Happy Chinese New Year Dinner

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Here are some pictures from my Chinese New Year dinner with the family this past Thursday. The living room was filled with beautiful flowers, plants, lucky decorations, and new years snacks and cakes promoting happiness, luck and prosperity. The kitchen was filled with large batches of delicious foods prepared by my aunt the night before. The family gathered together at my grandma’s place – chatting, playing games, and lots of eating. Check out our elaborate new years tree decorated with fancy red envelopes and lucky charms. The blossoms are so beautiful!

On the table, there’s fruits, cakes, and new years treats. Tangerines and oranges are for wealth and luck. Pomelos bring continuous prosperity and status.

Nian gao, or new years cake, is made of glutinous rice, brown sugar. It’s sprinkled with sesame seeds and there’s a big red date in the center. Nian gao translates to “sticky cake” but sounds like the words for “year high”. It’s symbolism for a prosperious new year.

On the left, there’s a box filled with “happy mouth” cookies and “peanut puffs”. The “happy mouth” or “laughing sesame ball” cookies are deep-fried balls rolled in sesame seeds. They look like smiling pac man! The “peanut puffs” or “little horns” (kok chai) are deep-fried, crunchy pleated pastry filled with peanuts.

On the right, there’s yellow prosperity cake (fa guo), a steamed flour cake that translates to fa = rich and gao = cake. There’s also huge sesame seed balls. These treats are sweet, deep-fried puffs of dough coated in sesame seeds filled with a sweet red bean paste.

That’s a lot of packages of rice noodle rolls! Here’s my plate of steamed rice noodles rolls with lettuce and Vietnamese ham. It’s usually served with a generous spoon of fish sauce poured over it.

My aunt prepared a variety of delectable vegetarian dishes, since we follow the tradition of not eating any meat on new years day, called eating “jai” in Chinese or “chay” in Vietnamese.

Vegetarian soup with various mushrooms, fat choy (hair moss algae), wolfberries, and a few more tasty ingredients

Steamed egg with fat choy dish

Mock chicken, on left and vegetarian stir fry, on right. The mock chicken is made with wheat gluten. The vegetarian stir fry has bamboo shoots, various mushrooms, carrots, snow peas, braised wheat gluten, and tofu.

There was a big pot of balls for dessert in the kitchen! The balls are made with mochi (glutinous rice flour). The large ones are filled with mung bean. The balls are cooked in a sweet syrup. It’s served with some coconut milk over it.

It was a really fun new years day filled with happy people and amazing food! Earlier the day, we followed the custom of going to temple for good luck and ate new years lunch there too. We actually went to two temples, a Chinese one and a Vietnamese one. The food at the temples was delicious and the food at my grandma’s was amazing as well! I wasn’t able to feast as much as I used to, but I did make sure I tasted at least a little bit of every dish. And of course, there’s lucky red envelopes! Hope you enjoyed my pictures and mini commentaries. Here’s to a wonderful year of the rabbit (or cat)!

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