Chinese New Year's Eve Family Dinner - Nian Ye Fan
A significant reunion dinner in different regions of China
Celebrating the Spring Festival dinner, or reunion dinner (年夜饭 Nian Ye Fan), is extremely important to Chinese people, and the whole family must get together to enjoy the most sumptuous meal of the year. Chicken, duck, fish and pork are necessary. But as the land is vast and China has so many rich resources, the recipes for Spring Festival dinner vary in the different regions. Let’s explore the different recipes of the reunion dinner in the north and the south of China.
In the north, the reunion dinner features flour-based food and meat with large dishes. Dumplings are a must-eat, as its shape is like a gold or silver ingot, therefore, eating dumpling means making money and having treasures.
In northeastern China, the most typical is “mess stew”, including ‘Braised Chicken with Mushrooms’ and ‘Braised Pork with Vermicelli’.
People in Beijing like the implication of everything going smoothly, and the reunion dinner is composed of 4 cold dishes, 4 fried dishes, 4 meat dishes and 4 soups. Main courses are Sixi Balls (Braised Pork Balls in Gravy), ‘Twice-cooked Pork’, and ‘Red Braised Pork Knuckle’.
However, people in the south of China stress the implications of food. They take Tangyuan and ‘Glutinous Rice Cakes’ as the must-eat for the reunion dinner. Glutinous rice balls, also known as ‘Tangyuan’ in Chinese, are usually served in sweet ginger soup. Their round shape signifies the whole family reunion. And eating Nian Gao, also known as glutinous rice cake, is like making a wish every year to be more successful and better than last year.
People along the southeast coast of China prepare seafood with light, fresh tastes, such as lobster, scallop, and oyster, as the main course.
In the southwest, people prefer spicy and salty tastes. Locals will cook lots of sausages, which are often made with lean and fat pork with chili and spice, tasting smoky and piquant. Pork steamed with rice flour, known as Fenzhengrou in Chinese, implies that your life and career will thrive and prosper.
Although the different regions have their own unique recipes for the reunion dinner, all dishes are created for the purpose of blessing the coming year. Preparing such a grand meal is difficult, but it presents the family with love and best hope.