Chinese New Year Recipe: Festive Fish

By on February 7, 2013

Festive fish

The Chinese Spring festival or Chinese NewYear as it is widely known is the most important of all traditional Chinese holidays. Celebrations run from Chinese New Year’s day itself right up to the Lantern Festival. A festive time where families get together and celebrate with an abundant annual reunion dinner.

As is with most cultures, the traditions associated with Chinese New Year are symbolic of a deeper meaning especially when it comes to food.

A whole chicken for example reflects a united family. Noodles are said to represent longevity and it is bad luck to cut or bite noodles short. Spring rolls look like gold bars and lettuce sounds like more fortune.  Tangerines sound like wealth and the closer we get to the season the more we see an abundance of them around us in malls and residential buildings. And of course let’s not forget the fish.

Fish plays a huge role on the Chinese New Year table. The word for fish “Yu” is said to sound like the word wealth hence a full fish dish head tail and all is a must have on the Chinese New Year dining table. My Chinese friends often tell me that a fish meal is never demolished and some is always left over for the next day symbolizing a wish for “extra” abundance with auspicious beginnings and endings in the coming year.And when we come to sweet endings desserts are very popular with decadent sticky rice cakes for an abundant and sweet rich life.

Festive food, fireworks and lucky money or liaise February 10th and the year of the snake is just around the corner. Kung Hei Fat Choi.

Fortune fish


1 ½ lbs whole fish head and tail on insides cleaned

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 thumb sized pieces of fresh ginger julienned

2 red banana chillies seeds and all cut into thin rounds

1 lime cut into thin rounds

6 basil leaves

3 kaffir lime leaves

3 teaspoons Chinese rice wine

5 spring onions cut into three inch long juliennes

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 tablespoons light soy sauce mixed with one teaspoon sugar

3 teaspoons sesame oil

Coriander leaves to garnish


  1. Pat the fish dry with kitchen paper and evenly rub with the kosher salt,  rubbing it on inside and out. Place the fish on a heatproof plate and scatter the ginger, chillies, lemon wedges, basil, lime leaves and half the spring onions over the top.
  2. Pour over the rice wine
  3. Prepare a steamer and bring the water to the boil over a high heat.
  4. Put the plate of fish on the steamer  rack and cover tightly and steam the fish until it is butter soft  cooked. A whole fish, will take 15 – 20 minutes.
  5. Remove the plate of cooked fish.
  6. Heat the olive oil and add the soy sauce that is mixed with one teaspoon sugar and quickly toss in the remaining spring onions
  7. Garnish with coriander and serve at once with boiled rice.


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Seema Bhatia

Seema Bhatia is a Kenyan born Indian who hails from a family food business. She spent her early twenties exploring yoga and meditation in India and it is here where her love for yogic cuisine was born. She ran an Africa to Asia dining experience in Hong Kong and has recently launched Hong Kong’s first holistic yogic food business PranaYum Prana in “life force” or “chi” energy.

She does event catering, private dining, turmeric shots and healthy yogi boxes. Her business is unique in that she draws from ancient wisdom – Ayurveda, Incan, Moroccan & Egyptian. She feels blessed as PranaYum supports “gift a smile” a charity that uplifts the lives of children in rural India through the Art of Living.

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