4 Favorite Chinese New Year Foods from My Mother-In-Law’s Kitchen

One of the greatest pleasures of Chinese New Year is the food itself. But there’s more than just the delectable dishes that line the family table Chinese New Year’s Eve and throughout the holiday itself.

My Chinese mother-in-law traditionally prepares a number of foods in the days leading up to the Lunar New Year. It’s like a parade of delicacies that lends as much of an excitement to the season as fireworks.

Here are four of my favorite Chinese New Year Foods from my Chinese mother-in-law’s kitchen:

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#1: Laba Porridge (腊八粥, làbāzhōu)

The Laba Festival (January 17, 2016 this year) falls on the eighth day of the final month of the lunar year and the official start to the Chinese New Year season.

Every year, my mother-in-law commemorates the day by dishing up the traditional laba porridge for breakfast. This sugary sweet glutinous rice porridge is studded with lots of tasty “treasures” – including goji berries, red beans, mung beans and Chinese jujubes.

It’s lovely to look at, and a delicious way to start the holidays.

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#2: Dongmitang (冻米糖, dòngmǐtáng)

At my in-laws’ home, no Chinese New Year is complete without a heaping bag of dongmitang sitting in the corner of our bedroom, ready for snacking at a moment’s notice.

Dongmitang are so reminiscent of the rice krispies treats I grew up with as a child in the US. But I think of them as a tastier, natural version without the marshmallows.

My mother-in-law makes her own puffed rice from scratch, adds rice syrup, pours the mixture into a mold to set, and then cuts it into bite-sized squares. Cool, huh? Sometimes she adds a little black sesame for extra nutrition during the coldest days of the winter. And sometimes, she lets us get in on the fun and help her, like my husband did last year.

But however my mother-in-law makes them, you can be sure she’ll bag them up and insist we take more of them upstairs with us. Even if we tell her we already have three bags of dongmitang in the corner of the room! Sigh…the love of a Chinese mother knows no end when it comes to food. 😉

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#3: Savory Turnovers (Migu)

Who doesn’t love sitting around with family during the holidays to make something traditional? Well in our home, that’s savory turnovers that we refer to in the local dialect as migu.

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Migu are these scrumptious turnovers handmade from rice-flour dough and stuffed with either veggies (salted bamboo, pickled greens and tofu) or veggies and pork.

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We prepare tons of them together, refrigerate (or freeze) for later, and then they become the most incredible snack or dish in a pinch during the holidays. Especially when they’re fried…yum!

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#4: Homemade Tofu

I’ve purchased hundreds, even thousands, of packages of creamy white bean curd in the supermarket, floating in water. But I never truly knew tofu until I watched my mother-in-law prepare it from scratch during Chinese New Year, a yearly tradition in the family.

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Making homemade fried tofu.

I wish I could describe all of the intricate steps involved in the process, but I’m still learning! Here’s what I do know:

One, it’s complicated enough to require the majority of my mother-in-law’s kitchen.

Two, the whole process produces a tasty by-product I happen to love on its own – soymilk!

And, three, you haven’t lived until you’ve bit into my mother-in-law’s homemade fried tofu fresh from the wok, dipped in soy sauce.

IMG_2007Trust me, if you’re as much of a tofu aficionado as I am, you’ve got to see this in action sometime. Or, if you’re really brave (and talented in the kitchen) try making tofu at home and experience the magic for yourself.

What Chinese New Year foods are your favorites?

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12 thoughts on “4 Favorite Chinese New Year Foods from My Mother-In-Law’s Kitchen

  • January 18, 2016 at 8:51 pm
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    Wow home-made tofu! I didn’t truly appreciate tofu until I started dating my Chinese fiance (to my family it was just something you threw in a stir-fry instead of meat sometimes) now I understand it is sooo much more (including a delicious desert!) but home-made tofu would be a whole new level I imagine 🙂

    Reply
    • January 18, 2016 at 9:06 pm
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      Thanks for the comment Cat! Yes, tofu is so incredible — and it does make for a lovely dessert!

      Reply
  • January 19, 2016 at 9:23 am
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    Your mother-in-law seems like an amazing cook! I love that your Chinese family still makes so many things from scratch (especially tofu and soy milk), it definitely beats buying at local stores where you never know what else is on the long list of ingredients.

    Reply
  • January 19, 2016 at 12:56 pm
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    Oh my goodness, that homemade tofu sounds so delicious, I’m jealous! I’ve had tofu all different ways, but being such a thorough city girl, I’ve never actually experienced tofu made from scratch!

    Reply
  • January 20, 2016 at 3:40 am
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    Mmmmm I have to say that the Migu looks the tastiest to me (I’m a sucker for dumplings), although that zhou would be super amazing on a cold winter’s morning!!

    And dang, that tofu is the real deal!! Very jealous!

    Reply
    • January 22, 2016 at 1:15 pm
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      Thanks for the commment, Mary! The migu are awesome indeed, though I’d say they can’t beat the delight of fried tofu fresh from the wok. 😉

      Reply
  • January 21, 2016 at 8:50 am
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    The food looks good. Particularly the homemade tofu. You in-law must be a very good chef. I would never have the skill and time to make it.

    By the way, I had never heard of that laba festival. Is that a northern Chinese thing. No one in I know celebrate it. (Porridge looks yummy)

    Reply
    • January 22, 2016 at 1:24 pm
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      Thanks for the comment Phil! My MIL is a pretty amazing chef — definitely blessed on that front.

      The laba festival may not be as well celebrated in the most Southern Parts of China, but it does seem to be marked here in Zhejiang, Jiangsu and more northern places as well. This article in Baidu on laba porridge mentions the different ways different regions prepare it: http://baike.baidu.com/subview/5137/7366613.htm

      Reply
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  • April 8, 2016 at 10:00 pm
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    Ive tried the Dongmitang a few times, and must say its not my favorite thing. Maybe its because there is no way of knowing how long these biscuits have been lying around haha i guess the ones ive tried in restaurants have propably been quite old.
    Love your homemade tofy idea though, will look into that. thanks

    Reply
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