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Chinese New Year: Fostering Prosperity through Food.

Chinese New Year 2023

The Chinese New Year is a festival that marks the start of the lunar calendar and more than 2 billion people around the world celebrate it in some way. The festival was actually born out of a myth where a wild beast called “Nian” appeared at the end of each year to attack villagers. The beast was eventually chased away with loud noises, bright lights and the colour red, and this is the reason why Chinese New Year celebrations include firecrackers, boisterous music and red decorations.

Celebrations begin on the eve of the new year where family members gather for a reunion dinner. Therefore, food plays an important role during the Chinese New Year not only because families cook up a feast for this dinner, but food is also served to the ancestors during prayers, and also to visiting guests during the two-week celebration period.

Chinese people love auspicious things and food eaten during the Chinese New Year typically have symbolic meanings to them. Below I will describe some popular dishes eaten during the festival.


The Chinese word for fish, “yu” sounds like “abundance” and therefore, it is customary to serve fish to symbolize the wish for abundance in the coming year. The fish is usually served whole, with the head and tail attached to represent a good beginning and ending for the months to come.


They signify reunion as families usually sit together to wrap dumplings during New Year’s eve. They also represent wealth as their shape looks like silver ingots which were used as currency in ancient China.

Nian Gao

This glutinous rice cake originated in Southern China and has a chewy texture with a sweet taste. The Chinese word, “gao” is a homonym for higher or taller. Therefore people eat it in the hopes of having success in their business. Also children do so if they wish to get better grades or grow taller.


This is a salad-like dish comprising of fish slices, vegetables, spices and condiments and can contain up to 27 ingredients, each with an auspicious meaning to it. Yusheng originated in China but its modern version is mostly found in Singapore and Malaysia. Auspicious phrases are recited when the ingredients are added onto the tossing plate, and it is a symbol of unity and harmony when people gather around the table to toss the ingredients. It is believed that the higher one tosses the ingredients, the greater their fortune in the coming year.

Some of the Singapore BENEO team members tossing yusheng during their annual Chinese New Year lunch

Pineapple tarts

Sweet snacks are popular during Chinese New Year because eating them symbolizes bringing a sweet life into the new year. The pineapple is also seen as an auspicious fruit as its dialect name literally means “fortune come”.

Pineapple tarts are a popular snack served to guests or given as gifts, however the pineapple filling tends to be high in sugar. If you are interested in making a healthier version, try out this recipe developed by our colleagues from the BENEO-Technology Center in Singapore! BENEO’s sugar replacer Isomalt enables sugar to be partially replaced while maintaining a sweet taste.

Ingredients (%w/w):

  • Fresh pineapple (88.3%)
  • Isomalt (7%)
  • Glucose syrup (4.7%)
  • Cinnamon (q.s.)
  • Clove (q.s.)


  1. Cut pineapple into small pieces and blend in a mixing bowl
  2. Weigh the required amount of pineapple pulp and set aside
  3. Mix the pineapple pulp, Isomalt, glucose syrup, cinnamon and clove in a pan and cook until the desired texture is achieved
  4. Let the pineapple filling cool down and divide it into 15g balls to be baked with tart pastry dough
Asian speciality: Pineapple tarts

Lastly, BENEO would like to wish everyone a happy and prosperous Chinese New Year!




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