When I moved to Shanghai, I lived across the hall from a very superstitious man. Red cardboard cutouts of horses decorated his doorway, red underwear hung from his balcony, and it seemed he had enough fireworks to launch a full-scale pyrotechnics show for even the tiniest occasion. But I had no idea what any of it meant. That is, until Chinese New Year rolled around.
The weeks leading to the holiday, I was gifted with oranges and tangerines, offered a giant, glittering cardboard sheep for my door, and advised to deep-clean my apartment (as he peered over my shoulder, through the newly decorated doorframe). I was also advised to settle any debts, not to wash my hair, and not to cry. This was all important, he said, in order to receive good fortune in the year to come.
But even more important, in order to be lucky in love and in my finances (he seemed very invested in my dating life—or lack thereof), I needed to watch what I ate. And thankfully this did not mean scaling back on my calories.
Eating “lucky foods” is a very important part of the Chinese New Year celebration, playing not only into superstitions, but also tradition. And since it may or may not have been the reason for my lucky year (yes, I even got myself into a relationship), I’m going to make the following foods part of my own traditions.
Dàn Jiǎo (蛋饺)Apparently egg dumplings look a bit like the old Chinese currency. But I’m sure they taste way better. Do yourself a favor and eat the pork-filled treasures in Elixir Health Pot’s savory, crack-like broth.
Yú (鱼)Since the Chinese word for fish is pronounced the same as the word for “abundance,” eating it whole allows for a surplus of all things good. And if you don’t mind spice, the Hunan-style perch at Hunan Country Cuisine is pretty tasty, and a good deal at 60 kuai.
Chūnjuǎn (春卷)Spring rolls remind people that spring is coming, which makes people happy. They also slightly resemble gold bars, which also makes people happy. Eat the yellow croaker spring rolls at Jian Guo 328 and you’ll be downright delirious.
Babao fan (八宝饭)Translated to “eight treasure rice,” the sweet mound of sticky rice, mixed with dried fruits and nuts, symbolizes the reunion of family. Pick one up at Wang Jia Sha on Nanjing Rd W and share it with your loved ones for a sweet year ahead.
This came from an article I wrote for City Weekend magazine in Shanghai. I now have a monthly column for this publication, where I stuff my face and report my findings. What could be better? To see the full article, visit cityweekend.com.cn.