5 lucky Lunar New Year dishes and where to try them in the UK

The Yu Sheng salad: the higher the toss, the more auspicious the year ahead is said to be. Credit: Straits Kitchen, at Pan Pacific London.

The Lunar New Year, which utilises the lunar calendar instead of the Gregorian, falls in January or February each year. It’s a special time for families to celebrate together by feasting, reflecting on the past year, and sharing their hopes for the year ahead. LNY is celebrated across various countries throughout Asia and goes by different names depending on the country. In Vietnam, it’s known as Tết, while Sŏllal is the term in Korea and Losar in Tibet.

Like many of our favourite holidays, food is central to the celebration, with different ingredients symbolising abundance and prosperity. Read on for five auspicious dishes you can eat to welcome the Year of the Rabbit and where to try them across the U.K. 

 

Jiaozi, Mainland China

A bamboo steamer holds Chinese jiaozi dumplings.

The traditional jiaozi dumpling platter headlines the menu at Baozilnn. Credit: Baozilnn

Alongside longevity noodles, steamed whole fish, and roast meats, Jiaozi dumplings are traditionally eaten on the eve of LNY. They’re filled with succulent meat, vegetables, or seafood and dipped in vinegar, soy sauce, or chilli oil for added flavour. The number of dumplings you eat during this time is believed to correlate to the amount of money you will make that year, so don’t stop after just a few. The boat-like dumplings are shaped like a yuanbao ingot, the currency which was used in imperial China. The word “jiaozi” also shares the same pronunciation with 角子 jiǎozi, a small jiao coin used in Greater China, which is equal to 110 of a yuan. 

Feast on them, steamed or pan-fried, at BaoziInn in London, Pacifica Cantonese in Manchester, and at the Chinatown in Liverpool, a twin city with Shanghai famed for its dumpling shops and home to the oldest Chinese community in Europe. 

 

Thit kho trung, Vietnam

A bowl of slow-cooked pork with an egg. A rice dish and pickles are in the background.

Thit kho trung, a dish of caramelised pork belly and boiled eggs, is served with pickles and garnishes and enjoyed during Tết. Credit: TânVân.

Cubes of caramelised pork belly prepared in a rich, sweet, and tart gravy is a dish enjoyed mainly in the south of Vietnam during Tết, the Vietnamese new year. The meat is first soaked in garlic, fish sauce, sugar, and coconut water, then simmered slowly for a few hours with peeled hard-boiled eggs, which symbolise goodness and happiness. The sweetness of the dish is offset by zesty pickled vegetables alongside. 

Enjoy it at TânVân in London, or Mi & Pho in Manchester. 

 

Yu Sheng (Prosperity) Salad, Malaysia

YuSheng salad and a selection of accompaniments.

Yu Sheng salad from the Chinese New Year feasting menu at Straits Kitchen, at Pan Pacific London.

While this dish is thought to have originated in China, many variations trace their roots to Singapore and Malaysia, where the Department of International Heritage has declared it part of Malaysia’s legacy. Common ingredients in the salad include shredded daikon and carrot for good luck, along with a sweet plum dressing and raw salmon slices, both of which symbolise abundance. Loved ones gather around the table with their chopsticks to toss the salad, shouting “Lo Hei!” (“scoop it up” in Cantonese). The higher the toss, the more auspicious the year ahead is said to be.  

Try it at Straits Kitchen in London or Kopitiam in Birmingham.  

 

Gua Bao, Taiwan

A row of bao served with cubes of barbecued meat. A salad garnish is served on top.

Bao and fillings, served on the dim sum menu at Yauatcha, London Credit: Yauatcha

Also known as steamed buns or baozi 包子, gua bao are made of different stuffings wrapped inside a warm, sweet, and pillowy bun. In Taiwan, eating a gua bao for LNY is considered good luck, and in Chinese the name sounds similar to “gripping good fortune with the teeth.” They look like little mouths clutching a variety of delicious fillings, whether that be braised meats, vegetables, or tofu. 

Sink your teeth into these fluffy parcels at Yauatcha in London, Blue Eyed Panda in Manchester, or Bao&Bap in Liverpool. 

 

Toshikoshi Soba, Japan

A plate of soba noodles with shredded vegetables on top.

Soba noodles such as these are eaten both on December 31 and also by those who observe the Lunar calendar. Credit: Getty Images

Those who celebrate LNY in Japan often usher in new beginnings by savouring a bowl of toshikoshi soba. The main ingredient here is the soba, a type of buckwheat noodle served in a flavourful dashi broth, which is believed to bring long life and prosperity for the year ahead. As these noodles are easy to cut, they symbolise the ease of letting the challenges of the past year go. Toppings for the dish can include spring onions and tempura prawns. 

Relish your own soba with different toppings and broths at Nazuki Garden in London, Rozu in Birmingham, and Sakkusamba in Manchester. 

 

Shekha Vyas is a London-based reporter, writing about business, lifestyle, and food. Follow her on Instagram at @shekhav or on TikTok at @tastingbritain.