The Top 10 Main Dish Recipes for Chinese New Year

From Kung Pao Chicken to Shrimp in Lobster Sauce

Sweet and Sour Pork

The Spruce

Lunar New Year is this Asian country's most important holiday, celebrated with monetary gifts, firecrackers, and plenty of food. The dishes play an important role in the holiday, and many of the ingredients and dishes are symbolic while others are simply family traditions. To help you celebrate the Lunar New Year, choose from a number of popular main dishes, from sweet and sour pork to Peking duck.

  • 01 of 10

    Kung Pao Chicken

    Kung Pao Chicken

    SodanieChea / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Named after a late Qing dynasty official and governor of the Szechuan province, Kung Pao Chicken is a spicy Szechuan dish made with diced chicken, peanuts, and dried chili peppers. This recipe calls for deep-frying the chicken, adding a delicious, crispy texture. However, if you'd like something a bit lighter, try stir-fry Kung Pao chicken.

  • 02 of 10

    Peking Duck

    whole peking duck

    Getty Images / BJI/Blue Jean Images

    In Chinese culture, duck represents fidelity. This recipe for the famous Beijing dish, consisting of juicy slices of duck with crispy skin, is served with Mandarin pancakes and hoisin sauce. The recipe states that you need to hang the duck in a cool, windy place for four hours; this is to make sure the duck is completely dry, inside and out, so it will get nice and crispy. If you don't have the proper place to hang the duck, you can place it in a cool room with a fan blowing on it.

  • 03 of 10

    Buddha's Delight Vegetarian Stir-Fry

    Vegetarian stir-fry with noodles, corn, carrots, mushrooms, sprouts and tofu
    Westend61 / Getty Images

    As it is a Buddhist tradition that no animals should be killed on the first day of the lunar year, this dish made only of vegetables holds an important place on the Lunar New Year menu. From lily buds to bean curd sticks to bamboo shoots, this recipe is filled with symbolic foods, all of which are simmered in a flavorful sauce.

  • 04 of 10

    Sweet and Sour Pork

    Sweet and Sour Pork

    The Spruce

    The word "sour" in the Chinese language sounds like "grandchild," so it is believed this dish will bring many grandchildren when served at family meals. This style of dish is popular in Cantonese cooking, and although the preparation may take some time, you will find that it is well worth the effort. Cubes of pork are marinated, then deep-fried in a batter to make it extra crispy, and stir-fried with pineapple in a sweet and sour sauce.

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  • 05 of 10

    Cantonese Roast Duck

    Cantonese Roast Duck

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    You may have seen this duck with the shiny reddish skin hanging in the windows of Cantonese restaurants. This is truly a traditional recipe, calling for blanching, stuffing, and then hanging the duck to dry for several hours. It is red food coloring that gives this dish its signature color but feel free to leave it out.

  • 06 of 10

    White Cut Chicken

    Singapore's Hainanese Chicken Rice
    MielPhotos2008 / Getty Images

    White cut chicken is a popular New Years' dish as the white symbolizes purity. In this recipe, chicken is poached in ginger-garlic rice wine broth and then left to sit for several hours until it turns white. To add some color to the dish, you can garnish with fresh scallions. 

  • 07 of 10

    Clams in Black Bean Sauce

    Clams in Black Bean Sauce

    stu_spivack / Flickr / CC

    In Chinese culture, clams symbolize prosperity because of their resemblance to Chinese coins. Here, clams are stir-fried in a savory mixture of fermented black beans and ginger and then dressed with a flavorful sauce of oyster sauce, soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, ginger, and rice wine. Perfect served over rice.

  • 08 of 10

    Salt and Pepper Shrimp

    Salt and pepper shrimp recipe

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    This colorful Cantonese dish makes an eye-catching appetizer or main course as the deep-fried shrimp shells turn a wonderful orange color. The shells protect the shrimp meat during deep-frying so that it tastes extra tender and juicy. The deep-fried shrimp are then stir-fried in a salt and pepper mixture until coated nicely.

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  • 09 of 10

    Cantonese Shrimp With Lobster Sauce

    Sweet and Sour Shrimp Plate with Wonton and Vegetables
    Jeff R Clow / Getty Images

    Many people are surprised to learn there is actually no lobster in this dish at all—the dish gets its name from having the same sauce as lobster Cantonese, which includes ground pork, chicken broth, and an egg, making it a light-colored sauce. The shrimp are marinated, stir-fried along with ginger and green onion, and then cooked along with the sauce until hot.

  • 10 of 10

    Steamed Whole Fish

    steamed whole fish with scallions

    Getty Images / xia yuan

    The word for fish in Chinese is "yu," which sounds like "abundance" and "wish." Therefore, eating fish at the end of the meal represents a wish for abundance in the year to come. Serving the fish with the head and tail intact is also symbolic, meaning a good beginning and good ending to the new year. In this recipe, the whole fish is rubbed inside and out with a mixture of ginger, black beans, garlic, soy sauce, and sesame oil and then steamed until tender and flaky.