CHINESE NEW YEAR DELICACIES – YEE SANG & NIAN GAO
Food plays an important role during Chinese New Year as this is the time when family members from near and far gather for lavish dinners. Each of the food items consumed during the observance of this auspicious festival is particularly special, as each one possesses positive connotations.
The Sticky Cake or Nian Gao, which literally means “year cake” is a must-have during Chinese New Year. The word nian sounds like “year” in Cantonese while the pronunciation of gao is similar to high or tall. Hence, eating Nian Gao symbolises that the person will keep on moving up the ladder in whatever he or she is doing.
Nian Gao (left) is made from glutinous rice flour and brown sugar which give it the intrinsic stickiness. In Malaysia, it is normally steamed in a short cylindrical container wrapped in bamboo leaves. A delicious way to eat Nian Gao is to cut it into squares or sandwiched with sweet potato or yam slices before dipping in beaten egg and flour for deep frying.
Another typical Chinese New Year dish is Yee Sang (below), meaning “raw fish” in Cantonese, and the words can be literally translated as “to have plenty in life”. It is a colourful vegetable salad comprising several finely shredded ingredients including carrots, white radish, preserved winter melon, pickled cucumber, pomelo bits, fresh and pickled ginger, coriander leaf sprinkled with a generous topping of crispy crackers and roasted peanuts. It is then crowned with thin slices of raw fish. The dressing is made of sweet sour plum sauce, vegetable oil, lime juice and white pepper.
When all these ingredients are displayed on a large plate, everyone will circle the table, armed with individual pairs of chopsticks and toss the salad together while expressing their desire for prosperity and good fortune. It is believed that the higher the salad is tossed, the better the chances of success and prosperity for the person concerned.
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