Food & Drink

10 Asian New Year foods you'll wish you could eat year round

Published On 01/30/2014 Published On 01/30/2014

In the US, we've already engaged in our traditions of watching a giant ball drop and making out with a stranger, but in East Asia, things are just starting to get real. The Lunar New Year ushers in the Year of the Horse, which has huge implications for Sarah Jessica Parker, in addition to the most populated continent in the world. And as with any holiday, the New Year has its traditional foods, which is why we've dug into the traditional eats from various cultures to show you what you're missing.


China's salty and sweet answer to beef jerky can be found all year round, but it's especially prevalent when the New Year rolls around, and is often given as a gift. This is way better than that stupid mug your secret Santa gave you.


Translated as "prosperity toss" and served to symbolize prosperity and, um, tossing (?!), yusheng is a salad of raw fish, veggies, and other ingredients that's popularly served in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and China as a communal dish, with everybody digging in family style and hopefully not tossing anything extra into the dish.


A Vietnamese treat so essential to Tet that it comes steeped in legend, this rice cake is offered up to the ancestors before you can dig into the mung beans and pork hidden within. Luckily, they don't eat much. Even better, it's wrapped up in a banana leaf that you unwrap like an edible present.

Andy Kryza

Dumplings are a staple of most Chinese feasts, but during New Year celebrations in China they're as essential as the American tradition of making out with people you don't know. Known as "jiaozi", they're served to represent money and prosperity, and sometimes have coins hidden in them. Coins that will no doubt go toward fixing a cracked crown.

Flickr/ _e.t

A cured fish cake popular in ramen joints, kamaboko gets elevated to star status during New Year festivities, with its common colors of pink and white both representing good luck in Japan. It's also fun to give it to people under the pretense that it's candy.

Flickr/Wichete Katesuwan

While most of us eat desserts out of bowls, the folks in Cambodia celebrate the New Year by stuffing a bamboo pole with rice, red beans, and coconut custard, and then roasting it over a fire. The resulting food is served in the bamboo, which can make you look like a total badass as you peel it like a banana.

Flickr/Christian Kadluba

First thing's first: mochi is not chocolate, so get that outta your head. It's a traditional Japanese rice cake made by pounding the sh*t out of rice with gigantic mallets. The resulting creation can be found in everything from soup to ice cream, but should most definitely be found in your belly.

Flickr/Roberto Verzo

You aren't gonna be finding a lot of bowtie pasta at these celebrations, mainly because they have no place in Asian cuisine, but also because noodles represent long life. The longer the noodle, the longer the expectancy. So if you're in Manila and you get a plate of ziti instead of the pancit you ordered, somebody really doesn't like you.


Named for the vegetable and not those cards that gypsy used to curse your soul, taro cakes are savory little suckers that you can often find on a dim sum cart, and most definitely at a Chinese New Year celebration, where the pan-fried cakes are a mainstay.

Flickr/Jordi Sanchez Teruel

These Korean rice cakes come in about a bajillion different varieties, but during New Year celebrations you're most likely to find them in soup called tteokguk. You'll also find tons of sweet variations that you should absolutely eat, since it's a celebration, dammit, and it's also really hard to dance while eating soup.

Andy Kryza is Thrillist's national eat/drink senior editor, and spent five years writing horoscopes under the pseudonym of Madame Mingmei. In case you were wondering, he is a metal rooster, and will have a lopsided year. Follow him to your future via Twitter at @apkryza.