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Food and Fortune: Chinese Dishes With Auspicious Names

When a Chinese family gathers around a table for dinner on special occasions, say Spring Festival, it’s almost mandatory for the feast to feature dishes with good names or connotations. Gastronomical pleasures are never complete without the more abstract gratification that good food brings good fortune.

Some Chinese dishes have such delightful names that it could be argued that a large part of their appeal, especially at banquets, is linguistic. One of the most common dishes bearing an auspicious name is Four Joy Meatballs (one joy is simply not enough!), which features four fist-sized balls of pork. Tucking into the succulent meatball, you feel like you are relishing the taste of good fortune and somehow bringing yourself closer to good luck. As the video shows, Chinese are not shy about naming their dishes, just read these names: Bumper Harvest, Flourishing Prosperity, and A Hall Filled with Gold and Jade.

Apart from these specific dishes, Chinese foods cooked with fish and chicken are also deemed auspicious since “fish” and “surplus” sounds the same in Mandarin, making the eating of fish a metaphor for enjoying abundance (there is a long-standing expression for equating fish to yearly abundance) while there is only a slight tonal difference between “chicken” and “good fortune.”

So the next time you enjoy your Kung Pao chicken, know that you are eating it for good luck.

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