Lunar New Year: 5 dishes you'll want to eat

Lunar New Year is like Christmas at CBC Radio producer Elaine Chau’s home. There are no presents, but there is plenty of bickering, and you can always expect a feast. Here are five favourite dishes from her family.

CBC Radio producer Elaine Chau shares culinary treats from her family

Elaine Chau's mother Angela Ip taught her about traditional Lunar New Year food. Here she is holding a daikon radish cake before steaming it. (Elaine Chau/CBC)

Lunar New Year is like Christmas at the home of CBC Radio producer Elaine Chau.

Chau, who is Chinese and hails from Hong Kong, says there may be no presents, but there is plenty of bickering, and always a feast.

"Every New Year's Eve dinner, we cook all the dishes we love most to eat," Chau said. "Dinner is always a reminder of where we came from, and as we gather around the table to share the meal."

And even though the Year of the Monkey is coming up, there's no monkeying around when it comes to Lunar New Year dinner.

Here are five dishes that will make your feast a grand one.

New Year's Rice Cake ("leen goh")

New Year’s rice cake — with plenty of brown sugar! (Elaine Chau/CBC)

"This is a steamed rice cake made of glutinous rice flour, water, and brown sugar. This is meant to bring fortune in the new year, and can easily be pre-made to bring over to a friend's for a New Year's visit. Before serving, you can slice it up, dip in egg, and pan fry. This ensures that the cake is nice and chewy when consumed."

Radish cake ("lo bak goh")

Daikon radish cake, ready to eat. (Elaine Chau/CBC)

"This is a savoury rice cake made with shredded daikon radish, cured meats, and dried shiitake mushrooms — this is key as it has much more flavour than fresh. Dried shrimp and dried scallop are also commonly found in it. It's a delicacy you can get at dim sum, but is particularly popular at this time of year. That's because the word for 'radish,' in Chinese, is a homophone for 'to grow.'"


Pork and shrimp dumplings, ready to eat. (Elaine Chau/CBC)

"Dumplings are auspicious, and often eaten during New Year's Eve dinner, because they look like Chinese gold coins. They are easy to make if you buy the dumpling wraps from the supermarket, and just craft your own filling. At the Chau house, it's usually a mix of ground pork, shrimp, and chives — marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, Chinese rice wine, and sesame oil. The best part is making them with family and friends. It's a bonding activity and dinner, all in one!"

New Year's Candies

Lunar New Year candies in a dish. These ones are coconut and lotus seed flavour. (Elaine Chau/CBC)

"There is a lot of entertaining that happens during this New Year's weekend, and at most Chinese homes, you will find a platter of New Year's candies and treats. My favourite are candied coconut, lotus root, and roasted watermelon seeds. These are best indulged with a cup of Chinese tea — may I recommend pu-erh tea?"

Sticky rice ("lo mei fan")

Savoury sticky rice — also known as lo mei fan in Cantonese. (Elaine Chau/CBC)

"Sticky rice is not a typical Lunar New Year dish, but it's always been a staple on our dinner table. Dried shrimp, scallop, and shiitake mushrooms are steamed with glutinous rice, which I soak overnight in chicken broth. It's garnished with cilantro, scallions, and pickled radish — this is perhaps unique to my household. It's a great alternative to just plain rice for a special dinner."

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Gung Hay Fat Choy! Here are 5 Lunar New Year dishes you should try

About the Author

Elaine Chau

Associate Producer for CBC Radio in Vancouver

Elaine Chau was born in Hong Kong, and grew up in Montreal and Vancouver. She is the 2008 recipient of the CBC Radio Peter Gzowski internship, multiple RTDNA winner, and Gold Radio Winner in the Health/Medicine category at the 2011 New York Festivals for her series "AIDS: Then and Now".


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