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by Jenny Atkins, LiveLighter nutritionist and busy mum


Walking through Chinatown or your local Asian shops, you may notice red lanterns, couplets (strips with Chinese characters expressing wishes for the year ahead) and New Year pictures decorated on their doors, windows and throughout the building. It is again the start of a two-week celebration of the Lunar New Year, beginning on 10 February 2024. Farewell is bid to the 2023 Year of the Rabbit, and big (noisy!) celebrations bring in the auspicious Year of the Dragon!

In my family, the Lunar New Year is one of the best times of the year and another opportunity to gather with family, friends and of course, eat fabulous food!

I have fond childhood memories of my wide extended family of grandmother, aunts and cousins bustling in the kitchen all day. This would span weeks leading to the festival where the family finally sit down for New Year’s Eve dinner to share in the amazing array of food and each other’s company – much like a traditional Christmas lunch!

The New Year festivities themselves last for 15 days from New Year’s Eve to the Lantern festival. This time is rich in tradition and customs including lion and dragon dances plus fireworks displays. The new year greeting of Gong Xi Fa Chai in Mandarin or Kung Hei Fat Choi in Cantonese means ‘Congratulations and best wishes for a prosperous New Year!’’ and you will find this greeting loudly shared between family and friends.

chinese lanterns
Ziggy at Chinese New Year
red paper chinese couplet

Search online and enjoy the culture, arts, stalls and entertainment that is on offer for local Lunar New Year celebrations. Food is the central focus to symbolise good luck, health and prosperity for the year ahead. Here are some of key foods eaten during the celebrations, and LiveLighter recipes that incorporate them. Enjoy!

Chicken

A whole chicken is a symbol of family.

Our tangy and herb-flavoured roast chicken takes minutes to prepare then it’s in the oven to do its own thing.

If finger food is more your thing, try our yummy soy chicken drumsticks or grilled chicken and noodles lettuce wraps. Delish!

sandwiches
soy chicken drummies
grilled chicken wraps

Fish

Fish is usually steamed whole. In Mandarin, the pronunciation for fish and abundance is the same so a fish dish symbolises success for the incoming year.

Try our flavoursome fish cakes and BBQ fish, which are both great for summer.

thai fish cakes
bbq fish with mango

Dumplings

Homemade dumplings taste so much better than the frozen store-bought versions. If you haven’t already, give our chicken and corn or ginger mushroom dumplings a go. The best thing is that these dumplings can be made ahead and frozen! Then either steam or panfry when you’re ready to cook.

chicken and corn dumplings
ginger mushroom dumplings

Spring rolls

Spring rolls resemble gold bars so are symbols of wealth and fortune. 

You can make our healthier oven baked version  into small or larger rolls, depending on the size of the wrapper you buy.

If you want a fresh version, try our rice paper rolls instead .

Both rolls are also great to get the whole family involved in its preparation. In my family, those that prep together get to brag about how well we each did when we sit down to eat! 

Noodles

Noodles signify long life - the longer the noodle, the better! You can use any kind of noodles and either fresh or frozen vegies.

Try our quick stir-fry version, spicy Singaporean recipe  or sticky tofu version.    

singapore noodles
sticky tofu noodles

Vegetarian

New Year's day itself is a day where vegetarian dishes are eaten. Feast your eyes on some of my favourite vegetarian LiveLighter recipes! 

chickpea curry
moroccan baked eggplant
quick peasto pasta
roast cauliflower salad
zucchini slice
grilled chicken wraps

I replace the meat in these two recipes with cubed firm tofu for a meat-free dish: 

basil beef bean stirfry
bbq fish with mango

I hope you enjoy these recipe suggestions. Give them a try for this Lunar New Year. They might become a regular feature for your meals!


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