Chinese New Year Snacks: 8 Irresistible Bites

Chinese cuisine is served in almost every household throughout the 15-day Spring Festival. In between the joyful activities of the lengthy holiday, people make use of the time to rest and indulge in Chinese New Year snacks. If you want to see the complete schedule of activities, check out the other articles in Chinese New Year, particularly the 2020 Chinese New Year Calendar.

baked seeds served on a plate
The Chinese also prepare snacks at their homes for visiting friends and family. Be that as may be, everyone enjoys a good bite.

The Chinese also prepare snacks at their homes for visiting friends and family. Be that as may be, everyone enjoys a good bite. If you plan on celebrating the Spring Festival with a constantly happy belly, take a look at these eight irresistible Chinese New Year snacks!

Baked Seeds

The Chinese just love their baked seeds. So much so that they even came up with a term specifically for the act of breaking open a seed with your teeth and eating it – kē. Wherever they are, they simply love to kē on baked seeds whether they are sunflower seeds, diaogua seeds, pumpkin seeds, or watermelon seeds.

a plate of roasted spiced almonds, popular chinese new year snacks
Aside from baked seeds, the Chinese also love to roasted seeds!

Aside from being irresistible snacks, seeds also make for wonderful additions to cakes and desserts. You should also be mindful when kē-ing on baked seeds. Once you start, you probably won’t be stopping until it’s time for dinner!

Malt Candy

Malt is the traditional sugar of China. Although it isn’t as prominent today as it used to be, the Chinese customarily make malt candy on the 23rd Lunar December to please the Stove God. It is believed that the Stove God will return on to give blessings or dole out punishment.

You can read more about the Stove God at our list of other interesting Chinese New Year myths. We also have articles on Chinese New Year superstitions.

Malt melon gourd

Malt candy is shaped into a melon in some regions of China including Beijing. The process of making malt melon gourd involves forming tube-like strips of malt after much pounding, twisting, and stretching. To create hollow balls, the tube is quickly snipped allowing for the excess malt to form the stem.

Although malt melon gourd used to be one of the most popular Chinese New Year snacks, it is becoming less and less common nowadays because of the lengthy and tiring process of making it.

Candied figures

Malt syrup can also be used to create delicate and tasty art. In the past, candied figures made out of malt syrup could be seen alongside crowded streets during winter. Merchants used sophisticated techniques and used tools like toothpicks and chopsticks to shape the malt into different figures.

During the Spring Festival, these figures are usually shaped into the zodiac animal of the year. These Chinese New Year snacks are not only tasty, but they also have cultural significance.

Candied haw

Once known as traditional winter-time snacks, hawthorn ball kebabs are now enjoyed by the Chinese throughout the year. These tiny delights are drizzled and coated with malt syrup to heighten the sweetness. Haw fruits can also be substituted or added to red bean paste, grapes, walnuts, begonia fruits, or even Chinese yams!

hawthorn ball kebabs displayed in front of a store
The drizzling of malt syrup makes these treats much sweeter!

Traditional merchants of hawthorn ball kebabs carried large wooden boxes or bamboo baskets. They would stick the kebabs on one side of the box and store tools and ingredients on the other. To gather a crowd, they would make hawthorn ball kebabs in front of curious onlookers and put on a show. If you are into this kind of treats, check out our list of seven sweet Chinese New Year desserts.

Popped Rice

The presence of glutinous rice in many of the mentioned Chinese New Year snacks makes it apparent that rice is an essential ingredient in Chinese cuisine. Be it steamed, boiled, fermented, stir-fried, or pan-fried, the Chinese just cannot resist rice!

Without being drenched in ingredients like butter, salt, or caramel, popped rice maintains its natural flavor. They are fairly easy to make and keeps up with the jolly atmosphere during the Spring Festival as they are also used by children for play.

Despite that, the popularity of popped rice is slowly declining partly because of the complicated traditional process of making them. If you want to try these customary treats, there is a now machine that simplifies the procedure. You can also use short-grain rice instead of glutinous rice.

Ginger Candy

Ginger candy is another traditional winter-time snack that originated in the Hunan Province during the Ming Dynasty. Back in the day, it was very common to find farmers pickling or drying ginger pieces for ginger candy.

five square pieces of ginger candy
These treats are great for treating cold stomachaches.

Made with fresh garlic, white sugar, salt, and natural seasoning, this treat has the ability to warm you up which makes it a great remedy for cold stomachaches.  

Fried Dough Twists

According to Chinese folklore, a part of the Sichuan Province was once infested with poisonous scorpions. The people of the region placed a cursed against them by stretching the dough into long strips and twisting them into the shape of a scorpion’s tail. These “scorpion tails” are then deep-fried and eaten on the summer solstice.

a late of fried dough twists served as chinese new year snacks
They are twisted to resemble a scorpion’s tail.

Today, fried dough twists are prepared anytime they are craved for and are staples during the Spring Festival. The twists from the city of Tianjin are particularly popular. They are filled with ingredients such as walnuts and melon slices that add to the flavor! This is perfect when match with relaxing Chinese New Year drinks.

Ox Tongue Pastry

Calm yourself down, these treats are not made of actual ox’s tongue. Instead, it is a pastry shaped like the tongue of an ox. To make ox tongue pastry, the dough is rolled into long, flat strips, coated with sugary sauce, and topped off with sesame seeds before being baked. If you want it to be more savory, you can also fill the sack with stir-fried meat and onions!   

two pieces of ox tongue pastry served as chinese new year snacks
Oxtongue pastry is often coated with sugary sauce.

Persimmon Cakes

Persimmon cakes are arguably the most popular Chinese New Year snacks. You can almost be certain to find these treats on the table when visiting friends during the Spring Festival.

Aside from being tasty, persimmon cakes are also very auspicious as they represent the Chinese phrase for “everything goes according to your wishes.” After a well-loved king named Zubing passed away, the people would offer persimmon cakes in his memory on December 5 of the Lunar Calendar. Persimmon cakes are often consumed after a meal of delicious Chinese New Year food.  

a persimmon cake elevated on a tray to be consumed as chinese new year snacks
Persimmon cakes can also be drizzled with sweet sauce.

Discover your fortune and compatibility in the 2021 horoscope. Read our articles on Year of the Rat, Year of the Dog, Year of the Rabbit, and more.

Fruit Platter

A deep plate filled with fruits is also a staple on tables during the Spring Festival. Aside from being very scrumptious treats, they are also believed to bring blessings to you and your family.

various fruits placed on a bowl
Fruits are served to bring blessing to the household!
  • Oranges – because of their bright color, these fruits symbolize prosperity and wealth as well as luck and auspiciousness
  • Peaches – believed to be the fruits of the gods, peaches represent longevity and health
  • Grapes – since they come in bunches, grapes represent a bountiful harvest
  • Pomegranates –  pomegranates symbolize a large family, the ultimate blessing for many Chinese

The Spring Festival is supposed to be a time for rest and relaxation. In between the cheerful activities we look forward to, it is always better to take it easy with some delightful Chinese New Year snacks.

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1 thought on “Chinese New Year Snacks: 8 Irresistible Bites”

  1. I wonder if they will use them for all their food. Just like there is no mention of the sugar they are told, if they are just eating more of it, then maybe they are trying to keep up with their weight growth. I don’t know how they are doing it, I wouldn’t have heard of them.

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