13 easy recipes to arm yourself with if you’re cooking for CNY reunion dinner for the first time

Chinese New Year is all about getting together with your loved ones, and there’s no better way to show your love for them than with a delicious home-cooked dinner.

For those newly acquainted to the kitchen and are used to eating reunion dinners outside, cooking your first reunion dinner is definitely a daunting task. What dishes should you cook to impress your in-laws? How should you prepare this dish so that you don’t unknowingly break any traditions or customs?

Fret not: we’ve rounded up 13 recipes for some of the most common, most popular, and most delicious Chinese New Year dishes here for you.


1. Taro/Yam Cake

Source: Christine’s Recipes

The Chinese word 糕 (which means cake) sounds the same as “rising”, ” growth”, hence cakes such as these are an auspicious appetiser to have during the Lunar festivities. Taro cake (or more commonly known as yam cake) is also a popular snack in the region. Contrary to popular belief, this dish is actually easy to make, and will definitely whet everyone’s appetites.

Ingredients you’ll need:


  • 600 gm taro, diced
  • 180 gm rice flour
  • 3 cups (750ml) water
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 Chinese dried sausages (腊肠)
  • 4 to 5 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 10 gm dried shrimps
  • chopped spring onion for garnish, optional


  • 2 tsp chicken powder (bouillon powder)
  • 3/4 tsp five spice powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • white pepper, to taste
  • sesame oil, to taste

You can read more about this recipe here.

2. Turnip/Radish Cake

Source: The Woks of Life

While rather similar to taro cake, this snack is made using turnips or radishes. For a vegetarian/vegan take on this dish, simply eliminate the shrimp and sausage, and substitute a different dipping sauce for the oyster sauce.

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • 1 Chinese turnip/daikon radish (about 20 oz.), grated
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried shrimp, washed, soaked and chopped
  • 3-5 dried Chinese black mushrooms, washed, soaked, and chopped
  • 1 Chinese sausage, diced
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • white pepper, to taste
  • Oyster sauce for dipping (optional)

You can read more about this recipe here.

3. Spring Rolls

Source: The Woks of Life

Spring rolls get their name from the fact that they are traditionally eaten in Southern China during the Spring Festival to celebrate the coming of spring. In the past, emperors would award officials with spring platters (spring rolls with vegetables), and each platter is said to have been worth a fortune. Today, they are a popular snack that you will definitely find at any reunion dinner. You can make your own spring rolls to your personal taste by changing the filling inside!

Ingredients you’ll need:

For the pork and marinade:

  • 8 ounces finely shredded pork loin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine
  • ½ teaspoon cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper

To assemble the filling:

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 10 dried black or shiitake mushrooms, soaked until softened and thinly sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, julienned (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup bamboo shoots, julienned (fresh is preferred, but canned is fine too)
  • 1 small napa cabbage, julienned (about 6 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
  • white pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water

For wrapping:

  • 1 package 8″ square spring roll wrappers (this recipe makes about 20 spring rolls)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water for sealing the spring rolls
  • Canola, peanut or vegetable oil, for frying

For the dipping sauce:

  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons hot water
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

You can read more about this recipe here.

4. Yu Sheng

Source: ladyironchef

Did you know that this Cantonese-style raw fish salad was actually created and made popular by the Chinese in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia? Yu Sheng is interpreted as a homophone that means an increase in abundance, and therefore considered a symbol of abundance and prosperity. While you can buy this dish from hotels and restaurants, it is actually more affordable (and definitely more meaningful) to make your own version.

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • 2 cups carrot, julienned
  • 1 red capsicum, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cucumber, thinly shredded
  • 2 cups daikon radish, thinly shredded
  • 100g fresh salmon/tuna sashimi, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup of chopped peanuts, roasted and unsalted
  • ¼ cup whole-wheat crackers, crushed
  • 1 tsp pickled ginger, thinly shredded
  • 1 tbsp five spice powder
  • 4 sprigs of fresh Chinese parsley
  • Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Dressing (combine all ingredients and set aside):

  • 1/8 tsp five spice powder
  • ½ cup of plum sauce
  • ¼ cup of water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp peanut/ corn oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

You can read more about this recipe here.

5. Fortune Cookies

Source: Taste of Home

Even though fortune cookies are more of a tradition in the United States than China, it is still a fun snack to serve at dinners. Fill them with your self-penned fortune predictions, and watch your guests have fun reading and sharing their fortunes with one another!

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

You can read more about this recipe here.

Main Courses & Side Dishes

6. Steamed Whole Fish

Source: The Woks of Life

In Chinese, fish (鱼) has the same pronunciation as , which means “surplus” or “extra.”, hence the blessing 年年有余 to wish you a surplus of food and money every year. You must also eat a whole fish, as it represents a harmonious and whole family. This recipe will not only please your elders, but also impress everyone at the dining table with your culinary skills.

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • 1 whole striped bass or sea bass (about 1 ½ lbs), cleaned (see instructions)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely julienned
  • 2 scallions, finely julienned with green and white parts separated
  • 8 sprigs fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ cup light soy sauce
  • Fresh ground white pepper to taste

You can read more about this recipe here.

7. Buddha’s Delight

Source: The Woks of Life

Traditionally consumed by Buddhist monks, this vegetarian dish has evolved to be served in Chinese households on the first day of the Chinese New Year, stemming from the old Buddhist practice that one should maintain a vegetarian diet in the first five days of the new year. This also makes for a delicious dish that you can serve your vegetarian and vegan guests during dinner.

