The Top 10 Main Dish Recipes for Chinese New Year

From Kung Pao Chicken to Shrimp in Lobster Sauce

Kung Pao Chicken
Kung Pao Chicken. Getty Images

Chinese New Year is the country's most important traditional holiday. Food plays a very large part of the celebration, and many of the ingredients and dishes are symbolic. Here are a number of popular main dishes to help you celebrate, from sweet and sour pork to Peking duck.

  • 01 of 10
    Kung Pao Chicken
    SodanieChea/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    Named after a late Qing dynasty official and governor of the Szechuan province, Kung Pao Chicken is a spicy Szechuan dish made with diced chicken, peanuts, and chili peppers. This recipe calls for deep-frying the chicken, adding a delicious, crispy texture. However, if you'd like something a bit lighter, try stir-fry Kung Pao chicken.

  • 02 of 10
    Traditional Peking Duck
    Matej Pribelsky/Getty Images

    Here is a recipe for the famous Beijing dish, consisting of juicy slices of duck with a crispy skin, served with Mandarin pancakes and hoisin sauce. The recipe states that you need to hang the duck in a cool, windy place for four hours. This is to make sure the duck is completely dry, inside and out, so it will get nice and crispy. If you don't have the proper place to hang it, you can place in a cool room with a fan blowing on it.

  • 03 of 10
    General Tso's Chicken
    Diane Labombarbe / Getty Images

    While General Tso's Chicken was invented in the United States, it is based on an authentic Hunan dish that translates roughly as "ancestor meeting place chicken," and is named after a ​19th-century Chinese military leader. The deep-fried chicken in enveloped in a thick, slightly sweetened sauce, perfect for serving over steamed rice. 

  • 04 of 10
    Sweet and Sour Pork
    Alex Ortega / EyeEm / Getty Images

    This style of dish is popular in Cantonese cooking, and although the preparation may take some time, you will find that it is well worth the effort. Cubes of pork are marinated, then deep-fried in a batter to make it extra crispy, and stir-fried with pineapple in a sweet and sour sauce.

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  • 05 of 10
    Cantonese Roast Duck

    You may have seen this duck with the shiny reddish skin hanging in the windows of Cantonese restaurants. This is truly a traditional recipe, calling for blanching, stuffing, and then hanging the duck to dry for several hours. It is red food coloring that gives this dish its signature color but feel free to leave it out. 

  • 06 of 10

    White cut chicken is a popular New Years' dish as the white symbolizes purity. In this recipe, chicken is poached in rice wine until it turns white. To add some color to the dish, you can garnish with scallions. 

  • 07 of 10
    Clams in Black Bean Sauce

    In Chinese culture, clams symbolize prosperity because of their resemblance to Chinese coins. Here, clams are stir-fried in a savory mixture of fermented black beans and ginger. 

  • 08 of 10
    Salt and Pepper Prawns

    This colorful Cantonese dish makes an eye-catching appetizer or main course as the deep-fried shrimp shells turn a wonderful orange color. The shells protect the shrimp meat during deep-frying so that it tastes extra tender and juicy. But don’t worry—eating the shells is strictly optional!

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  • 09 of 10

    Many people are surprised to learn there is actually no lobster in this dish at all—the dish gets its name from having the same sauce as lobster Cantonese, which includes ground pork, chicken broth, and an egg, making it a light-colored sauce.

  • 10 of 10
    Sesame Chicken
    Sesame Chicken. Getty Images/TheCrimsonMonkey

    Sesame chicken is not an authentic Chinese dish, but one that is very popular during festive occasions. The chicken is deep-fried in batter, then finished in a tangy sweet and sour sauce and garnished with toasted sesame seeds.