Chinese New Year – Are You Ready to Get Steaming?
Chinese New Year is a colourful celebration, filled with firecrackers, red lights, lanterns, dragons, gifts and lots of fun. During this time all Chinese families come together to welcome the new year. Given the fact China is one of the oldest cultures on earth, the traditions surrounding the New Year are unique, rich and amazing. From what they eat to what they wear and how they party, Chinese people know how to welcome the new year in a memorable way.
Chinese New Year Traditions
The Chinese New Year is celebrated by 20% of the world’s population, both in China and outside it. One of its unique features is that it is not celebrated on 31st of December, like all the other countries, but it is calculated according to the Lunar calendar. This means Chinese New Year or the Lunar New Year doesn’t have a set date on the Gregorian calendar (regular calendar or the solar calendar) and it can fall anywhere between 21st of January and 20 of February. The New Year is also called Spring Festival and the celebrations last for two weeks.
During this time, you will see red decorations all around China, as red is supposed to scare away evil spirits, along with the firecrackers.
Another tradition for the Chinese New Year is to spend the holiday with the family. Considering the fact many Chinese people work abroad, while most of the working population of China has relatives in rural villages, the Spring Festival causes the biggest human migration, as Chinese citizens come home for the mandatory New Year family reunion. Because the stores are closed for the entire holiday period, Chinese stock up on cooking supplies, snacks and more. Dumplings, spring rolls, fish and other foods which are made using the traditional steam cooking method are sold in large quantities during this time, which makes having combination ovens a great asset for a restaurant that sells these Chinese staple foods.
Chinese New Year Dinner
When the entire family comes together, they have a good time around the table. What is on the table is just as important for Chinese as the rest of their traditions. During the Spring Festival you are supposed to eat dumplings for every meal, every day. They symbolise wealth and even though that’s a lot of dumplings to eat during the two weeks celebrations, people will try to eat as many as they can. The dumplings are usually made using steam cooking methods and can be made at home or in a restaurant setting. Where restaurants must produce large quantities of this staple
dish, combination ovens with special SuperSteam functions are ideal to create delicious dumplings. Typical dumplings are made with green onion, pork and shrimp, but you can fill them with any type of meat or vegetable. In some provinces, dumplings are made with specific fillings, for example eggs in Suzhou.
Apart from dumplings, which symbolise wealth, the New Year dinner should also include spring rolls, another dish made using steam cooking. Commercial catering equipment can be used to make delicious spring rolls filled with pork, Chinese cabbage, shiitake, carrots and seasoning. Spring rolls, like dumplings, are also used to symbolise wealth, so they can’t be missed from the New Year dinner table. Fish is another mandatory food for the New Year, as it symbolises prosperity. The fish can be cooked in many ways, from steaming to boiling and braising. Some of the most common ways to cook fish for the New Year are fish with chilli, steamed fish with vinegar sauce and boiled fish with a spicy broth. Another staple of Chinese cuisine are noodles. They symbolise happiness and longevity, so the longer the noodles, the longer your life will be. The noodles can have a variety of side dishes, each one with its own symbol. Eggs are for a healthy family, lobster is for endless money, shrimp is for wealth and fortune, roasted pig is for peace, duck for loyalty, fish for wealth, tofu is for happiness and fortune for the entire family and peaches for longevity.
The collective name for these Chinese foods is dim sum: dishes that can be made at home or can be bought from restaurants. In order to guarantee the best results when producing large quantities of dimsum, restaurant kitchens will often invest in commercial catering equipment such as the Unox combination oven with Super Steam function, as available at 247cateringsupplies.co.uk.
Nian gao, rice cake or New Year cake is a must have for the Chinese New Year dinner table. In ancient times they were used as offerings to gods. Now they are one of the traditional dishes of the New Year, but can be found all year round. The cake is made from glutinous rice or yellow rice. Depending on which type of rice is used, the cake has different colour and texture. Like many other Chinese dishes, the nian gao taste and appearance is different from region to region. For example, in the South they are savoury and need to be boiled or steamed before being eaten. In the North the rice cake has added sugar or a variety of other ingredients, such as rose petals, lard or mint.
The centerpiece of the New Year dinner table is the hot pot, a dish rich in history. Chinese Emperors used to serve hot pots during official meals and it is still one of the most popular dishes in the Chinese cuisine. The hot pot consists of a boiling pot surrounded by a selection of uncooked meat and vegetables. Each guest takes a piece of the uncooked meat or vegetable and dips it into the hot pot. When it is cooked, they take it out and eat it, after dipping it in one of the sauces surrounding the hot pot. This unique style of
serving allows each guest to create their own custom dish.
The Chinese New Year is a bright, colourful celebration, a time of joy, when people gather around the table to spend their time with the family and enjoy the steaming traditional dishes of the rich Chinese cuisine.