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 slices fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons red fermented bean curd (红腐乳)
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 medium leek, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 5 dried black mushrooms, soaked in warm water and sliced
  • ¼ cup dried wood ears, soaked in warm water (yields about 1 cup)
  • ¼ cup dried lily flowers, soaked in warm water with the tips cut off
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
  • 3 cups Napa cabbage, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • a handful of fried tofu puffs
  • 2 sticks dried bean threads, soaked in warm water and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 cup water or vegetable stock
  • 1 small bundle of mung bean noodles soaked in warm water, drained and cut into shorter pieces with kitchen shears

You can read more about this recipe here.

8. Steamed Dumplings

Source: Women’s Weekly

Dumplings are said to be the northern equivalent of spring rolls, and symbolise new beginnings for the new year. This dish has a shape that resembles gold shoe-shaped ingots, an early form of Chinese currency, hence making this a must-eat if you want to prosper in the new year.

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • 200 g pork mince
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp toasted sunflower kernels
  • 2 tsps sesame oil
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp white pepper
  • 15 gow gee or steamed dumpling wrappers (round)

Vinegar Soy Dressing:

  • 2 tbsps soy sauce
  • 2 tbsps red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 small red chilli, finely sliced

You can read more about this recipe here.

9. Longevity Noodles

Source: Taste

During Chinese New Year, longevity noodles are a staple at reunion dinners. They are never cut or broken by the cook, and if you can manage to eat them without biting through the strands at all, it is considered to be even more auspicious. Although slightly challenging to cook because you have to be careful about not cutting it, it is a great way to wish all your guests longevity and good health.

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • 450g packet fresh thin egg noodles
  •  1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  •  2 lup chong sausages, thinly sliced (see note)
  •  4cm piece fresh ginger, peeled, finely grated
  •  2 garlic cloves, crushed
  •  150g oyster mushrooms, thickly sliced
  •  200g fresh shiitake mushrooms, thickly sliced
  •  200g sugar snap peas, trimmed
  •  1/2 cup Massel chicken style liquid stock
  •  2 tablespoons soy sauce
  •  1/3 cup oyster sauce
  •  2 teaspoons sesame oil
  •  2 cups bean sprouts, trimmed
  •  Fresh coriander leaves, to serve

You can read more about this recipe here.

10. Kung Pao Chicken With Peanuts

Kung Pao Chicken is a spicy Szechuan dish frequently served during the lunar festivities, although it does not have any particular symbolic meaning. It is named after a late Qing dynasty official and governor of the Szechuan province, although there is still some dispute over the true identity of ‘Kung Pao’.

For an extremely flavourful version of this popular dish, we share a recipe that calls for deep frying of the chicken. You can, however, choose to lightly stir fry it if you prefer lighter flavours.

Ingredients you’ll need:

2 boneless chicken breasts (about 6 ounces each)

For the Marinade:

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
  • 2 teaspoons cold water
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

For the Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar (black or red, or red wine vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon chicken broth (or water)
  • 3 teaspoons sugar (granulated)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 to 4 drops sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch

For the Stir Fry:

  • 6 to 8 small dried red chili peppers (or as desired)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup peanuts (skinless, unsalted)

You can read more about this recipe here.

11. Chinese BBQ Char Siu

Source: Omnivore’s Cookbook

BBQ char siu is a traditional pork dish in Cantonese cuisine. As pork is richer in fat than other types of meat, eating pork is encouraged during reunion dinners in order to usher fortune and wealth in the upcoming year. You can either eat char siu on its own, serve it with rice or noodles, or even make steamed buns stuffed with char siu for a delightful snack!

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • 2 pounds boneless pork loin


  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry (or Japanese sake, or Shaoxing wine)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
  • (Optional) 10 drops red food coloring

You can read more about this recipe here.


12. Fried Nian Gao

Source: Huang Kitchen

As mentioned previously, eating traditional cakes during Chinese New Year is a gesture to usher in good luck. Nian gao is one of these popular traditional desserts, because ‘nian gao’ is a homonym for “higher year.” According to traditional beliefs, nian gao is also an offering to the Kitchen God, with the aim that his mouth will be stuck with the sticky cake, so that he cannot badmouth the human family in front of the Jade Emperor.

There are many different ways to prepare this dessert, but one of the most popular versions is a crispy fritter sandwiched with chewy nian gao, which makes for a truly irresistible snack after dinner.

Ingredients you’ll need:

Fried Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake):

  • 300 grams nian gao 
  • 400 grams yam
  • 400 grams sweet potato


  • 60 grams all-purpose flour 
  • 60 grams rice flour
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric powder
  • 3/4 cup water
  • tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup white sesame seeds

You can read more about this recipe here.

13. Eight Treasure Rice

Source: Yi Reservation

This traditional Chinese New Year pudding sounds auspicious, and tastes just as delicious. If you are wondering why specifically ‘eight’, it is because the number is well-liked in Chinese tradition due to its similar pronunciation to 发 (meaning wealth or fortune). Arguably, eight treasure rice also depicts the significance of rice to the Chinese people. Having this at your reunion dinner is a sweet (literally!) way to wish good fortune and blessings to all your guests at the beginning of a New Year.

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • 1.5 cup Glutinous rice
  • 2 tbsp sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp Butter or lard
  • 1 tsp Goji berry
  • 10 Lotus seeds
  • 10 Dried red dates
  • 2 tbsp raisins
  • 3 tbsp Red bean paste
  • 15 Candied mandarin orange
  • 10 Candied cherry
  • Candied winter melon (optional)

You can read more about this recipe here.