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What is the Meaning Behind Chinese New Year Goodies?

Bak Kwa 

All of our all-time favorite CNY goodies, Bak Kwa. Bak Kwa is thinly sliced squared dried meat barbecued with a combination of spices. It is usually grilled over charcoal to give it a smoky flavor. The name “Bak Kwa” is a Hokkien word which means dried meat. Beyond being tasty, the jerky is also called “long yoke” in Cantonese, which means to have good fortune. Bak Kwa (barbecued pork jerky) is a delicacy that is said to have originated from Fujian province in China, where the people were poor and where meat was a festive treat reserved for Chinese New Year. Moreover, the red color of the meat is believed to be auspicious in Chinese tradition, which also means to bring good luck as well as to ward off negativity. 

Pineapple Tarts 

The Cantonese term for pineapple is “wong lai” – which conveys the idea of ushering in prosperity. As the Chinese tradition believes that luck and prosperity are very crucial, pineapple tarts are a must-have during Chinese New Year.

Nian Gao 

The pronunciation of Nian Gao sounds like 'year high' (年高), which symbolizes a higher income, a higher position, the growth of children, and generally the promise of a better year. It is considered good luck to eat it during the Chinese New Year period.

Love Letters 

Out of all the Chinese New Year goodies, the love letter is definitely one of the most poetic. In the past, legend has that these egg rolls were used to convey letters and notes between lovers. These romantic pastries were often used by lovers to relay messages of affection and the consumption of the pastry would mean that the message is taken to heart. The golden color and the shape of these Love Letters represent gold bars which is an auspicious item for Chinese and the eggs signify fertility.

Mandarin Oranges

Mandarin oranges have always been considered a traditional symbol of good fortune. This is mainly because the word orange, when spoken in mandarin, sounds similar to the word “gold”. So, having mandarin oranges around the home at New Year is said to bring riches into your life, which makes it a very auspicious fruit.

Yusheng / Lo Hei

We all know this is one of our favorite things to do during Chinese New Year when we will all gather around this dish with chopsticks and shout prosperous greetings, it’s always a joy doing this. The tradition of Yu Sheng or Lo Hei originated from the phrase’s Cantonese meaning of ‘tossing up good fortune’ using raw fish salad symbolising an ‘abundance of wealth and long life’. The “yu” 魚 means “fish” but enunciated appropriately, it also means 馀 “abundance”; and “sheng” 生 means literally “raw” but enunciated appropriately, it means “life”. Thus Yusheng implies “abundance of wealth and long life”.

Tray of Togetherness

The Tray of Togetherness, or 攢盒 is one of the commonly seen goodies in homes during Chinese New Year. The general notion is that offering guests these sweet nibbles wishes them a sweet life in the year ahead, with each individual item conveying additional hopes for prosperity, longevity and the like. Each tray or box usually has six or eight compartments (the number six symbolizing luck, and eight, fortune) filled with symbolic edible items.

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Your Ultimate Guide to Chinese New Year snacks



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