The lunar New Year is the most important of all Chinese holidays. This year, chefs Liao, Li Ke, and Yang have worked to create a menu that befits the occasion, with luxurious twists on New Year’s traditions and classical dishes from their Sichuan heritage, like Suan Tang lobster and Jin Sha beef with salted duck yolk.
Below, please discover more about the history and context of each of the dishes on China Sichuan’s New Year Menu.
Jianbao | 煎包 | (pan-fried pork bun)
Chef Li Ke
Round-shaped foods, like buns, are traditionally eaten during New Year, because their shape symbolizes harmony. Pork stands for abundance and strength. Chef Li Ke is China Sichuan’s bao (or bun) master, and we consider it lucky every time he makes them.
Bite of Fortune | 鳳梨鴨片 | (Coonlinaule duck breast & pineapple)
In Hokkien dialect, pineapple is “ong lai,” which is a homophone for the the phrase, “Prosperity has arrived.” Duck is a symbol of fertility.
Zhima Rousi | 芝麻肉絲 | (Sichuan shredded pork & sesame)
This dish of pork shreds tossed in slightly spicy sesame paste is a classic in Sichuan and Chongqing.
Dragon in the Clouds | 酸湯龍蝦海鮮炒手 | (Monkfish & lobster wonton, mai fun vermicelli, lotus root, & Chengdu consommé)
The long in the Chinese for lobster (long xia) means dragon, which is the most auspicious animal in Chinese mythology. Xia is the Chinese for shrimp, and is eaten on New Year’s because it sounds like xiao, which means laughter. Lotus roots symbolize fertility. Wontons are eaten during the New Year because they look like silver ingots, and their name in Chinese (hun tun) means “swallowing clouds.”
Suan Tang Lobster | 酸湯龍蝦 | (Poached Howth lobster, Sichuan pickled greens)
Lobster is poached in a broth made slightly tart by homemade fermented Chinese cabbage, a luxurious, lucky spin on the classic Central Chinese dish, Suan Tang Yu, literally translated as fish in a sour broth.
New Year’s Fish | 年年有魚 | (Steamed whole sea bream, soy & ginger)
The word for fish, yu 魚, is a homophone for yu 餘 which means surplus, and so the New Year’s saying, “年年有魚 (nian nian you yu)” is to wish for both a surplus and fish in the next year. Most Chinese New Year’s tables feature fish, which is always served whole for luck. Also, Chinese will make sure that there will be fish leftover, thus assuring a yu of yu.
Noodles are eaten on both the New Year and especially birthdays, with their length representing long life. They are not supposed to be cut and ideally should be slurped whole.
Chef Yang’s Jin Sha Beef |金廈牛粒 | (Ribeye beef, salted duck yolk)
Literally translated, jin sha means golden sand, which refers to the color that the salted duck yolk imparts. The color gold is lucky, as are eggs, which are symbolic of fertility and also of unity with their round shape.
Dong Po Pork | 東坡肉 | (Braised pork belly, crackling)
Many Chinese thinkers and artists were also famous gourmands. This classic Hangzhou dish is named after the Song dynasty poet, Su Dongpo, who was said to have mellowed the flavor of pork with the addition of wine.
Fried rice, air-dried lap cheong sausage & Serrano ham | 四川臘腸炒飯
Fertility, luck, wealth – is there anything that rice does not symbolize? Rice, a staple for most Chinese, is also supposed to be the link between earth and Heaven. Additionally, charcuterie (salted, cured meats like lap cheong) is a New Year’s tradition in Sichuan and the neighboring province of Hunan.
Longevity Peach | 壽桃
Chef Karen Smith
The peaches of immortality grow in the garden of the Gods and give eternal life to whoever eats them, most famously the Monkey King, who, in mythology, would later travel west to India and bring Buddhism to China.