7 Lunar New Year recipes to welcome the Year of the Rabbit in style, from Korean jeon to Chinese pumpkin cake

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  • Kick off the new year with crispy stuffed lotus root and prosperity tossed salad, rumoured to usher in wealth and abundance
  • All dishes are easy to make and take less than an hour
Sue Ng |
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Who wouldn’t love some delicious Korean jeon over Lunar New Year? Photo: Shutterstock

Sun Nin Fai Lok! Falling on January 22 this year, Lunar New Year is a time to reunite with family and friends for feasting and festivities. Traditionally observed in East Asian countries, this festival is celebrated with performances, traditional dress, and lots and lots of food.

From Chinese prosperity cake to Korean scallion pancakes, here are seven Lunar New Year dishes that are easy to make and can be prepared in around an hour. Kick off the Year of the Rabbit with these lucky eats!

What is Lunar New Year and what does the Year of the Rabbit represent?

Chinese Pumpkin Cake

According to a Chinese saying, pumpkin is an auspicious - or favourable - fruit that can bring about prosperity and abundance. Crispy and chewy, this Chinese pumpkin cake is an irresistible sweet treat you can enjoy with your friends and family.

Total cooking time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 400 grams pumpkin
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups glutinous rice flour
  • Sesame seeds
  • Oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Peel and slice the pumpkin and steam until soft
  2. Stir the sugar into the pumpkin purée
  3. Add the glutinous rice flour and knead for about 4 minutes until the dough softens. If the dough is still sticky, you can add 3-4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs.
  4. Divide the dough into small balls and shape them into circles
  5. Heat up oil in a pot and fry the cakes over low heat until golden brown on both sides
  6. Coat the cakes with sesame seeds

Crispy Stuffed Lotus Root

The fleshy root of the lotus flower is a lucky food for Lunar New Year, as the Cantonese word for it sounds similar to the phrase “having [money] year after year”.

Total cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 460 grams lotus root
  • 340 grams sweet potato
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ¼ tablespoon white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • Oil for frying

Batter:

  • 39 grams flour
  • 30 grams glutenous rice flour
  • ½ tablespoon salt
  • ¼ tablespoon white pepper
  • 119ml water

Directions:

  1. Peel the lotus root and cut it into 1/8th-inch (.3cm) slices. Place them in a bowl of cold water until ready to use
  2. Peel and mash the sweet potato into a paste. Mix with Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, ginger, scallions, and pepper
  3. Drain lotus root. Spread a thin layer of potato filling onto each slice and sandwich it with an equally sized lotus root slice
  4. In a mixing bowl, mix the flour, salt, and pepper. Whisk until smooth.
  5. Add the oil to a pot and heat up to 135 degrees Celsius
  6. Once the oil is hot, dip the lotus root in the batter and place it in the pot; fry each side for 5-6 minutes
  7. Once the lotus roots are light & golden, place them on a wire rack lined with a paper towels
  8. Repeat until all the sandwiches are fried
  9. Bring the oil up to 162 degrees Celsius and re-fry each piece for 2-3 mins for an extra crunch

Health is wealth: try making your own poon choi this Lunar New Year with this nutritionist-approved recipe

Pajeon (Korean pancakes)

Jeon is a traditional Korean dish enjoyed year-round, but especially during Lunar New Year. You can personalise it to your taste by adding seafood, vegetables or kimchi. It’s perfect for sharing!

Total cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups plain flour⠀
  • 1½ cups water⠀
  • 1 egg⠀
  • 1½ tablespoons salt⠀
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled, semi-boiled and finely sliced
  • 1 cup shredded carrots (around three small carrots)
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced julienne
  • 1 zucchini, sliced julienne ⠀
  • 1 bunch spring onions, chopped
  • Pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, beat together the flour, egg, water and salt
  2. Add in all the veggies and mix well, then add pepper to taste. If the batter is too thick, you can add 2-3 tbsp of water gradually until it thins out a bit ⠀
  3. Heat oil in a medium-sized frying pan on medium-high heat. Ladle the batter into the pan and spread it out evenly across the whole surface; make sure it isn’t too thick. Cook for 4-5 mins on each side or until golden brown. Repeat for rest of the batter ⠀
  4. Serve with the sauce of your choice, such as soy sauce with a dash of sesame oil.

Kuri Kinton (Candied Chestnut with Sweet Potatoes)

Kuri kinton. Photo: Shutterstock

Smooth and creamy, this candied chestnut and sweet potato dish is a traditional Lunar New Year treat in Japan that symbolises fortune and wealth.

