6 Snacks You Can Only Get During Chinese New Year
Girl Scout cookies aren't the only coveted snack you can only get once a year. Whether you refer to the holiday as Tet, Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year, this time of year is a foodie's dream come true with lots of specialty snacks that hit the shelves only for a few weeks. This year the holiday falls on February 19th and lasts for 16 days. The snacks are sold in the weeks leading up to the Lunar New Year and through to the end of the celebration. Lunar New Year is all about eating traditional foods that have auspicious and symbolic meanings as eating the right foods are believed to affect one's fortune for the coming year. Here are six traditional and modern snacks to help you celebrate the Year of the Goat.
Trays of Togetherness can be found at many households during Chinese New Year. (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
Trays Of Togetherness
For a little over two weeks, friends and relatives frequently visit each other's homes and give well-wishes for the new year. Since it is taboo to show up empty-handed many visitors bring a Tray of Togetherness for the New Year. The tray contains eight compartments, which is a lucky number in Chinese culture. Trays of Togetherness are also found at home typically in the dining room to welcome visitors. The compartments are filled with snacks such as coconut for unity, kumquats for prosperity, longans for fertility, peanuts for longevity, and red melon seeds for happiness. Candies are said to bring sweet happiness for the new year. Some trays also include lots of colorful candied fruits with melon, coconut, lotus seed, or tamarind fillings.
Year cakes are steamed rice cakes that are supposed to bring prosperity in the coming year. (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
"Nian gao," sounds exactly like "higher year" in Chinese so it is supposed to signify greater success in the coming year. Nian gao can only be found once a year during Lunar New Year. Eating nian gao is supposed to bring prosperity in the coming year. The steamed rice cake is made of glutinous rice flour, almond extract, brown sugar, and oil. Sometimes white sesame seeds, red dates, dates, or nuts are added. A popular way of eating nian gao is cutting the rice cake into small squares and then pan-frying both sides with eggs. For those that have never tried it, expect a warm, gooey, and very delicious snack—almost like mochi. Nian gao can be found at any Asian supermarket.
Fortune cakes are sweet steamed cakes that are eaten for good fortune in the coming year. (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
There are many must-have traditional Chinese New Year snacks and the fortune cake or fa gao is definitely one of them. People eat fortune cakes or offer them to the Buddha to help bring prosperity in the new year. Fortune cakes are sweet steamed cakes that are split open at the top. The spilt top symbolizes good fortune since the word "fa" (發) means both "rise" and "prosperity" in Chinese. Despite the fact that fa gao looks spongy and soft, it is actually a very dense cake with a gummy texture. The cake is made mainly of rice flour, which symbolizes cohesiveness in Chinese culture. The round shape of the cake represents family unity and togetherness. The rising of the cake symbolizes rising fortune in the new year. You can find fortune cakes at Asian supermarkets or at Asian bakeries.
Traditional Chinese candy stores have special chocolates in the shape of auspicious figures. (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
Eating sweets during the Lunar New Year is encouraged as it represents bringing sweet happenings to coming year or starting the new year on a sweet note. Traditional Chinese candy stores like Aji Ichiban, which is one of Hong Kong's largest candy stores, have special chocolates they only sell during the new year. The chocolates come in the shape of auspicious figures such as the Fortune Cat, God of Wealth, golden pineapple (symbolizing good luck is coming), yuanbao (ancient Chinese coins symbolizing wealth), etc. The chocolates are inside the shell so you can keep the figurines as a souvenir when you're done for decoration!
Aji Ichiban is located at 140 West Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel, (626) 280-6383 and at 500 N Atlantic Boulevard in Monterey Park, (626) 289-8111.
Phoenix Food Boutique makes fresh whole daikon radish cakes for the new year as a symbol of prosperity and rising fortunes (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
Luobo gao is a type of daikon radish cake and a savory dim sum dish, but it is a must-eat dish during the new year's as a symbol of prosperity and rising fortunes since the name is a homophone for "good fortune." Phoenix Food Boutique sells entire freshly handmade daikon cakes delivered twice a day from the main kitchen for only two weeks each year in the original flavor and taro too. Typically, the luobo gao is fried for New Year's cakes breakfast or when friends or family stop by to give their well-wishes for the new year.
Phoenix Boutique has many locations throughout Los Angeles.
Godiva’s limited edition Chinese New Year chocolate sets with goat-shaped Asian flavored ganache chocolates (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
If tradition isn't for you, Godiva does limited edition Chinese New Year chocolate sets each year with special Asian-flavored ganache chocolates. This year's Year of the Goat box is shaped in a traditional jianzhi paper cut design. The set comes with a combination of Godiva's classic Belgian chocolates, with the addition of six limited edition chocolates in the shape of a goat. Inside their dark, milk, or white chocolate shells are filled with Asian-inspired fillings. The white mini goat is made of creamy white ganache, chrysanthemum, and ginger. The milk chocolate goat is made with gui flower and ginseng. The dark chocolate goat is made of 72% dark chocolate ganache with jasmine and Angelica root. The Year of the Goat gift sets are available at the Godiva website for $50, and also at Godiva stores.