An inextricable part of the lantern-lit magic that surrounds Chinese New Year celebrations is its rich symbolism, rooted in millennia-long tradition and the wisdom of an ancient culture. Some of the Lunar New Year’s most meaningful rituals revolve around food and the theme of prosperity. In particular, specially prepared sweet delights are traditionally consumed during the holiday, promising prosperity and fortune.
Sharing a spread of delicacies with family and friends is a joyful tradition, a gesture of spreading wealth and abundance along with good wishes. Each dish and ingredient in these edible offerings is chosen with purpose, based on its symbolic value and the message it brings for the year ahead. With the number eight carrying lucky meaning in Chinese culture, it is common to present a boxed tray filled with eight types of sweet fruit or nuts, for a fortune-filled year to come.
In this version, we use glass jars instead, to present a sugared treat of candied orange peel, or kumquats, if preferred. Their round shape symbolizing infinity, oranges and mandarins are a New Year staple, while kumquats signal prosperity, as the word kum resembles the Chinese word for “gold.” For a meaningful set of eight, these homemade confections can be paired with other symbolic sweets: lotus roots standing for abundance, lotus seeds for family prosperity and fertility, longan for happy and plentiful children, jujube for hope, peanuts for a long life, melon seeds for joy and happiness, and coconut for togetherness.
- peel of 4 organic oranges (with pith, the white part) or kumquat
- granulated cane sugar
Slice the peel, thinly or thickly depending on your preference. If using kumquats, they may be left whole.
Place the peel in a pot of water, enough to cover, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes and strain. Repeat the above step 2 more times, except during the final time, let the peel simmer for 30 minutes.
Strain the peel, reserving the water. Depending on the amount of water, measure out an equal amount of sugar (for example, 400ml to 400g) and add into the mixture. Return the peel and sugar mixture to the pot and let it simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, until peel is translucent and soft. Do not stir the mixture or it will crystallize; if necessary, swirl the pot briefly.
Turn off the heat and allow the peel and syrup to cool. Remove the strips with a fork or strainer and put them in a single layer on a wire baking rack, set on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Place into an oven preheated to its lowest temperature setting, and let sit for about 45 minutes or until dry. Remove the peel from the oven and immediately toss it in granulated sugar. Let cool completely before storing in airtight container.
Chinese Text by Zhao Wen English Text by Kate Missine Recipe and Photography by Gaëlle Didillon