Get ready to celebrate the Year of the Rat. Before you say "ewwww," rats symbolize vitality and intelligence. Anyone who has had the experience of living in New York City knows that both those things are true. To ring in the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 25th, we created this list of lucky foods that are also plant-based. An aside: Cold noodles with peanut sauce were my husband’s introduction to New York Chinese food, and now that I know how to make them, I can tell him that these symbolize a long life. But we get ahead of ourselves.

Chinese New Year goes for two full weeks, from the 25th through February 9. The two-week celebration, also known as the Lunar New Year, ushers in the year with parades, fireworks and big feasts of special ‘lucky’ foods, including fish, dumplings, spring rolls, fruit, and noodles. Even without the fish, there is plenty of luck to go around for plant-based eaters.

Last year, we celebrated over vegan dim sum at Buddha Bodai Kosher, Vegan Restaurant in New York's Chinatown, and as we finished, the Parade passed right by the restaurant. This year, the parade in New York City is on February 9 but check your local events calendar since in San Francisco there will be a huge parade on February 8. Expect floats, fireworks and elaborate costumes at all these parades. For instance, in Philadelphia, the Chinese New Year on January 25 includes a lion dance and fireworks. And in Minnesota, the Mall of America is planning to host a two-day indoor festival with music and dance on February 1st and 2nd.

Celebrating Chinese New Year with lucky foods | Getty Images vegan

Part New Year, part Ground Hog Day, Chinese New Year is also called the Spring Festival because the coldest part of winter is supposed to be over. We can only hope.

If you can’t make it to a festival, you can still celebrate Chinese New Year, with these plant-based lucky foods that you can make, and host your own celebratory dinner.

Chinese Dumplings.
Symbolism: Dumplings signify wealth

While I was in Shanghai last summer, I took a cooking class and learned how to make Chinese dumplings. The dough is easy: Just flour and water. While the rest of the class made pork dumplings, we substituted the meat with a mixture of mushrooms, cabbage and bean sprouts to create our vegetable filling.
Although you can make the dough, it’s a bit of pain. Much simpler is buying the Nasoyoa vegan wonton wraps. Then just make the filling, form the dumplings and steam or fry them.
Chinese Dumplings symbolize wealth | Getty Images

Vegetable dumplings

  • 1/4 cup chopped cabbage
  • 1/4 cup chopped mushrooms 
  • 1 tsp. grated garlic
  • 1 tsp. grated ginger
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 10 wonton wrappers
Dipping sauce 
  • 2 tablespoons Soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chopped scallions
Mix everything but the wrappers together and cook over high heat for 2-3 minutes, until mushrooms brown a little. Remove from heat, put back in the bowl and wipe out the skillet
When the mixture has cooled, take a wonton wrapper and put a spoonful of filling in the center. Wet the perimeter of the wrapper, fold over and seal tightly. Continue until all the filling is used.
Add a tablespoon of canola oil to the skillet and heat. Cook dumplings 2-3 minutes per side, until golden. 
Serve with dipping sauce.

Vegan Spring Rolls
Symbolism: Spring rolls also signify wealth.

These vegan spring rolls are made with square pieces of thin dough that are filled with vegetables, rolled into a cylinder and fried.

 Vegan spring rolls

  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 4 cups napa cabbage sliced thinly
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 carrots sliced thinly
  • 4 ounces bamboo shoots sliced thinly
  • 1 cup cooked glass noodles
  • Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 12 spring roll wrappers
  • canola oil for frying
 Add the canola oil to a large heavy skillet on medium-high heat and add in the napa cabbage cooking 8-10 minutes while stirring until almost all the liquid it releases has cooked off.

Add in the garlic, carrots and bamboo shoots and cook for 1 minute. Stir in noodles, soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil and stir again. Let filling cool completely.
Mix cornstarch with two tablespoons of water.

Lay out the spring roll wrapper, brush cornstarch mixture around the edges to moisten and add about 2 tablespoons of filling in a long rectangle shape, folding in from the sides and rolling the wrappers closed tightly. 
Heat oil in a wok and fry the spring rolls until golden brown.

Cold noodles with peanut sauce
Symbolism: Cold Noodles connote longevity.

This is why you don’t cut noodles; the long noodles are supposed to lead to a long life.

For the sauce

  • 1/2  cup natural creamy peanut butter (I use Whole Foods 365, which is a little runny and perfect for sauces)
  • tablespoons rice vinegar
  • Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • juice of half a lime
  • 4-6 drops Sriracha sauce
  • 1  cup frozen shelled edamame
  • 1  cup snow peas, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, sliced into matchsticks
  • 1/2 pound firm tofu, pressed under a weight or book, then cut into chunks(when the kids were little, I cut tofu into rectangular LEGO sized pieces)
  • 1/4  cup chopped salted roasted peanuts
  • 1-2 chopped scallions, greens and white part
  • 12 ounces soba noodles, cooked to stiffness and cooled

Instructions:

  1. To make the sauce, combine all the ingredients in a blender and puree.
  2. In a large bowl, add half the sauce, then all the noodles and stir to coat. Add the rest of the veggies and tofu and the rest of the sauce. Top with peanuts and scallions.

I usually make the peanut sauce with soba noodles, which I know are not Chinese. But the popular taste and health benefits make this a year-round dish.

Good Fortune Fruit.
Symbolism: These connote fullness and wealth.

Chop or cube into pieces pineapple, oranges, melon, tangerines or any other fruit that has a golden, yellow or orange color. The mixed fruit should look like little pieces of gold to signify wealth.

Happy New Year!