Top 10 Traditional Meat Dishes for Chinese New Year

Finally, here comes Chinese New Year, or literally Spring Festival, the most important event of a year for all Chinese, home and abroad. Locals also call it Lunar New Year, as it is determined by the Chinese lunar calendar. During the 15-day celebration, festivities erupt all over China and beyond. It is also a great time for foodies, especially those meat lovers – you’ll never find Chinese dishes, including meat dishes, as delicious, multitudinous and traditional after Lunar New Year.

It’s a season of feast. Let’s forget about vegetarianism for a while, and enjoy a meaty meal, with 10 most famous meat dishes on the Chinese New Year food list from different parts of China.

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1. Fried meat balls (炸丸子) from Beijing

China culinary adventure

A must-have Chinese New Year dish for Beijingers during the festival, fried meat balls can be served with spiced salt when they just come out of the fryer, or as a side dish to be stewed with rice noodles.

Fried meat balls are a tradition Chinese food handed by generations. They are usually made in a round shape, carrying a auspicious meaning of a great reunion, which is Spring Festival all about. Eating meat ball mark the happy ending of the previous year and start a luck life in the coming year.

Another reason to eat fried meat balls during Lunar New Year is that they are easy to store. People are very busy during the Spring Festival, so they can fry meat balls in advance and heat them or cook with other food in the festival. Traditionally, fried food also show respect for the guests who come from afar. 

2. Diced pork in pot (坛子肉) from Shandong Province

Foods for Lunar New Year

You may have tried this dish in Beijing. Actually both Peking duck and diced pork in pot are originated in Shandong, and the Lu Cuisine, one of the great eight Chinese cuisines. Inside the humble pork, there is tantalizing streaky pork, simmered with several quail eggs or mushroom, and secret sauce.

Shandong people are known being forthright and generous, and eating large chunks of meat. Since the Qing Dynasty, jar meat (diced pork in pot) is an indispensable meat dish for Lunar New Year's Eve dinner in Shandong. The pork belly stewed in a small pot is in ruddy color, with dense meat fragrance overflowing. It is best to use a bowl to catch the meat (or use a spoon) when taking the food, otherwise the stewed meat will accidentally fall down from the chopsticks as it is so soft. 

3. Sticky rice balls with meat and lotus root (莲藕糯米圆子) from Hubei Province

Spring Festival Lucky food
Another lucky meat dish for Chinese New Year's Eve dinner, it has the same effect as meat balls, symbolizing the family reunion. 

Lotus root is a popular food ingredient in autumn and winter. According to Traditional Chinese medicine, lotus root is cool in nature. It has the effect of clearing heat, detoxifying and generating fluid -- sounds like a perfect addition for a Spring Festival feast, right? After being cooked, it tastes sweet and becomes a lukewarm food, with the effect of nourishing blood, muscles, spleen and stomach. If you think meatballs are too greasy, or you're not a meat lover, why not have glutinous rice balls with lotus root for your Chinese New Year meat dish.

4. Lamb stewed in iron pot (铁锅炖羊肉) from Shannxi Province

Chinese lucky food

Everyone knows Shannxi people like mutton and knows the dish of lamb stewed in iron pot is a must for Chinese New Year food.

Mutton is a daily delicacy in northern Shaanxi. And. the Hengshan mutton is especially famous, for its fresh and tender meat, a perfect balance of thin and fat, and unique flavor, and known as "ginseng in meat". It takes 3-5 hours for a perfect mutton stew in an iron pot. You can add some dry chili pepper into it if you prefer spicy taste.

Other than the satisfaction that comes with feasting delicious meat, eating it in the cold winter warm the body and create a traditional festival atmosphere.

5. Pig’s feet (发财猪手) from Guangdong Province

Most famous Canton dishes

For Southerners, the Cantonese in particular, eating all sorts of lucky food is the most important thing to celebrate Chinese New Year. Cantonese love pig’s feet, as they bring fortune and happiness! Therefore, pig's feet braised in soy sauce or five spices (prickly ash, star aniseed, cinnamon, clove and fennel) is a should-not-miss lucky dish for Cantonese’s Lunar New Year Eve Dinner.

So if you will celebrate Spring Festival in Guangdong Province, instead of eating dumping or niangao, you must first eat braised pig’s feet. 

6. Four Main Courses (四大件儿) from Northeast China

Popular Chinese food

The four main courses refer to four meat dishes -- chicken, fish, ribs and pig’s feet. Northeast Chinese New Year food features large quantities of food materials and mellow taste.

People in the Northeast China attach great importance to the quality and quantity of the Lunar New Year's Eve dinner. Usually, the meal must include the four main courses. It seems that if one of them is missing, the meal is not "authentic". During the holiday, delicious dishes such as braised carp, pork stewed vermicle, chicken stewed mushroom and other meat dishes are constantly served on the dinner table.

The meat dishes for Chinese New Year will never run short in Northeast.

7. Xinjiang Hand Grasping Mutton Chops (手抓羊肉)

Xinjiang local dishes

A specialty food in Xinjiang along the Silk Road, it’s also a traditional dish for Uyghur family dinner. It is usually served cold with salt or after being simmered or fried with sauce.

The Spring Festival starts from the twenty-third day of the twelfth lunar month in Xinjiang. Every family has to offer sweets to the Kitchen God. On New Year's Eve, dumplings are made and dinner is prepared. The whole family has the New Year's Eve dinner around the stove. Hand Grasping Mutton Chops is the main dish for the dinner.

8. Braised streaky pork with dried vegetables (烧白扣肉) from Sichuan Province

Most famous Sichuan dishes

One of the most common dishes on Chinese feast, the streaky pork is braised with soy sauce and brown sugar, with China’s specialty side dish – dry vegetables (in some places, dry vegetables are replaced by preserved vegetables).

A traditional food, with a long history, the braised steaky pork is a must meat dish for Chinese New year food, ensuring the inheritance of traditional cuisine, and carrying an auspicious symbolism.

9. The Hakka stuffed foods (客家酿菜) from Fujian Province

Fujian cuisine

Hakka people like snail delicacy. On Lunar New Year’s Eve, they make snails into a stuffed dish, mixed with chopped snails and meat, and ingredients like peppermint, corn flour, peanut oil. They are also stuffed tofu, stuffed pepper, stuffed radish, stuffed mushroom, etc., which are similar stuffed food in Guilin

A variety of vegetarian dishes are combined with minced meat and processed by frying, steaming or boiling. Just a little pork can greatly enhance the umami taste of vegetarian dishes, and make a series of meat dishes for Chinese New Year. Hakka people's thoughts behind the stuffed dishes are full of tenderness and yarning for family. So Hakka definitely have to eat stuffed food during Spring Festival.  

10. Spicy pork leg (香辣肘子) from Hunan Province

famous Hunan dishes

It may weigh as heavy as 3kg, and is not easy to eat. But Hunan people consider this huge dish a lucky Chinese New year meat dish and the most important finale dish that stands for the end of dark days and the beginning of a happy new year.

One More Meat Dish For Chinese New Year:

Ready-to-cook dish of meat, vegetables, etc

This dish is a traditional dish in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, and the New Territories of Hong Kong. It is said that it originated in the late Southern Song Dynasty and has a history of over one hundred years. Traditionally meat and vegetables are served in wooden or antimony pots. Villages in the New Territories of Hong Kong will hold a feast of this dish on festive occasions such as new arrivals, ancestral temple opening or New Year lantern lighting.


Further Reading:

  • Top 10 Chinese New Year Lucky Foods and Symblism
  • Top Ten Legends and Stories about Chinese New Year

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