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Published on February 13th, 2024. 

Chinese New Year Food and Drink Pairings

Complement your Lunar New Year Foods!

While 1st January marks the start of the new year for many UK residents, in China, Lunar New Year holds special significance. Also known as Chinese New Year in the UK, this vibrant celebration kicks off on February 10th, 2024, ushering in the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese zodiac.


What is Chinese New Year?


It’s a time-honoured occasion where the old is bid farewell and the new embraced with open arms. Whether in China or in Chinese communities around the globe, the air buzzes with excitement as lion dances, dragon parades, and bustling flower markets paint the streets in a kaleidoscope of hues. As the new year approaches, homes are transformed with meticulous cleaning, vibrant decorations, and sumptuous feasts fit for royalty. It’s a time of renewal, joy, and the promise of a bountiful year ahead.


Lucky Foods


Certain dishes are eaten during the Chinese New Year for their symbolic meaning. These lucky foods are served during the 16-day festival, especially on New Year’s Eve dinner, to bring good luck for the year ahead.

The symbolic meanings of these traditional Chinese New Year foods are based on their names or appearance. How these dishes are prepared, served, and eaten also holds significance. Here’s a list of some of the essential Lunar New Year dishes and what they symbolise and wines that pair well with them.

Whole Steamed Fish – Prosperity


At the unity dinner of Chinese New Year, a whole fish (yú, 鱼) is typically served steamed, though it can also be boiled or braised. This tradition symbolises prosperity for the upcoming year. It’s crucial to serve the fish with its head and tail intact, representing a good beginning and end to the year. Half of the fish is often saved for the following day to ensure ongoing prosperity.


Pairing: Stone’s Throw Chardonnay

Chinese Dumplings – Wealth


Legend has it that consuming more dumplings (jiǎozi, 饺子) during the Spring Festival correlates with increased prosperity in the new year. The Chinese term for dumplings reflects the transition between the old and new year, combining the words for “exchange” and “midnight.” Eating dumplings during Lunar New Year symbolises bidding farewell to the old and welcoming the new. Their shape, resembling that of wontons, is inspired by the Chinese silver ingot, historically used as currency in Imperial China. Dumplings are associated with wealth, so ensure they are intricately pleated, as flat dumplings are believed to symbolize the opposite.


Pairing: Chapel Down A Touch of Sparkle Bacchus

Tāngyuán (Sweet Rice Balls) – Togetherness


Sweet rice balls (tāngyuán, 汤圆) are not only a staple during China’s Lantern Festival but are also commonly enjoyed during the Spring Festival in South China. Their round and cohesive shape, combined with their frequent appearance at family gatherings, imbues them with symbolism of unity and family togetherness.

These chewy balls, made from water and glutinous rice flour, can be served deep-fried or in hot broth or syrup. They offer versatility in fillings, ranging from savoury to sweet, with popular options including sesame paste, red bean paste, chopped peanuts, or preserves.


Pairing: Trebbiano Terre Allegre

Longevity Noodles – Happiness and Longevity


Longevity noodles (cháng shòu miàn, 长寿面) take the experience of noodle eating, renowned for its slurping, to another level. Consumed for luck and a long life, these noodles are particularly prominent in Northern China, where they can stretch up to two feet in length! Legend has it that the length of the noodle directly correlates with one’s lifespan—however, it’s advised not to bite or break the noodle while cooking, as this could symbolize a shortened life.

Longevity noodles can be prepared fried or boiled in broth, accompanied by various meats and add-ins, each carrying their own symbolic meanings. This Sichuan-inspired recipe offers an alternative approach, utilizing shirataki noodles as a substitute for the sometimes hard-to-find longevity noodles. The dish includes ground pork, fresh ginger, bok choy, and scallions, offering a flavourful twist to this traditional favourite.


Pairing: Terraza della Luna Pinto Grigio

Nián Gāo (New Year Cake) – Promotion 


For those seeking a pay raise, promotion, or simply wishing for good luck in the new year, the traditional rice cake treat known as nián gāo (年糕) holds promise. Its name shares the same pronunciation as the Chinese words for “tall” or “high,” symbolizing aspirations for elevated circumstances in life.

While nián gāo has been enjoyed for thousands of years and boasts countless regional variations across China, the sweet versions typically consumed during Lunar New Year in the South are most popular. These cakes are primarily crafted from sticky glutinous rice or sweet rice flour and may feature additions such as chestnuts, jujube, lotus leaves, or sesame seeds.


Pairing: Alsace Cave De Turckheim Vieilles Vignes Riesling

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About the author

Madison King

Madison looks after all copywriting and proofreading for Drink Warehouse UK, working with the Marketing team to deliver educational content to all our customers. She spent many years in the hospitality sector across bars, clubs and cafes before moving to Asia to gain new experiences. You can find more from Madison about beer, cider, spirits, wine, non-alcoholic, soft drinks and RTDs all over our blogs, website, social media, and Set The Bar magazine. 

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