Celebrate the Chinese New Year with These 7 Plant-Based Recipes
Most major cities across the US are fortunate enough to have their own Chinatown neighborhood, a place where anyone can experience ingredients, aromas, street foods, and banquets unavailable pretty much anywhere else. Through these small enclaves, people of all backgrounds are introduced to a small — but potent — slice of Chinese culture. And there’s no better display of Chinese tradition than during the Chinese New Year.
Chinese New Year is a festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar, representing the conclusion of winter and the beginning of spring. Because of its association with death and rebirth, the holiday is a time to honor ancestors and family who have passed away. On the eve of the new year, it is custom for families to put spring couplets corresponding to the 12 Chinese zodiac signs on the doors and windows of their houses to signify prosperity, joyfulness, and good fortune in the coming year. Some other popular traditions include giving the house a thorough cleaning to sweep away any bad fortune, handing money in red paper envelopes, decorating windows with red-paper cutouts, and, yes, lighting firecrackers.
And then there’s the food. Typically enjoyed amongst family members, the festive meal is often the crown jewel of the Chinese New Year celebration. Traditional dishes include lots of pork, lots of chicken, and lots of luxurious seafood options, like lobster and abalone.
Our friends at Meatless Monday China gave us some delicious ideas on how you can enjoy the flavors and dishes of Chinese New Year without having to indulge in any animal products. There’s tons of recipes that capture the essence of this celebratory fare using only plant-based ingredients. This Monday, celebrate the Year of the Rabbit with dumplings, longevity noodles, turnip cakes, and many other spicy, tangy, sweet, and crunchy Chinese dishes.
Chinese Longevity Noodles
According to Chinese folklore, the longer the noodle, the longer the life. Given this symbolic relationship, longevity noodles are a popular accompaniment to many celebratory meals. This recipe from Sun Basket uses a combination of fresh vegetables, like bok choy, carrots, and dried shiitake mushrooms, and ramen noodles, all cooked together in a sweet-and-tangy vegan oyster sauce. To make this dish entirely plant-based just omit the egg.
Nián gāo (Chinese New Year cake) is a chewy sticky rice cake made of glutinous rice typically eaten during the Lunar New Year. This recipe from Delicious Not Gorgeous amps up the flavor of the satisfyingly toothsome cake by using rich coconut milk and grated orange zest.
You can stuff a dumpling with pretty much anything, making it a great place to experiment with some culinary creativity. This recipe for vegetarian dumplings from The Seasoned Vegetable uses cabbage, carrot, onion, and ginger for a lighter version of this Chinese New Year staple.
Shumai is a variety of Chinese dumpling that’s usually served as a snack or appetizer. Traditionally made with pork, shrimp, or lamb, this recipe from The Woks of Life uses sticky rice, scallions, and shiitake mushrooms, as well as Chinse five spice, for an aromatic whomp of umami flavor. You can use different types of store-bought wrappers (dumpling, wonton), but The Woks of Life’s recipe also includes step-by-step instructions for how to make your own shumai dough.
The communal nature of a hot pot makes it an ideal dish for family gatherings. Hot pot involves quickly cooking raw ingredients in a pot of boiling liquid, usually consisting of a flavorful broth or stock. This version from Full of Plants uses lemon grass, ginger, tomato, chile, and pineapple to make its flavorful dunking liquid. When picking ingredients to dip, use quick-cooking foods like mushrooms, tofu, snow peas, and noodles.
Contrary to its name, turnip cake is actually made from daikon radish, rather than the hard, round Western-style turnip available in most grocery stores. Turnip cake is typically served as part of a dim-sum meal, but it’s also a common addition to the Chinese New Year table. This vegan version from Okonomi Kitchen swaps out meat in favor of umami-rich shiitake mushrooms, bell peppers, and mushroom sauce. Although the cook process takes some patience, after the radish-rice flour dough is prepared and rested, it is steamed, then fried.
A hot, fresh, perfectly crisp spring roll is an excellent start to an ordinary meal or celebratory feast. This recipe from Indian Healthy Recipes is great because it gives you the option to fry or bake your veggie spring rolls, which can help seriously cut down the greasiness.
For ways to add more plant-based foods into your diet, check out our list of ways to eat healthier in the new year. Remember when posting pictures of recipes to your social media network, tag @MeatlessMonday use #MeatlessMonday to show the plant-based community your creation.