By far one of the most important holidays for the Chinese people, Spring Festival (or the Chinese Lunar New Year) falls on January 1st on the Chinese Lunar calendar.
As a country covering 9.6 million square kilometers, China has a massive variety of different foods traditionally consumed during this big event. North China has its "Tang Yuan (汤圆, Glutinous Rice Dumplings)", while the south China city of Guangzhou has "You Jiao" (饺子, Deep Fried Dumplings) and "Jian Dui" (煎堆, Deep Fried Sesame Balls with peanut filling).
In the past, local Cantonese would heat a pan of oil for the "You Jiao" and "Jian Dui", which is believed to bring the whole family good luck at the beginning of the New Year.
Preparations for the Spring Festival often begin as early as one or two weeks before lunar New Year's Eve. Families become very busy not only preparing food, but also with the traditional cleaning and decoration work that welcomes a "new beginning". During this time the familiar smell of New Year dishes emanate from every kitchen.
Jian Dui (煎堆)
●Jian Dui (Deep Fried Sesame Balls with peanut filling)
Ingredients: sticky rice powder, brown sugar, peanut crumbs, sesame seeds and oil
Said to bring good fortune, Jian Dui are the size of a fist and very popular in South China, especially in Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Macau. An old saying goes that when "Jian Dui comes, gold and silver comes (煎堆碌碌，金银满屋)."
You Jiao (油角)
●You Jiao (Deep Fried Dumplings)
Ingredients: sticky rice powder, peanut crumbs, white sugar, mashed coconut and oil
You Jiao, a kind of snack with different fillings, are commonly eaten by Chinese families. Some say a You Jiao looks like a purse, which means fortune. The Cantonese like sweet flavors, and sweet foods symbolize a "sweet life" for the New Year.
Dan San (蛋散)
●Dan Juan (Crispy Egg roll) and Dan San (Crispy Egg Shatters)
Ingredients: egg, sticky rice powder, white sugar and oil
Dan Juan is a favorite with the Cantonese during the Spring Festival and many housewives make this snack at home. Dan Juan and Dan San have attracted many fans since they are very crisp and not as oily as Jian Dui and You Jiao.
Nian Gao (年糕)
●Nian Gao (Sweet Rice Pudding)
Ingredients: sticky rice powder, olives, Chinese dates, brown sugar and peanut oil
Nian Gao is called the New Year cake. 糕(Gao, pudding) has the same pronunciation as 高(gao, high) in Chinese, so Nian Gao means to reach a higher stage in your life and work. There are also other kinds of Chinese pudding for the New Year, such as Luo Bo Gao (radish pudding), Ma Ti Gao (water chestnut pudding) and Jiu Ceng Gao (nine layer pudding).
Tang Huan (糖环)
●Tang Huan (Fried Sweet Ring)
Ingredients: sticky rice powder and brown sugar
Tang Huan comes in sweet and salty forms and is very simple to prepare - just press the sticky rice powder paste into a mould, then fry it in a pan.
There are also other snacks for the Lunar New Year, such as Tang Lian Ou (Sweet Lotus Root), Tang Lian Zi (Sweet Lotus Seed), Tang Ma Ti (Sweet Water Chestnut), Tang Dong Gua (Sweet Chinese Watermelon) and Tang Ye Jiao (Sweet Coconut Flesh). All of these foods symbolize a "sweet" and happy new year.
Tang Lian Ou (糖莲藕) & Tang Ye Jiao (糖椰角)
Tang Lian Zi (糖莲子) & Tang Ma Ti (糖马蹄)
Tang Dong Gua (糖冬瓜)
(by Carrot Chan, Stephen Roach)