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Lunar New Year Brings Authentic Cultural Cuisines to Stony Brook Dining

Congee dim sum and spring rolls
Congee dim sum and spring rolls
Congee dim sum and spring rolls

Lunar New Year, also known as the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, is a chance to start fresh, see loved ones and share in the hope of good things to come. The Stony Brook University community celebrated the Year of the Ox on February 10 with an event hosted by the Faculty Student Association (FSA) in the dining locations.

It is one of the most important holidays in China, where celebrations run from the eve of the start of the lunar calendar until the Lantern Festival, held on the 15th day of the new lunar year. It is also celebrated all over the world in other Asian nations such as Vietnam and South Korea.

The 12-year Chinese zodiac calendar is represented by 12 different animals. Chinese tradition believes that those born in a year associated with an animal acquire the characteristics of that particular animal. The ox can be seen as symbolizing confidence, power, stability, fertility, determination, and even stubbornness.

“At Stony Brook we celebrate diversity every day and enhance the student life experience by offering authentic meals so students have the opportunity to taste cuisines from many different cultures,” stated Van Sullivan, FSA executive director.

This holiday, like many holidays in other cultures, is centered around food. For the Lunar New Year celebration at East Side and West Side dine-in, CulinArt cultivated a delicious menu with carefully chosen dishes associated with luck, including fish (the Chinese word for it sounds like the word for “surplus”) and foods that look like gold ingots (like spring rolls).

Breakfast featured Ginger Rice Congee and Dim Sum – Red Bean Bao Buns with Sesame and Sweet Milk, Chicken Siu Mai Dumplings with Soy Dipping Sauce and Vegetable Spring Rolls with Sweet and Sour Sauce. Oranges, known to symbolize luck, were part of the feast.

Lunch and dinner featured Korean Vegetarian Rice Cake Soup with Egg, Seaweed and Sesame, Soybean Sui Mai Dumplings with Soy Dipping Sauce, Lotus Buns with Sliced Duck, Scallion and Plum Sauce, Crispy Whole Fish Stuffed with Ginger, Sweet and Sour Sauce, Silky Tofu with Garlic, Black Bean and Scallion, Sesame Vegetable Longevity Noodles, Shanghai Bok Choy Stir-Fry and Sweet-Sticky 8 Treasure Rice.

Many of the menu items have a symbolic meaning such as:

Eight Treasure Rice: The dish name contains the number eight  pronounced as 发/”fa” in Cantonese, which means getting rich or becoming wealthy. So consuming this dessert at the end of the new year’s meal means it will bring you fortune and wealth in the coming year.  Eight Treasure Rice – 八宝饭 / Symbolic Meaning: 吉祥平安,财源滚滚 Good fortune and prosperity.

Spring Rolls: A symbol of wealth and prosperity. The lucky saying for eating spring rolls is “Hwung-Jin Wan-Lyang” which means “a ton of gold.”  Spring Rolls – 春卷 / Symbolic Meaning: 吉祥如意 Good fortune and may all of your wishes come true.

Whole Fish: Many regions in China have a whole fish on display on their New Year’s Eve dinner table but not meant for eating, they save it for the next day (the first day of the next year), which symbolizes good luck/fortune and wealth that is with your family this year will be carried over to the next year. Crispy Whole Fish Stuffed with Ginger Sweet and Sour Sauce:糖醋鱼, / Symbolic Meaning: 年年有余 May the coming year be even more prosperous and enjoyable than the previous years.

“It’s really a time for new beginnings and is celebrated with three overarching themes – fortune, happiness, and health,” explained Trista Lu, assistant director, China Center, Office of Global Affairs. It is traditional on New Year’s day for family members to receive red envelopes (lay-see) containing small amounts of money. Through a collaboration with the China Center and FSA, the Office of Global Affairs Instagram account @sbuglobalaffairs ran a series of contests where commenting with your favorite Lunar New Year tradition and tagging a friend entered students for a chance to win a red envelope from @sbufsa.

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