Traditional Chinese New Year Food

When referring to traditional Chinese New Year food, three dishes are top of the menu. They are: Dumplings, Glutinous Rice Balls and Whole Fish. However, as China is so large, there are other special Chinese New Year food traditions popular in different regions.

Top 3 Traditional Chinese New Year Foods

Chinese Dumplings

Wealth for the New Year

Glutinous Rice Balls

Glutinous Rice Balls

Family Reunion

Whole Fish of Chinese New Year

Whole Fish

Surplus & Fortune


Special New Year Foods in Different Areas of China


1. Niangao – Glutinous Rice Cake

Popular in: Beijing, Shanghai, Ningbo, Fuzhou, and Suzhou
Taste: soft, sticky, both sweet and salty

The Chinese name “Nian Gao” means a rise in career and salary. The yellow and white colors of the Glutinous Rice Cake represent gold and silver and express a desire to be rich and successful in the coming year.

2. Chicken

Popular in: all over the country
Taste: salty, sweet, and spicy

Chicken has played an important role in traditional Chinese New Year food culture because of its lucky meaning. Its Chinese pronunciation “Ji” means auspiciousness. However, in different areas, the cooking methods and flavors are a little different. The most popular dishes are Braised Chicken, Roast Chicken, Diced Chicken with Chili and Kung Pao Chicken.
Braised Chicken
Braised Chicken
Popular in: southern China, especially in Fujian, Zhejiang, and Jiangsu provinces
Taste: crispy, both sweet and salty

The Spring Rolls originated in Fujian Province, but now it has become one of the necessary Chinese New Year desserts in most southern areas. It generally contains fresh vegetables and meat but sometimes sweet bean paste is also used. Eating Spring Rolls celebrates the welcome arrival of spring, and represents a fresh start and wealth in the New Year.

4. Ciba Cake

Popular in: southern China including Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hunan, Guizhou, Sichuan provinces
Taste: soft, sticky, and sweet

Another popular Chinese New Year dessert, the Ciba Cake is also made of glutinous rice. Unlike Niangao, it is made of cooked glutinous rice and can be steamed and fried. People eat it not only due to the good flavor but also because it represents reunion and auspiciousness
Spring Rolls
Spring Rolls
Chinese Ciba Cake
Ciba Cake

5. Youjiao – Deep-fried Dumplings

Popular in: Guangdong Province
Taste: oily, crispy, both sweet and salty

This is a special Chinese New Year food in Guangdong Province. The Deep-fried Dumplings can be filled with salty vegetables, nuts or sugar. It is shaped like a wallet from ancient time so it is also a symbol of wealth and expresses a wish for well-being.

6. Poon Choi

Popular in: Hong Kong, Guangdong
Taste: salty and fresh

The Poon Choi is a kind of traditional Cantonese festival food and represents family reunion. All the ingredients including pork, chicken, abalone, prawn, dried mushroom, pigskin and radish are placed in layers and finally served in large wooden, porcelain or metal basins. People should eat it from top to bottom for a better taste.
Poon Choi of Hong Kong
Poon Choi of Hong Kong
Chinese Cured Meat
Chinese Cured Meat

7. Cured Meat & Sausage

Popular in: Sichuan, Hunan, Guangdong provinces
Taste: salty and sweet, greasy, spicy
Cured Meat and Sausage are special foods during Chinese New Year with the flavor differing in various areas. In Sichuan Province, the Cured Meat and Sausage is famous for its spicy taste; in Guangdong, it features a sweet flavor.

8. Hezi – Chinese Pocket Pie

Popular in: Beijing, Tianjin
Taste: salty, crispy

In the northern area of China, eating Hezi on the third day of Chinese New Year is an old tradition with Hezi meaning money box in Chinese. This is a kind of fried pie filled with vegetables and meat; the crispy outside is very tasty.
Hezi – Chinese Pocket Pie
Hezi – Chinese Pocket Pie
Jiandui / Matuan
Jiandui / Matuan – Sesame Balls

9. Dumplings with Noodles

Popular in: Henan Province
Taste: salty

Most people in Henan Province will eat Dumplings with Noodles on Chinese New Year’s Day. As the dumplings are like silver ingots, the dish also has a symbolic meaning of “gold wires thread silver ingots” and expresses a wish of making a fortune every year.

10. Jiandui / Matuan – Sesame Balls

Popular in: Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, Hong Kong, and Macau
Taste: sweet, crispy outside and sticky inside

Jiandui is among the best Chinese New Year food ideas in southern areas. It is made of a glutinous rice flour pastry with sweet fillings and a coating of sesame seeds. The golden round shape and sweet flavor represent a kind of reunion and well-being.

11. Zhengwan – Steamed Dishes

Popular in: Xi’an in Shaanxi Province
Taste: salty, sweet, and greasy

Steamed Dishes are very popular in Shaanxi Province, especially during the Chinese New Year. Generally, there are eight dishes including Steamed Fried Pork, Braised Chicken and Chinese Rice Pudding. All the dishes will be put into a large food steamer and people sit together to enjoy them for reunion
Zhengwan – Steamed Dishes
Zhengwan – Steamed Dishes

12. Zongzi

Popular in: Guangxi Autonomous Region
Taste: salty, sticky

Zongzi is a tradition food of the Dragon Boat Festival in China. It is also a kind of traditional Chinese New Year food in Guangxi. Its rectangular shape and salty flavor make it different from the Zongzi in other places. The cooking methods are also diverse; steaming and frying are both available. 
- Last updated on Dec. 05, 2022 by Catherine He -
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