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Hormel Foods Celebrates Lunar New Year with a Feast

Jenny Qi | January 17, 2024

People | The Cooking & Culture Project

Culinary Collective chefs learn about Lunar New Year foods and traditions in an event highlighting the importance and joy of cultural exchange.

January 1 marks a new year and is a day on which people resolve to be better than we were the year before. But January 1 isn’t New Year’s Day around the globe. Many cultures have traditionally based their calendars on the moon cycle. The dates and customs of this day differ across cultures, but in the U.S., Lunar New Year is synonymous with Chinese New Year, which falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. On the Gregorian calendar, which we use in the U.S., this is a different day each year, generally between mid-January and mid-February.

A key aspect of Lunar New Year that has remained the same over millennia is the importance of food, if not the exact ingredients. Naturally, this concept of traditional food excited the innovation team at Hormel Foods, so the company invited Tiffany Alexandria, chef, visual storyteller and owner of Taiwanese food and culture consultancy CHOOCHOO-ca-CHEW, to cook and speak about Lunar New Year and her family’s culinary traditions. Over three days, Chef Tiffany led some of the chefs of the Hormel Foods Culinary Collective, including chefs Barry Greenberg, Seby Joseph, Jim Murray, Jen Selvaggi and Gina Lundberg in preparing and enjoying a 13-course holiday feast.

Chef Tiffany hails from Taiwan and now lives in Rochester, Minnesota, so she was excited to share her food memories with the group. She recalled the loud noises, bright red color and, most of all, the culinary abundance. “Food is something that brings everybody together. Everybody has to eat. We all eat. That’s the one thing we all have in common. During family holidays we all eat and enjoy a feast, and then the memories get stored in the food.”

Our Menu

紅豆年糕 Red Bean Rice Cake (NianGao)

This rice cake is called “NiánGāo”(年糕) in Chinese, which literally translates into “Year Cake”. It is essential during Chinese new year because cake in Chinese-“Gāo”(糕), sounds like high “Gāo”(高) in Mandarin. Nian Gao- higher and better every year!

魚 Steamed Local Trout

Fish is essential to the Lunar New Year as it symbolizes abundance. Fish in Mandarin is “Yú”(魚), which sounds the same as “Yú”(餘), extra. “NiánNiánYǒuYú” (年年有餘) is a greeting phrase used during the lunar new year, wishing everyone having abundance year after year. It is also important that the fish is served with the head and the tail, it symbolizes having a start and an end. Fish is also never finished on the Lunar New Year eve dinner to further emphasize having extra to carry over into the new year.

涼拌小黃瓜 Cucumber Salad

Most dishes on the new year dinner table can be a little heavier, lighter dishes are important to help balance out the meal.

炒米粉 Rice Noodle Stir-Fry

Rice noodle stir-fry isn’t the most common dish on the lunar new year dinner table. However, every year during the lunar new year, family and friends would visit each other and have little get-togethers like people do during Christmas in America, and one of my parents’ friends would always make her specialty rice noodle stir-fry during the get-together. The sound of aunties and uncles chattering, mahjong clacking and “GōngXǐ GōngXǐ” greetings, red envelopes being stuffed into my pockets while my parents tell me not to take them from aunties and the taste of rice noodle stir-fry has become part of my vivid lunar new year memories.

韭菜水餃 Pork and Garlic Chive Dumplings (boiled)

“JiǎoZi” , or dumplings as most westerners know them, is something we always eat during the lunar new year. The shape of these dumplings looks like the ancient Chinese gold nuggets so they symbolize wealth and prosperity. My family would gather before the lunar new year dinner and fold dumplings together and catch up on each other’s lives or tell stories from the past. We would hide a coin in one of the dumplings and whoever gets the coin while eating the dumplings will have even more good luck in the following year. Garlic chives are eaten during the lunar new year because “Jiǔ”Cài(韭菜) sounds like longevity “Jiǔ”(久) in mandarin, we eat it to live a longer life.

