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Whether you’re planning on preparing your own Chinese New Year banquet, or celebrating the New Year at your favorite Chinese restaurant, here are some “LUCKY” FOODS that you may wish to add to your menu, and what each one symbolizes:

– signify wealth because the deep fried rolls resemble gold bullions.

look like old Chinese silver ingots when they open, so they also signify prosperity. Eat them steamed or stir fried with black bean sauce.

– symbolize abundance. The Chinese word for Fish (“YU”) is a homonym for abundance. This must be prepared as a whole fish, with head and tail intact. My favorite is live killed fish steamed the Cantonese way.

ORANGES – signify good luck and are frequently given as gifts during the Chinese New Year. Clementines and tangerines are in season now, so serve them as a refreshing, low calorie dessert.

PEANUTS – symbolize long life.
Serve dry roasted peanuts with cocktails before the meal or cook them into a dish like KUNG PAO CHICKEN (Szchuan chicken with peanuts).

NOODLES – the long strands symbolize long life. Eat them stir-fried or in soup.

NIAN GAO – (sticky rice cakes) represent the sticking together of family and a good year to come.
(Picture Left - Cantonese Style New Year Nian Gao).

Copyright© 2009 by Helen Chen. All rights reserved.
Helen's Asian Kitchen is not affiliated with Joyce Chen Products.


  1. What type of wrappers do you think are best used for spring rolls?

  2. David: I've found the best wrappers are made by Tee Yih Jia Food Manufacturing Pte. Ltd. from Singapore. You can find their brand, Spring Home, in the freezer section at Asian markets. It's called "TYJ Spring Roll pastry." There are 25 very thin 8" square sheets per package. Hope this helps!


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Like so many of us, Helen Chen learned to cook at her mother's side. But few of us had a mother like Joyce Chen. Helen grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her mother prepared the authentic dishes of her native Shanghai and Beijing with the sort of regularity the rest of us came to expect of macaroni and cheese or meatloaf.

"I remember when I was little, watching my mother prepare meals for family and friends. I once wrote a list of my favorite Chinese dishes," Helen recalls, "I came up with 150 recipes. I do not have one or two favorites. All the dishes on the list are traditional and all are ones that I learned from my mother. That is what I love most about Chinese food: its variety. Taste, texture and color all come into play, as does personality and culture. I think this is what cooking is all about."

Soft spoken and intensely intelligent, Helen Chen was born in Shanghai and moved to the U.S. with her family while still a baby. Helen grew up, as she describes it, in a traditional Chinese-American household. "When I was young I wanted to be totally American," she remembers. "It wasn't until I was in high school that I realized how lucky I was to have two cultures."

Today, Helen Chen is a widely acknowledged expert in Chinese cooking. Besides her role as an educator and cookbook author, she also is a corporate spokesperson and business consultant to the house wares industry. In 2007 she created and developed a new line of Asian kitchenware under the brand name Helen’s Asian Kitchen®, expressly for Harold Import Company in New Jersey.

Having been born in China and raised and educated in the United States, Helen brings the best of both worlds to her approach to the art of Chinese cuisine. She understands the needs of the American cook as only a native can, yet she is intimately knowledgeable in the culinary practices and philosophy of China.

In her active role as a teacher and educator, Helen teaches Chinese cuisine at Boston University; and, through the Anderson Foundation’s enrichment program ‘Cooking Up Culture’ she teaches Boston area school children from grades 1-12 about Chinese cuisine and culture. She also teaches Asian cuisine in numerous cooking schools across the country.

Helen has lectured to various professional and culinary organizations such as the International Association of Culinary Professionals, Boston University Seminars in the Arts and Culinary Arts, Oldways Preservations and Exchange Trust, Small Business Development Center, The Culinary Historians of Boston, Women Chefs and Restaurateurs and the Culinary Guild of New England. In addition, she conducts culinary tours of Boston’s Chinatown and is a frequent guest chef at cooking schools around the U.S.

Helen is the author of Helen Chen’s Chinese Home Cooking (Hearst Books, 1994), Peking Cuisine (Orion Books,1997) and Helen’s Asian Kitchen: Easy Chinese Stir-Fries (John Wiley & Sons, 2009). A second book in the Helen’s Asian Kitchen series, Helen’s Asian Kitchen: Easy Asian Noodles is scheduled for publication in January, 2010.