Total cooking time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 500 grams of Japanese sweet potato
  • 10 chestnuts in heavy syrup
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon mirin (Japanese Sweet Rice Wine)

Directions:

  1. Peel the sweet potatoes and slice them into ½ inch (1.3cm) pieces
  2. Soak the sweet potatoes in water for 15 minutes. Drain and put them in a large pot
  3. Boil the potatoes over medium heat and cook for 15-20 minutes. Once boiled, mash them.
  4. Add the sugar, salt, mirin, and chestnut syrup
  5. Set the pot on low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar has dissolved completely
  6. Add the chestnuts to the pot and cook for about 3-5 minutes
  7. Let it cool down completely and serve at room temperature

What to do with your Chinese New Year leftovers

Yee Sang/ Lo Hei (Prosperity Tossed Salad)

This colourful platter of shredded vegetables, salmon, and fruit is commonly served in Singapore and Malaysia. Traditionally eaten at the Lunar New Year with family and friends, it grants good fortune by tossing the food as high into the air as possible to welcome abundance and prosperity.

Total cooking time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 150g wonton skin (wrappers)
  • 1 white radish, medium
  • 1 small, orange sweet potato
  • 1 small, purple sweet potato
  • 2 small carrots
  • ⅓ red pomelo
  • 500 grams sashimi-grade salmon
  • 375 grams instant natural jellyfish (can be bought in packets)
  • 10 to 12 slices of pickled ginger
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 bunch coriander
  • Sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Cut the square wonton wrappers into 6 rectangles and place them on a plate, ready to be fried
  2. Peel both sweet potatoes and slice using a 3mm julienne slicer
  3. Heat oil in a pot, then deep-fry the dumpling wrappers until golden brown and the sweet potatoes until crisp
  4. Peel the pomelo and extract the segments
  5. Peel and grate the carrot, radish, and cucumber with a 1.6mm julienne slicer
  6. Wash the coriander leaves well and roughly tear or chop the leaves
  7. Open the packets of jellyfish, drain the liquid, and mix in the packet of seasonings
  8. Slice the salmon into very thin slices, between 5 -7mm
  9. Assemble all the ingredients on a large platter with the salmon in the centre

Mandarin orange biscuits

Tangerines and oranges are a staple during Lunar New Year, since the fruits sound similar to the Chinese words “success” and “luck” and their gold colour symbolises prosperity. Give your loved ones their blessings with these cute, lucky orange biscuits.

Total cooking time: 60 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 75 grams salted butter
  • 75 grams icing sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 20ml mandarin orange juice
  • Zest of one mandarin orange
  • 1 tablespoon orange extract
  • 200 grams of plain flour
  • Orange food colouring
  • Green food colouring
  • Pandan paste*
  • Cloves*

Directions:

  1. In a mixing bowl, mix together the salted butter and icing sugar until fluffy
  2. Drizzle in the mandarin orange juice and zest
  3. Add the orange extract and egg yolk
  4. Once well combined, stir in the plain flour and knead until it turns into dough
  5. Portion 20 grams of dough into a separate bowl. Then stir in half a tablespoon of softened butter and some pandan paste. Transfer into a piping bag and set aside. (it will be used for the leaves)*
  6. Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius
  7. Dye the rest of the dough with orange food colouring (it will be used for the orange)
  8. Roll the dough into 1/2 tablespoon balls and insert a clove onto each ball*
  9. Pipe out the green paste and use it to make the leaves on each ball*
  10. Bake at 150 degrees Celsius for 30 to 35 minutes

*Feel free to skip the pandan paste and cloves if you aren’t concerned about decoration

6 fun DIY projects you can do with your leftover mandarin oranges

Prosperity Cake (Fa Gao)

Also known as fortune cake, this traditional Chinese steamed cake is spongy and sweet and definitely cannot be missed in the new year.

Total cooking time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 180 grams flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 100 grams brown sugar
  • 175ml hot water

Directions:

  1. In a mixing bowl, mix brown sugar and hot water and stir until sugar dissolves
  2. Mix flour, baking powder and sugar syrup. Whisk until the mixture is smooth
  3. Pour the batter into small, heatproof tea cups or muffin/cupcake moulds (not paper ones). Fill them until they are about 80 per cent full
  4. Boil a pot of water, When it has boiled, transfer the cakes to a bamboo steamer. Cover and steam over high heat for 25 minutes (do not open the steamer during this time)
  5. Turn off the heat and let the cakes rest in the steamer for about 5 minutes
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