During the Chinese New Year period, every family will prepare various snacks and fruits, both for the family and visitors. Placed in candy dishes, these Chinese New Year snacks and fruits are picked for their auspicious symbols of good wishes for a new year.
China Highlights will introduce you to some top Chinese New Year snacks that you might find in every family home when you pay a New Year visit.
1. Red Dates — Wealth and Prosperity
Red is a lucky color in China, meaning booming and prosperous. Dates (枣 zǎo) have the same pronunciation as "early" (早 zǎo), meaning a head start. That is why red dates are always eaten on jubilant occasions, including festivals, wedding ceremonies, housewarming parties, and a baby's completion of its first month of life.
As a top Chinese New Year snack, red dates are served as a dried fruit. You can eat them with your fingers or cut them into slices to make tea.
Click to see Lucky Colors in Chinese Culture.
2. Peanuts — Vitality and Longevity
Peanuts, also named "longevity nuts", symbolize vitality, longevity, riches, and honor. As a Chinese New Year snack, peanuts are always served unshelled.
There are many ways to cook peanuts, such as boiling them with water or salt water and stir-frying them. Peanuts are a nourishing food and can be eaten raw. Chinese believe that eating them raw is better.
3. Dried Longans — Reunion
Dried longans have another name in China: guìyuán (桂圆 /hway-ywen/), which sounds like 'expensive' and 'round' (贵圆) — roundness symbolizes reunion in China. So it is a top Chinese New Year snack due to its implied meanings.
Traditional Chinese medicine says that eating dried longans can nourish one's vitality. Usually dried longans are served unshelled. You can eat the flesh directly or make tea with it.
4. Sunflower Seeds — Having Many Sons and Grandsons
Sunflower seeds to Chinese people are what popcorn is to moviegoers. The Chinese character for seed (子) also means child(ren), so sunflower seeds symbolize having many sons and grandsons in traditional Chinese culture.
Eating sunflower seeds is a great way to kill time for Chinese people, and they are a necessary snack for the Chinese New Year. Unshelled sunflower seeds can be eaten both raw and stir-fried.
Eating sunflower seeds, chatting, and watching television are quite common for a New Year gathering. As well as sunflower seeds, watermelon seeds and pumpkin seeds are also eaten as seed snacks.
5. Sweets — A Sweet Life
Sweets symbolize a sweet life. They are indispensable snacks for the Chinese New Year. Eating sweets represents sweet occurrences or getting a sweet start in the coming year.
Except for various kinds of loose sweets, some sweets are packed in golden boxes shaped in auspicious figures, such as a yuanbao (a shoe-shaped gold ingot that was used as a type of currency in ancient China, which symbolizes wealth), a fortune cat, and the God of Wealth. These are nice choices when considering Chinese New Year gifts.
6. Sesame Seed Balls/Sesame Seed Baguettes — Fullness
Sesame seed balls area tasty type of fried food made from glutinous rice flour that is filled with red bean paste, rolled in white sesame seeds, and fried. They are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
Sesame seed baguettes are fried until the inside becomes crispy, and is shaped like a cylinder. They have a longer shelf life so are much more poplar during the Chinese New Year period. Packed sesame seed baguettes can be found in supermarkets, while sesame seed balls are mainly available at bakeries.
7. Fried Dough Twists — Reunion
This fried food is a little bit harder than a sesame seed baguette. Two or three bars of dough paste are twisted together and fried until they are crispy. It is much more popular in North China.
The fried dough twists produced in Tianjin are the most famous in China, due to their renowned crispy texture, rich flavor, and creative ingredients. They are a specialty of Tianjin.