Lunar New Year in China, a symbolic meal and… puns

Normally in February, we are done wishing each other a happy new year. Fortunately, as there is always time to celebrate something in the world, we can start over and do it with Lunar New Year! Let’s take a tour of Asia, and as we say in China: 新年好!

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Lunar New Year. For years we mistakenly called it Chinese New Year. Obviously the Chinese are the first concerned in relation to the number and the Chinese diaspora in the world, but we must not forget that several Asian countries such as Vietnam also celebrate it, as do Burma, Nepal, Laos, Cambodia, but a little later than during this period.

The different countries celebrate the event each in their own way, more or less importantly. Each year, the Lunar New Year falls between January 21 and February 19. In China, it will last a fortnight starting with the Spring Festival, ending with the Lantern Festival.

To help us on the path to culinary wisdom, we went to ask our friend, journalist and chef Yin-Line Chea a few questions. Regularly, she offers nice recipes on France 3 in the show Overseas Witnesses at 8:55 a.m. And she has written several times for 7 de table. Yin-Line knows Chinese culture well, but also Vietnamese culture from her parents.

In China, different regions oblige, from east to west, from south to north, we will not eat the same things during this New Year. It’s a bit like in France – Christmas in Provence and Christmas in Lille -, we are not totally on the same culinary specialties. On the other hand, contrary to our Western culture, the choice of dishes has a meaning: “The Chinese are very superstitious people. They like it, it brightens up their lives a little, it makes them laugh above all. They love puns. In China, we have words that are monosyllabic. They will be pronounced in a certain way and we will have homonyms. Its namesakes will go into superstition with puns. For example, for the word orangewe’ll say cheng (); this word has a homonym which is also pronounced cheng but not with the same tone. And then it’s gonna mean hit » explains Yin-Line.

Now that we understand that the symbolism will take an important place in the dishes on the menu, let’s see what we can meet on a Chinese table: “There are great classics! For example, we talk a lot about noodles. Here, there are no puns. Rather, it is the form that counts. They are very very long and we will eat them without cutting them, because they will symbolize longevity! There is also fish. it’s very traditional. We’re going to eat bass steamed gently, with a little ginger, spring onions and soy sauce. It gives a fish that is very melting, and we will serve it whole. It symbolizes, from head to tail, that you will have an abundant year from beginning to end! », continues Yin-Line.

Finally, let’s talk a bit about sweets. It’s true that in China you don’t particularly eat a big cake, a pie or that kind of thing at the end of the meal, however for this New Year, there is an unmissable specialty and here too… symbolic, as we explains Yin-Line again: “At New Year’s time, it’s important to eat sweet things. Sweets that will precisely symbolize… the sweetness of life! These are not sugar-based sweets, but rather candied fruits, small caramelized nuts. There are also some desserts, among others, a well-known one: the Tang yuan. These are small balls made from glutinous rice flour, with a mochi texture. In the middle, we will stuff them with peanut butter, or sesame paste. They are bathed in a light cane sugar syrup, and as they are several and very small, like a grape, they symbolize reunion, family and living together. »

In Vietnam, we celebrate the Tet, at the same time as in China due to a similar approach to the lunar calendar. We are not going to eat the same thing: the language is different, puns and symbolism are not predominant. In the very traditional dishes, we can see rolls made from sticky rice and cooked in a banana or lotus leaf. We are going to include a stuffing of yellow soybeans with pork and shiitake mushrooms, and steam it all: “In addition to the culinary tradition, it is a technique that is not easy to implement”, Yin-Line tells us.

Now that we know a little more, if you don’t necessarily want to get into the kitchen, don’t hesitate to go to the various Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants that offer take-out to be part of the party. .

Happy Lunar New Year!

Keywords: Chinese New Year – symbolic – Lunar New Year

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