東坡肉 Dong Po Pork

The dish is named after the famous Chinese Song dynasty writer, poet, painter, calligrapher, pharmacologist, gastronome, and statesman named Su Dongpo. Above all the talents that are mentioned, it’s also said that Su Dongpo is a great cook and braised pork belly is his specialty. When he was in Hangzhou, he helped solve the flooding during that time. The villagers knew that Su Dongpo enjoyed braised pork so they gifted him with pork during Chinese new year. Su Dongpo asked his family to cut the pork into cubes and braised them with yellow rice wine(ShaoXing) and soy sauce then gifted the dish back to the villagers, everyone enjoyed them so much and they named the dish Dongpo Pork.

火雞獅子頭 Turkey Lion’s Head

Lion’s head are giant meatballs, the round shape symbolizes reunion “TuánTuánYuánYuán”(團團圓圓), and the golden color brings prosperity and wealth to the table. Each meatball also symbolizes luck, good fortune, longevity, and happiness.

培根蘿蔔糕 Radish Cake

Radish cake is something my grandma would make every lunar new year, since radish “tshài-thâu” (菜頭) in Taiwanese sounds similar to good luck “CǎiTóu” (彩頭), and cake “Gāo” (糕) sounds the same as high “Gāo” (高), eating this dish will bring lots of luck to the new year. The cake is steamed then cut into squares and pan fried until golden and crispy on the outside, making the radish cake look like golden bricks, and that’s what we call them sometimes for extra wealth and prosperity.

四川麻辣香腸 Sichuan Mala Sausage

There are always some types of sausage on the lunar new year dinner table. Back in the day, people didn’t eat meat as often but during the holidays hogs would be slaughtered and making sausages is a way to preserve the pork for the coming year. Another reason for having sausages on the dinner table is because sausages are called “XiāngCháng” (香腸) which sounds like longevity “ChángChángJiǔJiú”(長長久久). Mala sausage isn’t something that’s on most Taiwanese’s dinner tables, but my paternal grandfather was originally from Sichuan so the flavor became something he craves and this type of sausage can only be found once a year before the lunar new year in the little market by the military village he lived in.

發糕 Fa Gao

Fa Gao’s literal translation is the cake that expands, but “fa” also means prosperity. These little muffin-looking cakes are steamed on high heat to achieve the split-top look. The bigger the crack on top is, the more prosperous the next year is going to be.

飯 Rice

Rice is a staple food for most families in Asia, rice is not only food, it is also synonymous with wealth. Making sure there’s enough uncooked rice in the rice container not only symbolizes the family won’t go hungry next year but also will be full (滿) of wealth.

During the lunar new year, families would visit temples and pray for good health and fortune, temples often offer small bags of rice wrapped in a red envelope as blessed rice for people to take home and eat for good luck and health.

醬 Sauces

Sauces are great ways for guests to make the dishes on the table their own. There would always be multiple sauces on the dinner table as my grandfather enjoys food much saltier than the rest of us. Most sauces are soy sauce based, mixed with vinegar and often garlic for dipping dumplings or radish cake. Garlic in Mandarin is called “Suàn”(蒜), which sounds like counting “Suàn”(算), by eating garlic people are blessed to have countless money to count in the new year.

鳳梨、蘋果、橘子 Pineapple, Apple, Orange

After dinner desserts are most often fruits in Asian countries, and during lunar new year we eat fruit for good fortune. Pineapple in Taiwanese is called “ông-lâi”(旺來), it symbolizes flourishing prosperity and good luck “HǎoYùnWàngWàngLái”(好運旺旺來); apple “PíngGuǒ”(蘋果) symbolizes safety “PíngPíngĀnĀn”(平平安安); oranges or tangerines “Jú”(橘/桔) symbolizes big fortune and great profit “DàJíDàLì”(大吉大利).

Celebrate with Recipes From Chef Tiffany

Garlic Chive Dumplings 韭菜水餃

Total time

Prep Time

Cook Time

Dish Type


Wrapper Dough
2½ cups flour
1 cup warm water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 pound HORMEL® Ground Pork
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons HOUSE OF TSANG® Sesame Oil
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
3 cups finely chopped garlic chives
¼ cup water


For the Wrapper Dough

  1. In bowl, Mix Wrapper Dough ingredients together. Let rest 5 minutes.

  2. Knead dough 5 minutes, or until smooth and shiny. Cover. Let rest for at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour to relax dough.

