China has a long history with food, and it has played an integral role in the development of Chinese culture. Whilst the style of cuisine differs across the wide and ranging country, traditions and symbolism surrounding food, especially during special festivities such as Chinese New Year, are recognisable throughout the region.
The symbolism of food, eating and the fulfilment of hunger comes from the connection between the meaning of the word and the impression on the eater. Dating back at least 2,000 years, the symbolism of foods in China is directly related to and associated with aspects such as name pronunciation or homophones, shape, history, colours, legends and so on.
Hakkasan is celebrating this Chinese New Year with an exclusive Year of the Rabbit menu featuring dishes and ingredients symbolic of good luck, prosperity and a long, happy life.
Prosperity Toss salad (yusheng)
The Year of the Rabbit menu begins with the Lo Hei ‘Prosperity Toss’ octopus salad with yuzu plum sauce and chilli garlic vinegar. Prosperity Toss salad, also known as yusheng, is a Cantonese raw fish salad, made with shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments.
Yusheng literally means ‘raw fish’, and since ‘fish’ is commonly conflated with its homophone ‘abundance’, yusheng is interpreted as meaning an increase in abundance. Therefore, yushend is considered a symbol of abundance, prosperity and vigour.
Nian gao, sometimes called year cake, is most often eaten at Chinese New Year. It is considered good luck to eat nian gao during this time of year as nian gao is a homonym for ‘higher year’ or ‘grow every year’.
Hakkasan’s Chinese New Year menu features a dish of stir-fried wagyu beef, shimeji mushrooms, golden squash and nian gao.
Similarly to nian gao, turnip cake (made not with Western-style turnips but instead with Chinese radish) is often eating during Chinese New Year since the word for radish is a homophone for ‘good fortune’.
A dish eaten on special occasions, poon choi is composed of many layers of different ingredients served in large wooden, porcelain or metal basins called poon (due to the communal style of eating).
Traditional poon choi takes three days of preparation and cooking, and necessitates an entire village to come together to create the dish. On the first day, a trip to the mountains is required to gather firewood. On the second day, fresh ingredients are gathered; it is considered disrespectful to use canned, frozen or ready to eat products. On the third day, the meat is stewed. Once the ingredients are prepared, they must be beautifully and attentively layered, and sometimes dried noodles with egg are placed atop, symbolising a crown.
The Chinese New Year menu includes the treasure poon choi, a vegan interpretation of the celebratory dish, made with fat choi, lotus root, lotus seed, stuffed bamboo pith, smoked tofu and shiitake mushrooms.
Chinese New Year at Hakkasan
Join us this lunar new year and enjoy our signature menu with friends and family. We’re also inviting all guests to write their wishes for the Year of the Rabbit on red ribbons and hang them on our metal wishing trees in the restaurants.