Lanterns, dragons, firecrackers and vibrant colors are prominently displayed this time of year in celebration of the Chinese New Year.
Celebrated for 15 days, this particular holiday, also known as the Lunar New Year, not only honors ancestors, or ushers in good luck for the coming year, but it is also a time where culinary traditions are best enjoyed.
If you are one who would like to take a bite off the tastiest side of Chinese tradition during this splendid celebration, what better way to do it than to enjoy good dim sum!
Here are must-try dim sum dishes in Singapore that you should try this holiday season.
When we think of dim sum, the first things that often comes to mind are the steaming dumplings rolled in carts. But aside from its popularity, even among foreigners, dumplings are also a well loved classic Chinese dish that is traditionally eaten on the eve of the Lunar New Year.
Dumplings are generally made of minced meat mixed with finely chopped vegetables wrapped in thin, transluscent and elastic dough . Other popular fillings include minced pork, diced shrimp, ground chicken, beef and vegetables. These are either boiled, baked, fried or steamed. Either way, this little bite-sized dishes are often a treat to palate.
But aside from the different taste and texture that these variety of fillings provide, each also provides certain significance to different occasions for the Chinese. For instance, it is tradition to eat dumplings with cabbage and radish on New Year’s Eve, because they believe that this allows the skin to be fairer and one’s mood to be better.
Dumplings are an important part of Chinese New Year celebration because it means prosperity. Yuan Bao or Jiaozi is a dumpling filled with minced pork and cabbage which is served with vinegar and soy sauce. These are served particularly for this occasion because the shape of the dumpling also reference the ingot-shaped Chinese currency, which is also believed to bring them prosperity. Families also tuck peanuts or a white thread inside some dumplings, and whoever eats it is believed to have long life. Some also tuck a copper coin to usher in wealth to whoever is “lucky” enough to eat it.
What is interesting about dumplings is that the number of pleats also denotes prosperity. This is why families who prepare this for their festivities ensure that they make as many pleats to bring in good fortune. It is also believed that the more dumpling you eat during the new year, the more money you make in the coming year. Dumplings are also supposed to be arranged in lines than circles because the latter can mean that a person’s life will only go in circles instead of going forward.
If you are definitely up for authentic Chinese dumplings to celebrate the Chinese New Year, Singapore has a lot of hotspots that offer excellent servings.
These are cylindrical-shaped rolls that are either filled with vegetables, meat, and even something sweet. The fillings are wrapped in thin dough wrappers and then fried giving these rolls that golden color. The Chinese believes that eating spring rolls brings in prosperity, they even utter the saying “hwung-jin wan-lyang” to mean a ton of gold, with spring rolls representing gold bars.
Fish is also a part of dim sum dishes and also a significant symbol for the Chinese New Year. They believe that having whole fish brings prosperity because the Chinese word for fish sounds like the word for abundance. Only the middle portion of the fish is supposed to be eaten, with the head and tail intact because this brings a good start and finish, and it also prevents bad lack through the year.
Just as the food are tasty, the Chinese culture also associate their cuisine with interesting practices. For example, when placing fish on the table, the head part of the fish should be placed in the direction of the elders, or any distinguished guest, to show respect. Others in the table can eat the fish only after the person to which the fish is faced has eaten first.
Photo Credit: www.womansday.com
Rice Dumplings or Sweet Rice Balls
To clear the confusion, rice dumplings come in different names. It is called Yuanxiao in the northern part of China, and Tangyuan in the south. It is a very important dish served during the Lantern Festival, particularly on the morning of the first day of the New Year. They interpret the round shape to be a symbol of family reunion which is why it is also an important part of every family Chinese banquet for the New Year.
The north and southern parts of China interestingly have varied ways of making this dish. The people in the north use dough, made from glutinous rice powder, and wrap stuffings like bean paste, brown sugar, and a bevy of fruits and nuts, neatly inside. Meanwhile, in the south, the dough is wrapped onto the stuffing. Photo Credit: lsesu.tumblr.com
Turnip cakes actually comes in different names such as radish cake, Law Bock Gaw, or daikon cake are one of the staple of Chinese New Year Celebrations. This is made from grated turnips and plain rice flour that is actually prepared through steaming. For those who is just new to Chinese cuisine, and their “cakes”, it is safe to remind you that this is not like your typical fluffy and heavily frosted cakes. This can actually be dipped in dim sum dipping sauce or Hoisin sauce. But don’t let that sway you off because turnip cakes are not desserts, but rather, these are used to serve as “quick bread” by the Chinese.
Photo Credit: cookingcommons.blogspot.sg
Nian Gao/Glutinous Rice Cake
Nian Gao is also referred to as the New Year’s Cake or glutinous rice cake. The Chinese has a penchant for associating the significance of food names to certain festivals based on what they sound like. Gao for example sounds similar to the word for tall or high. This is why this particular cake is made to symbolize achieving new heights or dreams for the new year. This can also mean prosperity in business or life in general, an increase in children’s height, a promotion, better grades, etc.
This recipe is generally made of glutinous rice flour, brown sugar, Chinese dates, lotus leaves, chestnuts and oil. However There are other variations where other nuts or sesame seeds may be added. This is either steamed, fried, stir-fried or boiled.
Photo Credit: www.chow.com
Just like the festivities and culture that the Chinese practice, their cuisine is also something that any foreigner should also experience. And what better time to indulge in the marriage of food and culture than the Chinese New Year. Food is always an integral part of a celebration and the Chinese do it so much better just with their spread of dim sum dishes.
If you are looking for good dim dishes in Singapore, Tak Po is the place who can give you authentic and hand made dim sum.
You don’t have to enjoy it for brunch, treat yourself all the way to dinner! Visit us today and make the festivities all the more satisfying and memorable!