Gung hay fat choy! This weekend marks the Lunar New Year, and millions upon millions of people around the world will be celebrating. Ring in the year of the rooster with a menu inspired by traditional Chinese good luck foods, such as dumplings (which symbolize money), noodles (which symbolize long life) and fish (which symbolizes abundance).
We’ve got an easy party plan laid out for you. All you have to bring is the guests! (Suggested attire: anything red, which symbolizes joy and good fortune.)
To start: Shrimp and Vegetable Dumplings
For many Chinese families, dumplings are a good luck food: Normally referred to as jiaozi, they’re often called yuanbao during Chinese New Year, a reference to the gold ingots used during ancient Chinese times. It is said that they bring prosperity to anyone who eats them.
Main course: Ginger-Soy Red Snapper en Papillote
If there’s one good-luck food that must be on the Chinese table, it’s fish. The Chinese have a popular saying—nian nian you yu, which means “have abundance year over year,” but the phrase is also a homophone for “have fish, year over year.” Whole steamed fish, like Steamed Cantonese Wined Sea Bass, is most popular, but for less fuss, try your hand at parchment-wrapped red snapper in a ginger-soy sauce.
On the side: Spicy Sesame Noodles
Steam rice is a requisite for every Chinese meal, but for even more auspiciousness, add in a side of noodles. For this spicy sesame version, buy the longest noodles you can find: they symbolize a long life.
For dessert: Tea and fruit
Fresh fruit is customary to round out a Chinese banquet meal. For the most prosperity, be sure to include sweet oranges: In Chinese, the word for mandarin means “rich fruit,” while in Cantonese, the word for mandarin means “gold.” A fragrant tea such as jasmine is a nice after-dinner accompaniment.
One day before:
- Boil noodles for spicy sesame noodles; toss with sesame oil and refrigerate.
- Blend sesame-vinegar sauce for the noodles and refrigerate.
- Whisk together marinade for fish.
The morning of:
- Prep cucumber and carrot matchstick for sesame noodles; toss noodles and refrigerate.
90 minutes before:
- Marinate red snapper and assemble steam packets.
- Chop ingredients for the dumpling filling and fold dumplings.
45 minutes before:
- Cut oranges or other fruit as needed for dessert.
- Steam first batch of dumplings.
- Assemble dipping sauces (soy sauce, hot mustard, black vinegar, chili sauce) for dumplings.
- Place fish packets in the oven.
Once people begin to arrive, the first round of steamed dumplings should be ready to serve. Offer guests to a glass of wine, and a dumpling or two; set an area aside in the kitchen to be the dumpling station, and then invite them to try their hand at folding and steaming any remaining dumplings.
While your guests are getting interactive at the dumpling station, remove the fish from the oven and transfer packets onto plates. Put the pot on the stove to steep your tea of choice. Toss the noodles with your prepared sesame-vinegar sauce and garnish with cilantro leaves.
Serve the remainder of the dumplings at the dinner table, along with the packets of steamed red snapper, spicy sesame noodles, and the pot of tea. Bring platters of the fruit out at the end to close out the meal.