Chinese New Year falls on Friday and will celebrate the Year of the Ox.
While celebrations will likely be muted this year, there are still plenty of ways to bring luck and prosperity for the upcoming year that don't involve going out.
Here, we've put together a list of eight lucky foods and dishes to eat during the festivities, and places to order them from in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
1. Lettuce wraps
Chinese lettuce wraps or san choy bow are a favourite for Chinese New Year as lettuce is considered symbolic of fortune and prosperity. Moreover, the combination of savoury chicken, fish or any other protein over a bed of crunchy lettuce is not just delicious – it’s also low carb, and a tasty snack for any time of the day or year.
You can make it at home or, in the UAE, PF Chang’s is known for its Chang’s Lettuce Wraps, a signature dish made from a family recipe, featuring chicken or vegetarian options.
Chang’s Lettuce Wraps are available at PF Chang’s across the UAE; Dh48.30
2. Peking duck
No Chinese feast is complete without Peking duck, a dish that was known to be fit for emperors. The dish comprises thin, crispy slices of roasted duck, rolled with other fillings such as hoisin sauce, thinly cut cucumber and spring onion, and wrapped within a pancake.
Dubai residents looking for something offbeat for Chinese New Year can try out Hutong’s newly launched Flaming Duck, which gives the traditional recipe a twist as flaming the duck elevates the taste and makes the meat moist.
In Abu Dhabi, Shang Palace has a signature roasted Beijing duck that requires 30 minutes to prepare.
Flaming duck from Hutong is Dh410; a whole roasted Beijing duck from Shang Palace is Dh348
The Chinese stable is a traditional must-eat food as they are believed to symbolise longevity and wealth. Even the shape of dumplings are often made to resemble gold ingots, an early form of Chinese currency. In the UAE, there’s no dearth of restaurants that deliver variations of dumplings. For authentic versions, you can’t go wrong with Din Tai Fung, which has branches across Dubai and also delivers in Abu Dhabi. Or you can order them from Dragon Bao Bao in the capital, starting from Dh30.
Steamed chicken and vegetable dumplings from Din Tai Fung go for Dh26 for six pieces; available in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Beef celery dumplings from Dragon Bao Bao start at Dh30; Abu Dhabi
4. Sweet rice balls
Tang yuan or sweet rice balls are a mochi-like dessert made out of glutinous flour and a favourite on Chinese New Year. According to tradition, eating them is symbol of togetherness and family.
In Dubai, The Noodle House has a limited-edition menu with a number of traditional dishes including the sweet rice balls, filled with toasted sesame, pear and star anise syrup.
Abu Dhabi residents can have their fill at Dai Pai Dong with its three-hour Lantern Festival package on Friday, February 26, serving traditional dishes, including the glutinous rice balls.
The dish costs Dh29 at The Noodle House and in all Dubai branches. The Lantern Festival package is Dh388 at Dai Pai Dong
5. Steamed fish
An emblematic dish of Chinese New Year, steamed fish is often eaten on the day as a sign of auspiciousness. The fish should be the final dish served, with some of it left over at the end as a way to symbolise abundance. The Chinese character is yu, which means fish but also sounds similar to the word for surplus.
It's a simple dish to cook at home. One of the more traditional ways to prepare it is by steaming the fish with ginger, spring onions and soy sauce.
Abu Dhabi’s Noodle Bowl offers a steamed fish fillet with ginger, spring onion with soy sauce for Dh38; Dai Pai Dong offers steamed whole fish as part of a family-style course set menu; Lan Kwai Fong, Dubai serves the dish for Dh33
6. Longevity noodles
Just as their name suggests, longevity noodles are thought to symbolise happiness and, of course, longevity. They can be any type of noodle, although they are typically made from egg. The dish should be eaten without being cut or broken up, with the idea that the longer the noodles are, the more luck that awaits in the new year.
There are many different ways to use the noodles in a dish. It is said that extra luck can added through items such as mushrooms, for prosperity, and green vegetables like watercress, to represent wealth.
Longevity noodles are available as part of The Noodle’s House limited-time menu in Dubai or can be purchased from 1004 Gourmet, which offer delivery to Dubai and Abu Dhabi for Dh6
7. Spring rolls
Also known as chun juan in Chinese, spring rolls are easy to find in most Chinese restaurants. They are eaten to welcome the new year as their golden cylindrical shape is representative of gold bars, which symbolise wealth. They usually contain a meat or vegetable filling, are deep fried and are sometimes served with a sauce.
Royal Orchid, with various locations in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, offer spring rolls with either a meat or vegetable filling, from Dh30. Five Palm Jumeirah’s Maiden Shanghai's Shanghai spring roll costs Dh50
8. Nian gao
Nian gao, also known as New Year cake, is a sweet, sticky dessert that can be eaten all year round but is most popular during the holiday.
While the dish is difficult to find in the UAE, it is easy to make. Nian gao can be made with as little as three ingredients: glutinous rice flour, sugar and water.
Here's a recipe to try at home:
220g glutinous rice flour
1. Add water to the sifted glutinous rice flour and mix well to create a dough.
2. Add the sugar and combine until it turns into a fluid mixture. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes.
3. Pour the mixture into a container to get rid of any bubbles. Steam the mixture for 10 to 12 hours with a piece of cloth over the container.
4. Allow it to sit overnight before consuming.