Chinese New Year – the year of the Pig

Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar. This year 5 February marked the start of the lunar new year celebrations which will continue for 15 days until the full moon of the first lunar month.  

This will be the year of the Pig, the twelfth animal of the 12 year Chinese zodiac cycle.  The Pig is said to have a beautiful personality and be blessed with good fortune in life. In Chinese culture, pigs are the symbol of wealth. Their chubby faces and big ears are also signs of fortune.

One legend says that the Jade Emperor said the order of the zodiac would be decided by the order in which the animals arrived to his party. The Pig overslept and therefore arrived late – determining his place in the zodiac. Another story says that a wolf destroyed his house and he had to rebuild his home before he could set off arriving last, so he could only take twelfth place.

The Pig is also associated with the Earthly Branch (地支—dì zhī) hài (), and the hours 9–11 in the night. In terms of yin and yang (阴阳—yīn yáng), the Pig is yin.

Celebrations of the new lunar year are very important and there are many traditions around cultural celebrations.

At UMAMU, some of our favourite celebrations centre around wine and food – of course.

One way to celebrate is to enjoy a salad called ‘Yee Sang’.  Yee Sang is a ‘Prosperity toss’ where you toss a salad with particular ingredients that have symbols of abundance, prosperity and good luck.  This ritual traditionally brings wishes for reaching higher levels, for households to be filled with gold and silver, prosperity for the business and for life to always be sweet… 

Traditionally this dish is served on the seventh day of the new year but nowadays it is enjoyed in the lead up to the new year as well as during the 15 days of new year.

Here is a recipe that pairs beautifully with our ChardonnayCabernet Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  This is a lovely entrée for eight people or so depending on your appetite. 

What you'll need: 

  • Eight pairs of chopsticks
  • 250g smoked salmon – (traditionally raw fish is used but smoked salmon is delicious and an easy substitute)
  • Two bags of julienned/shredded raw vegetables from the supermarket which saves all the shredding. If you can’t find the pre sliced bag then julienne/ shred the following,
    • 2 carrots
    • 1 radish
    • 1 cucumber
    • half a lettuce
    • 1 beetroot
  • a few segments of pomelo / grapefruit – into pieces
  • Two tablespoons of pickled ginger
  • Two tablespoons of pickled onion
  • Five wonton skins sliced and fried
  • Three tablespoons of chopped peanuts
  • Two tablespoons sesame seeds

For the dressing:

  • Two tablespoons of lime juice
  • Three tablespoons of plum sauce
  • One teaspoon sesame oil
  • Three tablespoons of any mild oil you like e.g. olive oil
  • A pinch of 5 spice powder
  • A pinch of salt

What to do: 

To prepare the dish, place all the veggies on a big round plate and top with the smoked salmon. 

Add the dressing and the idea is to use your chopsticks to toss the ingredients into the air to mix the salad while saying auspicious wishes. 

The belief is that the higher the toss, the higher one’s growth in fortunes so let’s toss as high as we can!

And enjoy with UMAMU wines of course…..