As changing demographics and ethnic diversity continue to fuel culinary food trends and play a role in the produce department, Chinese New Year has become an even more prominent and widely celebrated holiday. Not only is this a great time of year to fill produce departments with Chinese New Year staples and new favorites, but the holiday also provides a longer promotional period since it is celebrated over multiple days. This year, Chinese New Year will be celebrated on February 8th and is the year of the Monkey, considered an auspicious time.
“Chinese New Year is a two week celebration before and after the lunar new year. Families and friends gather for a fresh start to a new year often at home and restaurants for family style meals consisting of up to ten courses with a good portion of produce centric dishes,” Garrett Nishimori, Marketing Manager and Corporate Chef for San Miguel Produce tells me.
Karen Caplan, President and CEO of Frieda’s Specialty Produce, also adds that Asian foods of all kinds are trending. By having Asian fruits and vegetables, and complementary items available at retail, you are showing your shoppers that you are relevant.
“Chinese New Year is just another great time to take advantage of this trend,” she adds. “The biggest challenge with Chinese New Year is that it’s winter, so the cold weather usually causes product shortages. Welcome to the produce business and global warming! This is a good reason to always include Eggroll and Wonton Wrappers, Tofu, and other Asian complementary items in your advertising plans.”
Retailers should feature Chinese New Year on their website and on social media as a way to give eating and cooking ideas to shoppers. Start promoting now to jump on these trends in produce!
A staple ingredient in many Asian cuisines—this cabbage has a sweet, soft flavor that can be used in soups, as a filling in egg rolls, and eaten raw in salads. The crunchy, unique texture of its leaves continue to make this cabbage one of the most sought-after ingredients in Asian cuisine.
Literally translating to “golden orange” in Chinese, this tiny specialty citrus item has sweet, edible skin and a tart inner flesh. Kumquats also provide an excellent source of Vitamin C and fiber, as well as calcium and iron. Like Navel oranges and mandarins, this citrus item is said to bring luck, wealth, and prosperity.
Looking for good fortune? This vegetable is a traditionally beneficial symbol to have around. A basic part of Japanese Cuisine—This veg has a mild flavor, crispy texture, and an overpowering earthy aroma. This flavor tends to vary throughout the vegetable, as the bottom is usually the most poignant and the top is the sweetest.
Also known as Yardlong Beans, these are firmer than regular green beans, and are actually more closely related to blackeyed peas. In addition, Chinese Long Beans provide a great source of fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C. This versatile vegetable can be used in multiple preparation methods from stir-frying, steaming, and boiling as a snack or salad ingredient.
This holiday favorite is usually found in marshes, and its crunchy texture is associated with a mildly sweet flavor. Try boiling or steaming this veg to use in soups, salads, and stews. Peel before use in stir-fry.
Snow pea shoots are a bit grassier than snow peas but crisp in flavor and freshness. Try them out in soups, stir-fries, or steamed.
What looks to be more of a Halloween-suited fruit, this item is one of the oldest citrus fruits on record. Coveted for its sweet, floral fragrance, mild zest with little to no flesh or juice. Buddha’s Hand is all rind and pith. Think of it as more of a presentation piece, although the rind can be candied or used in baking and other recipes. Buddha’s hands are also used as offerings in the temple during the holiday. Like cocktails? This is a great ingredient for infusing into spirits.
Valued for its spicy flavor and medicinal benefits, ginger can be sliced or grated to add zest to Asian dishes. Try combining ginger with soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic to make a flavorful salad dressing.
Pomegranates are a leathery, red-skinned fruit that are filled with delicious and delicate tiny, tangy-sweet edible seeds called arils. Not only is this popular for Chinese New Year, but it has become a front runner in healthy eating, flavor diversification, and culinary creativity. And let’s not forget, pomegranates are a symbol for the abundance of children.
Chinese broccoli’s distinct, sharp flavor and its long, leafy characteristics set this broccoli apart from more common varieties. Steamed, boiled, or stir-fried, this vegetable is a great addition to any dish.
Tender, versatile, and widely used across multiple cuisines, Chinese Eggplant is unlike many eggplant varieties as the skin preserves the texture, taste, and shape, and is traditionally not removed in Chinese cooking. The item has several different preparation methods to fit your fancy, from baking and broiling, to stir-frying or deep-frying.
A common misconception is that these two versatile varieties are one-and-the-same, with interchangeable names. Truth: both are visually and flavorfully different. In Asian stores, Baby Bok Choy is the more widely used variety, while Baby Shanghai Bok Choy is more popular in Shanghai cuisine. Baby Bok Choy has white crunchy stems and dark, spinach-like leaves. Baby Shanghai Bok Choy has uniform light green stems, spoon-shaped leaves, and a more mild flavor than Baby Bok Choy.