Kid-Friendly Lunar New Year Recipes Your Family Can Create Together
Discover expert Laura Lau's favorite holiday dishes and how each one can bring you luck this year!
Lunar New Year begins on February 10, the start of a 15-day celebration filled with foods, festivities, and traditions! In fact, 2024 is the Year of the Dragon — the most powerful animal in the Chinese zodiac. So, we spoke with celebrity Chinese culture expert, author, and astrologer, Laura Lau, to learn about one of the best ways to celebrate: through the cuisine!
"Lunar New Year is one of my favorite times of the year – for many reasons, but especially for the food! Below are some of my top recipes for celebrating this special holiday, all of which incorporate traditional ingredients and big, bold flavors synonymous with the Year of the Dragon," said Laura.
"To create an authentic feast like this, there are some key ingredients you’ll need to stock up on, such as Napa cabbage, oyster sauce, sriracha sauce, soy sauce, the list goes on. My pro-tip is to look for a brand that has all these ingredients (my one-stop-shop is Lee Kum Kee). Then, you’ll be covered for all your stir-frying, dipping and marinating needs!
Looking back on how I helped my mom prepare our house for the Lunar New Year, I get excited in passing on these lessons to my son. Whether it’s being the helper at the store, washing and cutting ingredients or mixing together sauces, there are so many opportunities in the kitchen and by simply being surrounded by the wealth of meaning in Lunar New Year."
Here are 12 of her favorite recipes that families can cook up together:
Meatballs symbolize reunions in the new year. The round shape is a prosperous symbol of being complete. The oversized meatball is a fun dish for kids because they are grand and very flavorful.
Long green beans are a very traditional dish at the Lunar New Year table. Try to buy the Chinese long beans, which symbolize long life and good health.
The shape of dumplings resembles the ingots of gold of the past, so they symbolize good fortune. No Lunar New Year celebration is complete with a lot of dumplings!
Lunar New Year is also referred to as the Spring Festival. These delicious treats help usher in the fresh start we get at the beginning of a new year. These are a good hands-on dish for little ones to knead, mash and flip the pancakes.
Hoisin Shrimp or Lobster
Lobster and shrimp will be especially popular on the Lunar New Year table this year. The Chinese name for lobster is "Dragon Shrimp," so it has a significant connection to the Year of the Wood Dragon.
Fish represent abundance because when eating a fish, the dish is never fully consumed - the bones are always left behind. This dish helps symbolize the hope that we always have more than we need.
Noodles are a mandatory dish at a Lunar New Year celebration. The length of the noodle symbolizes long life. Try to buy the longest noodles you can and keep them whole.
Mushrooms symbolize the fulfillment of wishes. This dish will be a familiar one from many Dim Sum meals. I describe it like a rice noodle crepe to kids because it has a delicious filling inside.
Lo Bak Go, as it is known, in Cantonese is a delicious savory side dish made with Chinese turnip or daikon. If you have never tasted a homemade version, it is a real treat. The turnip has prosperous symbolism as well, which makes it a popular dish for Lunar New Year.
These oval rice cakes symbolize a prosperous year ahead. Adding them into a savory stir fry brings a lot of heft to the dish, and the shape is fun with a joyful wish for progress in the year ahead.
It’s great to have a few different kinds of dumplings at the table. There are so many great pre-made options these days. Our family often buys different premade dumplings to balance out all the cooking that needs to be done. Dumplings can be boiled or fried, so our kids (depending on their skills in the kitchen) can help out in a few different ways. My nephews are comfortable frying them up in the pan, while my son likes to watch the wontons pop up in a boiling pot. Remember, a cooked wonton will always float when they’re ready to eat!
Lunar New Year is not complete without Nian Gao being fried up in the morning! You can buy or make this recipe for yourself, friends and family. It symbolizes a "tall or big year." To serve, cut slices of the cake and fry them in a pan. Our family always dipped the pieces in a scrambled egg before frying and had them for breakfast. It’s sweet, chewy and a delicious treat. If you like rice pudding, then you’ll love it!
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