  3. Divide dough into 45 (1 tablespoon or approximately 11 grams) portions. Using a rolling pin, roll each portion into a 3½-inch disc. Dust each with corn starch to prevent sticking; covering with a dampened towel as needed.

For the Filling

  1. Dumpling Filling:

    In bowl, combine pork, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, salt and pepper. Using a fork, mix vigorously 4 to 5 minutes or until mixture is smooth and sticky. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until liquid is absorbed. Mix in garlic chives.

  2. Assembly:

    Place about 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of wrapper, rim edge of wrapper with water. Fold the dumpling in half and pinch the wrapper together at the meeting point in the center.

    On right side of the dumpling facing you, make three pleats starting with the closest point to the center.

    Repeat the same motion on the left side. Both sides of the pleats go towards the center from each side, meeting in the middle of the dumpling.

    Pinch the seams shut and make sure everything is completely sealed.

  3. Cooking the Dumplings:

    Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil over high heat. Add dumplings. Cook 6 minutes. Frozen dumplings may take a little longer.

  4. Freezing the Dumplings:

    Line prepared dumplings on a baking sheet. Freeze. When dumplings are frozen, you can easily peel them off and keep in a zip top bag until ready to cook.

Bacon Radish Cake 培根蘿蔔糕

Total time

Prep Time

Cook Time


4 dried shiitake mushrooms
½ (16-ounce) package HORMEL® BLACK LABEL® Original Bacon, chopped
2 shallots, thinly sliced
9 cups shredded, peeled daikon radish
1 cup shredded, peeled carrot
3 teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons white pepper powder
5 cups rice flour
3 cups water
1 tablespoon HOUSE OF TSANG® Classic Stir-Fry Sauce


  1. Soak dried mushrooms in warm water 30 minutes or until softened. Drain and finely dice.

  2. In wok over medium heat, add mushrooms. Stir until fragrant. Remove from pan. In same wok, add bacon. Fry until crispy and browned. Remove with slotted spoon.

  3. Add shallots to bacon fat in wok. Fry on medium-low heat until shallots are golden and fragrant.

  4. Raise heat to medium. Add radish, carrot, salt, HOUSE OF TSANG® Classic Stir-Fry Sauce and pepper. Cook, stirring, until radish is soft and transparent.

  5. While radish is cooking, prepare rice flour mixture. Mix rice flour and water together, stirring until smooth. Return mushrooms and bacon to wok. Reduce heat to low. Stir in rice flour mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is a very thick batter consistency. Remove from heat.

  6. Transfer mixture to a greased 9½ x 5-inch loaf pan.

  7. Prepare steamer. Steam radish cake over boiling water 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from steamer. Brush top of radish cake with a thin layer of oil to keep it moist. Let cool before removing from pan.

  8. Slice and serve hot immediately with garlic soy sauce or chill completely, slice and pan fry until each side is crispy and golden.

Turkey Lion’s Head 火雞獅子頭

Total time

Prep Time

Cook Time


Lion’s Head (meatball)
Oil for Deep Frying
1 pound JENNIE-O® Ground Turkey
½ box firm tofu, crumbled
½ sweet onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1½ tablespoons HOUSE OF TSANG® Toasted Sesame Oil
1 tablespoon HOUSE OF TSANG® Classic Stir-Fry Sauce
1 Shaoxing wine
1 egg white
1 tablespoon salt
½ tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon white pepper
Broth Base
1 small head napa cabbage, cut into 2” sections
1 cup water
1 carrot, cut into ⅛” thick coins
1 teaspoon salt


For the Lion’s Head (meatball)

  1. In large bowl, combine Lion’s Head ingredients. Mix vigorously until very sticky. Portion the mixture into 6 meatballs, each about the size of a baseball.

  2. In large saucepan, heat oil for deep frying. Fry meatballs until golden brown on the outside. They will not be completely cooked through.

For the Broth Base

  1. In another large saucepan, place cabbage, water, carrot and salt. Place meatballs on top. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium. Cover. Cook 15 minutes or until cabbage is softened and meatballs are cooked through. Season with additional salt or soy sauce to taste.