How different cultures start the New Year with culinary hopes
Time Out Abu Dhabi staff
Want health, wealth or something else in the New Year? Across the globe, when the clock strikes midnight on December 31 people will be eating different foods in order to prosper in 2014.
We spoke to some Abu Dhabi chefs to find out about what to eat this New Year’s Eve. Le Royal Méridien’s executive sous chef, Sudhanshu Nirmal and chef Iroshan Udithawijewardana; The Royal Orchid’s chef Karan Thapa and Bocca at The Hilton’s head chef, Giuseppe Mosti gave us the lowdown on what to munch on to bring us good fortune in the new year.
China – Fish The world for fish in Chinese sounds similar to a word for abundance. The symbol for fish is the same sound as that of abundance through the word yu, so Chinese people eat fish for luck. It is generally served whole, so with the head and tail to ensure a good year from start to finish.
Germany – Herring In Germany and parts of Scandinavia, herring is served to bring fortune. Chef Sudhanshu says ‘Herring is served with shiny silver skin symbolising coins, and thus wealth, in the New Year.’
South America – Black-eyed peas South Americans eat black-eyed peas to welcome in the New Year and find some luck – these are considered particularly lucky because they have two concentric circles, which are representative of coming full circle and infinity.
Asia – Long noodles In many Asian cultures, long noodles signify longevity – the longer the noodle eaten, the better for the person doing the eating. Many cultures eat long noodles at New Year’s for this reason. In Japan people eat soba noodles, and it’s better they don’t break because this symbolises long life.
Italy – Lentils Chef Giuseppe says ‘According to a popular belief, it is considered auspicious to consume a plate of lentils on the first day of the year. This is due to the ancient custom of giving a scarsella (the typical bag to store coins and doubloons) filled with lentils at year-end. The hope was that each grain is transformed into a doubloon, making rich the lucky recipient of the gift. Their round shape is similar to that of coins, so lentils are eaten for wealth.’
China – Sweets and meat Chef Karan says ‘We believe in lighting the house, eating roasted meat and making traditional Chinese sweets. This is for good fortune. ‘
Mexico and Spain – Grapes In Mexico and Spain, 12 grapes are eaten, one to symbolise each month. They say to watch out for a sour one, that month may not be as sweet as the others! Chef Sudhanshu says, ‘The logic here is that it is 12 rings for 12 months and every grape will make the months sweeter.’
Greece – Vasilopita (Cake with a coin) In various countries across the world, cakes have a coin baked into them. This is a little new year tradition where the person that gets the coin in their piece of cake will have luck for the oncoming year. Often instead of a coin, an almond or nut is the lucky symbol.
Norway and Sweden – Rice pudding Similar to the vasilopita, the rice pudding has an almond in it – the person who gets the serving with the almond in it is promised good fortune for the new year.
Philippines – Round fruits Chef Iroshan says ‘In the Philippines, at New Year, they eat 12 round fruits as anything round is considered as sign of prosperity. Each fruit symbolises one month.’ Le Royal Méridien Abu Dhabi, Tourist Club Area (02 674 2020); Royal Orchid Saalam Street, Tourist Club Area (02 677 9911); Hilton Abu Dhabi, Corniche Road (02 681 1900).