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How the Chinese Eat Fish for Good Luck | Chinese New Year

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When there is a lauriat dinner, especially during the Spring Festival gala for Chinese New Year, there is always steamed fish. It is usually served towards the end and is a very expensive part of the meal. But it is not just about the dish or how it is cooked. The Chinese have a lot of beliefs that are supposed to bring prosperity and good luck. So this is how the Chinese eat fish for good luck during the Chinese New Year.

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What is the Chinese Belief in Eating Fish?

China is a very big country in terms of land area and it has so many people. There are some variations in regional customs, too. But it is customary to have a plate of fish on the table during a Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner. That is because the pronunciation of the Chinese word for fish also means “abundance” or “being abundant,” so it symbolizes well-being and prosperity.

Cooking Tip: If fresh cilantro is not available, use the Cilantro essential oil by Young Living. It is very concentrated. You will only need about 2 drops added to the sauce.

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~ My late mother-in-law always bought fish to be steamed at home, especially during Sundays when the family is together. Our cook back then would steam the fish in this aluminum plate and serve the fish in it as well. ~

The fish is usually steamed because it retains most of the flavor of the fish. In cooking Chinese steamed fish, it is important to pick the freshest catch. If you can make the selection from an aquarium and have it prepared immediately, it will taste so much better. The fish is then steamed, usually with aromatics like green onions or scallions, sliced ginger, shiitake mushrooms, and cilantro. It is served whole, with the head and tail intact, for good luck.

Having a plate of fish at a Spring Festival dinner represents the Chinese people’s hope for a good life in the New Year.

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~ Sweet and sour fish is also another favorite dish of our family. The fish is fried first and then then the sweet and sour sauce is prepared separately. ~

How the Chinese Eat Fish for Good Luck

But mind you, it is not just about serving a plate of steamed whole fish for Chinese New Year. There is a proper way to eat it, too.

My Chinese boss back then told me that it is the belief of the Chinese to eat fish by picking on the meat. There is usually a serving utensil on the plate that you can use. If there is a big spoon and matching fork, you can hold the fish steady with the fork and use the spoon to scoop out the meaty part.

However, you have to remember to leave the bone intact. If the meat on that side is already finished, the fish is then flipped over. Then everyone takes turns getting some more of the fish.

Remember: Never break the central fishbone in half!

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~ A whole sweet and sour fish served at Park Inn by Radisson Bacolod. They served it uniquely, sliced in the middle like a butterfly. But if you are with Chinese people, it would be best if you don’t break the bone. ~

It is considered back luck to do that. In present times, luck might no longer be the reason, but at the very least, it would be disrespectful to cut the fishbone. So if you don’t want to be blamed for some unfortunate turn of events, then better follow the elders on how the Chinese eat fish. That way, everyone is happy on Chinese New Year.

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2 thoughts on “How the Chinese Eat Fish for Good Luck | Chinese New Year

  1. Thanks for sharing some of the chinese traditions ma.Though I dont believe on luck but I respect their beliefs and tradition.
    Happy Chinese New Year!

  2. Thank you for sharing this mommy Sig. Eating fish is their tradition. We should respect them. Happy Chinese New Year 🎉🎉🎉

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