Everything you need to know about Chinese New Year Dinner and just follow the recipes and you’ll have a full table of food to impress your guests!
Chinese new year is the biggest holiday for most families in Taiwan, it is also my favorite. Visiting families, eating, going to temples, eat some more, play with firecrackers, and eat again. It’s fair to say that Chinese new year is all about eating- especially now, most people don’t have time to follow all the traditions, the traditions that remain are almost all about food.
The BIG dinner is usually hosted on Chinese New Year eve, “除夕” ( chúxì). The dinner is called “團圓飯” (Reunion Meal, tuányuánfàn) or “年夜飯” (New Years Eve Dinner, niányèfàn). Families usually spend as long as they can around the dinner table, the feast can be 4 hours long or more!
My dad doesn’t cook AT ALL, mom would wake him up early in the morning and drag him to the market to shop with her- this is usually the only day I’d ever seen my dad in a market. Mom would start the prepping of the feast right after the market.
This list of food is what’s usually on our dinner table. The actual menu varies from family to family but there are always a signature dish on each family’s table.
Experienced moms and grandmas would usually prep days ahead- there are always a few side dishes that can be prepped a few days early and some meats need to be marinated, sometimes dried or smoked.
A sausage like no other. This Sichuan sausage is pungent, spicy, tingly and smoky. It’s dried, so the texture is harder, perfect for fried rice, steamed on top of rice or just eat it as a side dish with a glass of Chinese white wine. Perfect drinking snack.
A super easy, 7 ingredient chicken side dish that’s served cold.
Red bean rice cake (Nian Gao) is one of the must-haves during Chinese new year. This recipe is made from scratch with rice, and it is easier than it sounds! It is a delicious treat of sweet, soft and gooiness with the aroma of red bean(also called azuki bean). We enjoy it by frying it until it turns golden crispy on the outside and drizzle with some condensed milk, it is a taste from heaven.
This “meat roll” is my grandma’s secret recipe, I’ve never had anything like this anywhere else. They are soft, gooey, chewy, flavorful and super tasty. Grandma would always make a big stack of them and feed it to us kids during Chinese New Year and we love them.
Radish cake is something my grandma would make every Chinese new year, since “Radish” in Taiwanese sounds similar to good luck, and “cake” sounds the same as “high”, so lots of lots of luck in the following year! (Radish: 菜頭Cai4tou2, Luck: 彩頭, cai3tou2; Cake: 糕, gao1; High: 高, gao1)
Sweet, spicy, sour, crunchy and the air is filled with the scent of SESAME OIL and garlic. This dish is sure to freshen up any heavy meal.
This recipe was passed down by my grandpa and probably from grandpa of his. We ALWAYS have this on the table for dipping & drizzling over anything.
Classic Main Dish
Another Chinese new year classic, also enjoyed anytime through out the year really. This melts-in-your-mouth savory Dong Po pork is something out of this world. It’s crazy how something so heavenly is created with only 4 ingredients. It’s great with rice or break with chopsticks and serve in a bun!
Fast, easy classic. Roasts don’t have to be roasts if you know what you’re doing. Scallion beef boom-fry(蔥爆牛肉 cōngbàoniúròu) is flavorful, super tender and absolutely DELICIOUS.
Spicy pepper shrimp stir-fry with a perfect blend of spices, garlic, and spring onions. Taiwan knows how to make seafood shine!
Meigan braised pork is a dish made with “Mei Gan Cai” (梅乾菜 MéiGānCài), mustard green that’s salted, fermented, and sundried. MeiGan braised pork is a classic Hakka dish!
Hot, sour tingly and really, really delicious. A spin-off from the classic hot and sour cabbage. This Sichuan style hot and sour brussel sprout only takes 10 minutes to make, and it’s officially our new favorite way to enjoy Brussels sprouts!
Garlic stir-fried veggie is the basic of the basic in Taiwanese/Chinese cooking. Sweet, tender spinach with pungent, flavorful garlic that fills the air with aroma in under ten minutes.
Potato stir-fry with vinegar is a very special dish- the crunchy potato strips combined with the sour, almost overpowering vinegar packed with a little heat and topped with freshly grounded Szechuan pepper to give it a little extra kick. It’s a delicious side dish that is enjoyed hot or cold around Taiwan and will change your view on potatoes being soft and mushy.
A crunchy, nutty black sesame brittle that fills your mouth with aroma of toasty black sesame and the taste of caramel.
Not usually something we would make at home, but I would always get one from the night markets during Chinese New Year! Candied strawberries are often served on a stick in night markets of Taiwan, and is one of my all-time favorite desserts. Crunchy and sweet on the outside, soft and sour on the inside- a perfect balance!
VEGAN DUMPLINGS 素水餃
Yes, vegan dumplings is in it’s own category in our family. They are eaten at the strike of midnight rather than the dinner table. Our family’s tradition is to eat vegan and start clean and fresh on the first day of New Year. We would make and fold these dumplings the day before New Years Eve, freeze them and cook them right before midnight on New Years Eve. Firecrackers are lit at midnight of New Year day, greetings and red envelopes are exchanged then the whole family sits down and enjoy these delicious dumplings.
If you just want to fold some dumplings for fun… then check this out: