The Lunar New Year is around the corner, and the Chinese communities are eager to rejoice in their new years for the second time with their families! Albeit the recent situation of the pandemic which had undoubtedly affected the festive season, that does not mean you cannot be merry for the special occasion.
You can never leave out food when it comes to these momentous celebrations. It is among the important highlights after the dragons and lanterns. These dishes held meanings and symbolism related to the new year, whether it is from their pronunciations, appearance, the preparation and ways of serving them, and consumption.
Food can bring happiness to the tummy, mind, and life – so here are Top 7 Chinese New Year snacks for your longtime prosperity.
Haw Flakes (Malaysia’s Most Beloved Childhood)
Our childhood was filled with the most cherished memories which carry on in our grown-up minds as nostalgia. One snack that will take you on a trip down to the memory lane is the haw flakes. The mildly sweet, tangy taste on your tongue can make you reminisce your child self. The frisbee-like candies consist of Chinese hawthorn berries. It is a versatile fruit that can be eaten fresh, or as a condiment in dishes. The haw is also used as a medicinal ingredient which can treat a number of ailments. Traditionally, the haw flakes were given to children to deworm parasites from the digestive tract.
Fun fact about the candy is, there is no definite name for it. All the more mystery surrounding the best Chinese New Year candies that will make you curious about their backstory.
Kuih Kapit (Love Letter From The Ancients)
Ah, the wonders of love . . . the budding romances which later blossoms into something more beautiful and intimate. Fondly named as the ‘love letter’ biscuits, you may call it the most romantic Chinese New Year delicacies ever existed in Malaysia.
There is popular lore circulating the Chinese New Year must-have snack. In the old days, women are forbidden from engaging with men without a chaperone. Therefore, they used the biscuits as a relay for their romantic feelings. Its edible, delicate yet intricate designs – acts as a love letter for lovers to send romantic messages to each other. The best part which makes you go “aww” is that consuming the biscuit held an endearing gesture which the love sent had been taken to the heart.
The people back in the days are really something when it comes to their dearests!
Pineapple Tarts (The Wealthbringer)
How could we forget the sunny tarts which instantly catch our eyes whenever we pass by the living room? Pineapple tarts are an essential pastry to brighten up the mood of our annual gatherings. The making of pineapple tarts is heavily influenced by the Portuguese pastries traced back in the early 1900s. The abundance of pineapples grown alongside rubber trees causes a great supply for exploration to use the fruits in so many ways, one of the successful results is the pineapple tarts we often eat today.
But one should not take lightly of the intertwined taste of pineapple and butter, because the golden hue tarts actually held a wealthy symbolism. In Hokkien, pineapples are translated as “ong lai”, which means “fortune, come” or “prosperity has arrived.” Yes, it does make sense since we have established the definition of gold as “money” or “richness.” All the more reason to stack up these golden babies for good luck!
Pineapple tarts do not only serve during Chinese New Years, but also other celebrations in Malaysia such as Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Deepavali. On one fine festive day, you could barely keep track of time to look at the jar of pineapple tarts that are once full, get completely gobbled up in a blink of an eye!
Red Dates (Come, Prosperity)
We have heard and taste the pure sweetness of dark-colored dates which are usually eaten during Ramadan for Muslims to break their fasts, but we often forget the amount of nutrients red dates have to provide for our body. Dates (枣 zǎo) shares the same pronunciation with “early” (早 zǎo), defined as a head start. Do not be intimidated by the crimson color, because the color red is a lucky color in Chinese belief which bears the symbolic meaning of prosperity and booming wealth. These meanings behind the red dates are just what we need during the new year.
The Chinese red dates, also known as jujubes, originated from a traditional Chinese specialty tree and are the most popular health foods in China. Although its skin appeared hard, its insides are soft and moist along with a sweet waft of smell. Often used for its health benefits and a natural sweetener, the fruit is believed to balance one’s qi (vital energy of a living being). Red dates are highly alimentary whether eaten raw as a dried fruit, steamed, soaked or used to make a variety of nutritional dishes such as wine, tea, soup and porridges. Regardless of any forms the ruby-stained fruit takes, it can maintain blood flow and youthfulness, detoxify liver, improves sleep cycle by soothing the nerves, comforts stomach pains and alleviates dry throats.
The myriad of benefits red dates supply are all the more reason it is always eaten as a snack on jubilant occasions such as festivals (of course, the Chinese New Year!), weddings, housewarming parties, and many more celebrations.
Glutinous Rice Dumplings (The Lucky Charm)
If there’s a competition for the best Chinese New Year snack, rice dumplings is the victor. These adorable sticky rice balls are made from glutinous rice with a filling of choice which is kneaded in. It is wrapped in bamboo leaves or Argy-wormwood leaves into triangular-based pyramid shapes and tied with plant stems.
There are many symbolisms surrounding the dumplings. In Chinese, rice dumpling is translated as zongzi (粽子). ‘Zong’ shares a similar pronunciation with ‘zhong’, bearing the symbol of luck. Zongzi is also used to pay homage to Qu Yuan (famous Chinese poet) and his spirits such as his patriotism, selflessness and righteousness. Zongzi also symbolizes a bumper grain harvest in the coming year.
Just a small amount of zongzi can actually stuff your hungry tummy full in a split second. Consider it as a very filling lucky charm for an ongoing prosperity in the new year!
Dried Longans (A Heartfelt Reunion)
Dried longans are one of the most well known snacks for Chinese New Year. While the fresh fruit has a white, juicier flesh, the dehydrated version of the pulp is darker in color. The Chinese word for the fruit is translated into guìyuán (桂圆) which is defined as expensive and round. It is well-known within the Chinese community that roundness held a symbolism of reunion. In a sense, serving dried longans during Chinese New Year brought upon family togetherness.
Dried longans also has herbal and medical properties and is often used in Chinese cuisines and sweet dessert soups. It is a common traditional Chinese medicine that had an effect on relaxation and nourishing one’s vitality. There are many ways dried longans can be served; usually the fruit is served unshelled. However, it can also be eaten directly by flesh or make tea with it.
Prawn Rolls (The Golden Bars)
Also named as the Hae Bee Hiam roll, this mouth-watering snack represents good fortune and joy. The concoctions of shrimp or prawn and spring rolls are colored and shaped to evoke the imagery of gold bars. The savory and scrumptious flavor will surely become the harbinger of luxury coming your way.
So you see, these Chinese New Year snacks can prosper your life, be it health, wealth, love and togetherness. It is easier to forget that the greatest blessing in life is to share the joy with your family. So enjoy the moment and unleash your festive mood for the Lunar year!
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