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Lucky Chinese New Year dishes to try in Hong Kong

It’s almost time for the Chinese New Year and plentiful thoughts of food. Hongkongers celebrate the Lunar New Year with many symbolic ‘lucky foods’.

The dishes are rooted in symbolism and history. The fortuitous symbolism of these foods often relates to the shape or colour of the dish. In addition, they specifically relate to how the character sounds when spoken in Chinese: a homonym to lucky-sounding words. Pretty cool, isn’t it? These wildly delicious dishes are commonly relished during the Chinese New Year celebrations in Hong Kong.

Chinese New Year Foods: Dishes that bring good luck

Poon Choi: Unity

The celebratory Chinese dish poon choi, is guaranteed to make an appearance during Chinese New Year. It is a literal translation of its Cantonese namesake: a basin filled to the brim with premium food. The tastefully crafted poon choi is layered with at least eight main ingredients, including turnip, mushroom, chicken and pork. Seafood, chicken and prawn make up the top layer of the dish. Friends and family share the festive meal together, representing individual cooperation. Interestingly, early residents of the New Territories served the poon choi in birthdays and festivals. However, many restaurants around the city offer a version of this festive treat.

Where to try: The Legacy House, China Tang

Chinese New Year foods
Image source: Soil to Soul/Hong Kong

Nin Gou: Growth 

Growth plays a huge role in the Chinese New Year celebrations. The familiar image of the Sweet Rice Cake, or nin gou, is a welcome sight during the Lunar New Year. Nin gou, which means ‘higher by the year’, symbolises progress and growth. While specific regions prepare the savoury nin gou, the sweetened version is popular in Hong Kong. Every Lunar New Year, chefs across the city whip up unique versions of nin gou with auspicious ingredients such as tangerine, red bean and black sugar.

Where to try: The Peninsula, St. Regis

Nin Gou
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Yau gok: Wealth

Fried dumplings are arguably the main attractions for Lunar New Year. Although deep-fried in oil, the traditional Cantonese delicacy Yau gok is sweet. Savoury ingredients such as mushroom, peanut and coconut fill the glutinous dough, making for a decadent treat. In addition, the shape of the Yau Gok is evocative of the gold ingots the Chinese used for centuries as money. So, what better way to start the Year of the Rabbit than chomping down piles of golden ingots?

Where to try: Hotel Icon, Din Tai Fung

Chinese New Year foods
Image creditt: su-lin/Flickr

Fish: Prosperity

Eating fish is one of the most common traditions of the Chinese New Year. In Cantonese, the word for fish means ‘surplus’ or ‘extra’. The fish indicates surplus and prosperity. The fish should be the last dish with some leftovers, as this has auspicious homophonic of surpluses every year. Traditionally, diners leave the head and tail of the fish to eat at the beginning of the new year.

Where to try: Mott 3210 Shanghai 

Image credit: Alpha/Flickr


Sesame cookies: Happiness

A beloved sweet treat, these traditional sesame cookies symbolise happiness and laughter. The Chinese name translates to ‘smiling mouth cookies’. These balls of joy are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The dough ball cracks open when deep fried, thus resembling a right jolly chuckle. Gifting these cookie boxes to your loved ones will guarantee a smile on their face.

 Where to tryTwinkle Baker DécorJenny Bakery 

Sesame cookies
Image credit: Alpha/Flickr

Tang yuan: Reunion

Traditionally served during the Lantern Festival, tang yuan symbolises ‘reunion’. These round mochi rice balls come in various flavours, including peanut, black sesame, red bean paste and even chocolate. In addition, popular dessert shops in Hong Hong offer a unique version of these treats every year.

Where to try:   Chiu Chow Hop Shing Dessert, Kai Kai Dessert

CNY foods
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

As the year begins, it’s a culinary blessing for everyone trying these dishes. Nom, nom, nom!! 

(Hero image credit: W Hotel/Hong Kong; Feature image credit: Four Seasons/Hong Kong)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Question: What are the traditional Chinese New Year dishes?

Answer: Poon choi, fried dumplings, nin gou and sesame cookies are some Chinese New Year traditional dishes.

Question: Where to try nin gou in Hong Kong?

Answer: Every Lunar New Year, chefs across the city whip up unique versions of nin gou with auspicious ingredients such as tangerine, red bean and black sugar.

Lucky Chinese New Year dishes to try in Hong Kong

Tania Tarafdar

Tania and yoga are in an eternal relationship. You can see her breaking into yoga asanas in the snow-capped Alps and the Mediterranean Sea coastline. Her friends swear by her food and travel recommendations.

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