think of for Lunar New Year, but in our family, it’s a must-have! This slightly offbeat choice is a nod to the wonderful diversity of regional New Year traditions. It’s our little way of spicing up the usual spread with something a bit different, but equally symbolic. The eggplant in this dish is all about rejuvenation and fresh starts – pretty fitting for the New Year, right?
Plus, who can resist the combination of tender eggplant drenched in a zesty garlic sauce? It’s the perfect mix of comfort and excitement on a plate. It’s dishes like this that keep our New Year gatherings not just traditional, but fun, lively, and full of surprises – exactly how we like our celebrations!
Garlic Eggplant Ingredients
- 3 Chinese Eggplant
- 7 cloves of Garlic minced
- 2 stocks of Green Onion chopped
- 2 chopped Red Chili (optional)
- 2 tbsp of Vegetarian Oyster Sauce
- 1 tbsp of Soy Sauce
- 1 tsp of Sugar
- 1 tbsp of Black Vinegar
- 1 tbsp of Sesame Oil
- 1 tbsp of Sesame Seeds
- 4 tbsp of Oil
Get ready to spice up your Lunar New Year with some delightful Spicy Wontons! These little pockets of joy are not just tasty; they’re shaped like ancient gold ingots, symbolizing wealth and good fortune. Making them is almost as fun as eating them – a family activity that combines tradition with a touch of culinary artistry. And here’s a pro tip: drizzle them with Kai Dong’s chili oil to really make those flavors pop. This chili oil isn’t just a condiment; it’s a game changer, adding just the right amount of zing to make your Spicy Wontons the star of the New Year feast.
Spicy Wontons Ingredients
- 12 Wontons
- 2 tbsp of Chinese Black Vinegar
- 1 tbsp of Soy Sauce
- 2 tbsp of Chilli Oil
- Garnish with sesame seeds, cilantro, green onion, and crispy shallots
In Chinese New Year celebrations, the Steamed Fish is a must have. The tradition of serving steamed fish during Chinese New Year represents the phrase “年年有餘”. It translates to “may there be surpluses every year.” The fish is always steamed whole, with its head and tail intact, to signify a good beginning and end in the new year. Traditionally, we eat half the fish during the New Year’s Eve dinner and save the rest for the next day. This symbolizes the carrying over of surplus and blessings from one year to the next. With this Steamed Fish recipe, I love that the simple seasoning lets the natural flavors of the fish shine through!
Chinese Steamed Fish Ingredient
- 1 Whole Fish (~2lb)
- 8 Green Onion
- 6 thin slices of Ginger
- 2 tbsp of Chinese Cooking Wine
- 1/4 cup of Oil
- 4 tbsp of LKK Premium Soy Sauce
- 3 tbsp of Sugar
Sticky Fatty Pork Gua Bao 刈包: Happiness in Every Bite
Gua Baos, or 刈包, are a showstopper in our Lunar New Year feast, and for good reason! In Taiwanese celebrations, these steamed buns with succulent three-layered sticky pork are more than just a treat; they’re a symbol of happiness and prosperity. The pork, with its mouthwatering layers of meat, fat, and skin, represents the rich layers of life, a wish for a year filled with abundant joy and success. Layered in all the fix-ins like sour mustard, crushed peanuts, cilantro, and more, this Sticky Fatty Pork Gua Bao looks just like an overflowing wallet, perfect for the New Year! Trust me, one bite of these, and you’ll understand why they’re an absolute favorite at our table!
Sticky Pork Belly Ingredients
- 2.5 lb Pork Belly
- 4 thin slices of Ginger
- 10 cloves of Garlic (smashed)
- 2 Green Onion
- 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorn
- 2-3 Bay Leaf
- 3 Star Anise
- 5 Red Whole Chili (optional)
- ½ cup of Soy Sauce
- ¼ cup of Dark Soy Sauce
- ⅛ cup Oyster Sauce
- 4.5 tbsp of Brown Sugar or Rock Sugar
- 3 tbsp of Chinese Cooking Wine (optional)
- 2 cups of Water
Let’s not forget about the Gua Bao buns – soft, fluffy, and the perfect complement to the rich pork. I’m thrilled to let you in on a little secret: the recipe for these heavenly steamed buns will be featured in my upcoming cookbook! It’s a sneak peek into the culinary journey we’re on, blending traditional tastes with our own family stories.