We originally published this post last year, but it had such a great response that we’ve updated it and bubbled up for new Woks of Life readers who may not have seen it yet! Happy Chinese New Year and Happy Wokking!
It’s almost Chinese New Year! As the big day draws closer, it’s time to figure out what to plan for your Chinese New year menu and the big Chinese New Year’s dinner festivities.
A big draw of Chinese New Year, aside from the delicious food, is of course, the dollar billz. Anyone married is traditionally obligated to give some “lucky money” in red envelopes (hong bao) to kids for good luck. For the elders, all that’s required in return is a polite “Gong Xi Fa Cai!” or, for Cantonese people “Gung Hei Fat Choy!” which wishes the giver good wealth and prosperity in the lunar new year.
As kids, me, my sister, and my cousins on my dad’s side (Cantonese) would waddle around parties collecting those brightly colored envelopes, saying “Gung Hei Fat Choy” with our terrible American accents, pocketing the money to count later, and giggling at the silliness of the phrase.
In the spirit of the new year, and to help you all prepare your Chinese New Year menu for new year’s eve and new year’s day, we’ve supplied this big “fat” Chinese New Year roundup, with menus for every skill levels to make sure you’re enjoying the holiday with plenty of good eats regardless of your comfort level as a cook or your inclination to even wander into the kitchen to begin with.
Let’s get started with this easier and more manageable Chinese New Year menu – The Shortcut!
THE SHORTCUT CHINESE NEW YEAR MENU
This shortcut Chinese New Year menu is perfect for eager, yet inexperienced cooks. It’s packed with lots of great, yes, you guessed it, shortcuts for the traditional dishes that show up on Chinese New Year’s eve and day.
Often served alongside a whole fried bird of some sort, but alone they’re perfect with a bubbly, fizzy drink .
Usually we’d insist on making two whole fish on Chinese New Year’s eve, one to enjoy in the old year, and one to enjoy the next day in the new year…but this salmon is so so simple and tastes just like the steamed whole fish with ginger cilantro, and scallion over the top.
Instead of making the traditional whole poached chicken (bai qie ji), these easy chicken breasts are ridiculously easy to make and are served with the same Ginger Scallion Oil.
You always need something green on the table, and this yu choy is just as simple as steamed broccoli, but much much better tasting.
Pork is a must-have, and this one-pot braised pork, napa cabbage, and glass noodles will fulfill all of your cravings for mom’s home cooking.
Every CNY table needs a soup, and this tomato egg drop only takes 10 minutes! You can keep or skip the noodles.
Take it easy on the desserts and skip the traditional glutinous rice concoctions with these lightly sweet and buttery walnut cookies.
Update! If walnuts aren’t your thing, or you’re looking for something a little more recognizable, you can also try our old-fashioned Almond Cookie recipe!
THE NO-FUSS CHINESE NEW YEAR MENU
A big Sichuan Hot Pot spread is perfect for the festive home cook that’s preparing a party for a crowd, but doesn’t have the time (or inclination) to prep a huge feast. What’s easier than Ina-Gartening big platters of raw ingredients and letting guests cook their own food and dunk it in a sauce they made themselves? The only “cooking” you’ll have to do is preparing the hot pot stock. A tasty and easy start to the New Year!
If you’re looking for more tips and how-to information on hot pot, check out our brief guide.
THE COMPROMISE CHINESE NEW YEAR MENU
Our Chinese New Year menu for the intermediate home cook, is a compromise. It’s got all the telltale signs of a Chinese New Year feast, but sticks to the core classics to keep things relatively manageable. If you’re committed to putting out a traditional spread, but don’t have tons of experience whipping up this elaborate feast, this is the menu for you.
A whole poached chicken is a must-have–we have all the tips on how to get a silky, perfectly-cooked chicken.
Steamed whole fish is another priority dish for a traditional Chinese New Year. Let your fish monger do the work–from there, it’s simple.
Whole shrimp make for a festive and impressive presentation, and the simple preparation lets the flavor of the shrimp shine through.
A classic that is more intimidating than it seems with our perfected recipe.
Another one that will be a breeze to prepare with a little TLC, prep in advance, and help from your butcher.
This braised pork belly just needs a bit of tending to make sure the braising liquid doesn’t dry out, but it makes for a traditional, red-braised showstopper.
This vegetarian classic is so delicious and easy that my great grandma has been cooking it every Chinese New Year for years––and still does at the age of 99!
This soup is on our table every year. Once you get a hold of the salted pork and bamboo, you can just leave it on the stove and forget about it until dinner!
Nian gao is surprisingly easy to make for how traditional it is. Plus, it can be made in advance! Ours is laced with delicious allspice, vanilla, brown sugar, and orange zest.
THE EXPERT CHINESE NEW YEAR MENU
Okay, now we’re pulling out the big tricks. Our Chinese New Year Menu for experienced cooks is a high-bar test of endurance, knife skills, precision, timing, and sheer dedication. Some of our best, tastiest, and most beloved Chinese New Year dishes are included here, so this menu is high risk, high reward. You pull this off and Chinese New Year’s dinner at your house will become legend. We believe in you.
These are a real labor of love and rare–but you’ll have to make them quickly to keep up with hungry friends and family wandering by the stove…
These are an impressive and delicious addition to any feast–bonus points if you hand chop your meat for added texture!
Nothing but the best for your guests, with these tasty egg dumplings made one by one in a ladle set over a flame to resemble little gold bars!
Perfectly crisp deep fried oysters are a surefire sign of a prosperous new year.
This traditional taro cake takes a lot of chopping, mixing, and steaming, but make a huge batch and enjoy it for months to come (it can be frozen!)
This really speaks for itself. A fried bird’s nest made of thin strips of taro with luscious seafood (scallops, shrimp, fish) nestled inside. People will have tears in their eyes as you put it on the dinner table.
Chinatown-style soy sauce chicken is a tough nut to crack––see if you can manage to keep the chicken skin perfectly intact for a flawless 10/10 presentation!
And why stop at chicken? Why not throw a whole duck into the feast? Sour plum sauce is a deliciously tart and unexpected addition from the old school Chinese recipe archives.
Of course, there’s gotta be a whole fish on the table. Perfectly frying a whole fish to tender perfection without accidentally butchering the whole thing? That’s some kungfu shifu level stuff right there.
A crispy slab of pork belly with perfectly bubbly and crunchy skin is what people will thank you for at the end of the meal.
These long life noodles are a prosperous addition to the new year’s table–the required expertise for these is that if you cook the noodles for a smidge too long, it’ll be a soggy mess. Get it right, and it’s one of our favorite banquet noodle dishes!
The ultimate all-out move is to MAKE YOUR OWN TANG YUAN. Bring these out at the end of this meal and you may just get a standing ovation.
HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!