Updated: Jan 27
The year of the Tiger is just a few moons away. It’s time to reconnect with family, welcome the new year with good fortune and EAT, EAT EAT.
With food being an integral part of Chinese celebrations, we can’t miss out on traditional symbolic dishes shared especially on the eve of the new year. There are a number of customs dictating what is meant to be eaten and when, and largely based on how the dishes look, how it’s name is pronounced, how it is served, subject to local conditions. But despite all the complex variety of dishes available and the symbolism involved, the simple aim is still to wish for wealth and prosperity to all partaking in the feast.
Given that most of these dishes are meant to encourage eating with a lot of people in copious amounts with no set order in dishes, pairing wine becomes exceedingly tricky but not impossible.
There is this general belief that serving red wine is associated with good health and expresses the wishes to everyone for good fortune and happiness in the coming new year. We see a lot of anecdotal evidence of families enjoying light to medium bodied reds this festive season, but whites are also more than capable of holding their own in any New Year feast. Read on as we share both red and white wines that are guaranteed to bring greater cheer to the coming spring festival.
Steamed Fish for Prosperity
Photo and Recipe by TiffyCooks
Fish (魚) is a staple in annual lunar celebrations. It sounds a lot like the Chinese word for “Surplus” so it is a perennial favourite. When serving, placing the head of the fish towards distinguished guests or elders is a sign of respect, and eating this dish last with some leftovers signifies that the year will start and end with overflowing prosperity.
The lightness of the fish and the sweet, savoury and slightly spicy oily sauce will marry nicely with McHenry Hohnen Rocky Road Semillon Sauvignon Blanc. The SSB, served lightly chilled, evokes tropical aromas of passionfruit and ruby grapefruit balanced with grassy and peppery notes. It’s crisp dry finish will cleanse the palate between each bite.
Dumplings for Wealth
Photo and Recipe by Jessica of TheNoviceChef
The ultimate asian comfort food, this dish consists of ground meat and diced vegetables wrapped in a thin and elastic dough skin. Depending where it originates, they are boiled, steamed, fried or baked, dumplings (餃子) often make their appearance during Chinese New Year feasts in some shape or form. It’s shape resembles that of Chinese silver ingots or boat shaped currency used back in the day. It is hoped that the more dumplings you eat on CNY, the more money you will make in the coming year.
Pair this with our wonderful Pinot Noir from Volcanic Hills, a delightful combination of Asian and Kiwi influences. Drawing flavours from ripe cherries and juicy dark fruits, pinot noir's gentle acidity and lightness will both complement and enhance the flavour of the dumplings. Start the year right with this gorgeous red drop.
Spring Rolls for Wealth
Photo and Recipe by recipetineats
Often served fried into a crispy golden colour, these spring rolls (春捲) are eaten throughout the year and not just during the Spring Festival. These golden fried finger foods are filled with meat and vegetables and dipped in a sweet and sour sauce.
They are sometimes served at the start of the meal as an appetizer, so crack open a bottle of refreshingly crisp Volcanic Hills Pinot Gris to kick things off. Concentrated aromas of pear and stone fruit fused with spice, complemented by lifted floral notes will go really well with the herbs in the rolls while it’s high acidity will round out the dish’ fattiness and richness. This food-friendly white is a sure crowd favorite.
Noodles for Happiness and Longevity
Photo and Recipe by Bill of The Woks of Life
Typically made from egg noodles, this dish is usually stir fried with meat and vegetables, with lashings of scallions, oyster sauce, sugar and soy sauce. Noodles symbolise happiness and long life (長壽麵）
This dish calls for an off dry white wine such as Myattsfield Chardonnay. A wine that sparkles with fruit but retains a crisp and refreshing finish, this chardonnay from Perth Hills is a complex dry white wine with a palate of citrus passionfruit and grapefruit flavours and aromatics of nectarine, white peach, and oak. Serve it chilled and indulge.
Tangyuan or Sweet Rice Balls for Family Togetherness
Photo and Recipe by Edwina of Cooking in Chinglish
On the 15th day of the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations is the First Full Moon of the New Year, also called 元宵節. During this time, it is customary to have Tang Yuan (汤圆), glutinous rice balls filled with sweet or savoury fillings served in a bowl of brown sugar and ginger soup, symbolising the hope for many happy reunions (团团圆圆). This dessert calls for a nice fruity rosé. Volcanic Hills rosé is summer in a glass. Summer time flavours of fragrant berry fruit blends melt into a balanced ripe strawberry gelato finish. If you’re not into sweet wines, this combination is a must try.
Niangao or Glutinous Rice Cake
Photo and Recipe by Judy of The Woks of Life
A high position in life goes hand in hand with being more prosperous, so having a glutinous rice cake (年糕) on New Years Eve might help you get a leg up in life. In Chinese it sounds a lot like "getting higher year-on- by year". It’s made with sticky rice, sugar, chestnuts, some times topped with Chinese dates and steamed in wrapped lotus leaves. When deep fried, they are sweet and chewy on the inside and crunchy on the outside. Enjoy this with a nice glass of Riesling or a deliciously sweet Sauternes to end the night on a sweet note.