“Fish in Mandarin sounds like the word for ‘surplus’ – a representation of prosperity,” Chef Lu explains.
Eating the whole fish is supposed to consolidate your surplus from the past year and allow you to turn it into even more prosperity the following new year, he says. “It also symbolises wholeness and completeness.”
Lu says that the fish is typically served as the grand finale near the end of the meal. The cleaned whole fish is steamed with slices of ginger, scallions and oyster sauce.
Chef Tara Lazar of F10 Creative remembers her mother making whole steamed fish every Chinese New Year – and she continues the tradition herself.
“Fish move forward, never backward. Chinese culture likes this symbolism,” Lazar says.