'Prosperity toss' and fried beltfish: Unique Lunar New Year dishes close to our hearts

For Sydney chef Omar Hsu, homemade eel rice cake is his favourite dish for Lunar New Year. It’s a fusion of Japanese-style grilled eel on the top of the Taiwanese-style steamed rice cake.

“I love it,” he says. “When I was a kid, I used to work in my dad’s Japanese restaurant. Every year around Lunar New Year, we would sell it and it’s very popular.”

Lunar New Year foods in Taiwan are very diverse, he says, and are often combined with Japanese, Chinese and Hong Kong cuisines.

 

 

“In my memory, the food we had for the New Year came from various cuisines.”

Hsu says foods in Taiwan have been influenced by many factors, including colonisation and immigration and he affirms that it's difficult to pinpoint a certain style or common taste.

“It’s very much like a beautiful girl. Very nice, but very complex,” he jokes.

 

 

Similar to Australian cuisine, Taiwanese cuisine is trying to find its own identity from local culture and tradition.

Another must-have dish for Lunar New Year is a soup called Buddha jumps over the wall, or Buddha's temptation, which is a variety of shark fin soup in Fujian cuisine. 

Omar says almost every restaurant in Taiwan will have this item on their menu for the New Year Eve feast.

mar says the ingredients of the soup vary from person to person, but usually contain a mix of fresh seafood local to Taiwan.

“This one pot of soup may contain more than a hundred ingredients. You get all their essence,” he says.

“It’s very classic. When you have a whole family together to share the feast, this soup is just perfect for the occasion.”

 

 

As he cannot travel to Taiwan to mark the event, he will be busy in the kitchen during Lunar New Year.

However, he plans to gather with his family and friends in Sydney and prepare a table of delicacies for them.