Chinese New Year – Snow Pea and Radish Stir Fry

Snow Pea and Radish Stir Fry-8999

Festivities for the Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year, Spring Festival, or Tet if you’re Vietnamese, begin two weeks prior to the official day. As you can imagine, there are many traditions involved in a centuries old celebration. Many old school traditions are still observed, but “thanks to a nearly 50-year Communist-mandated freeze, many aspects have slipped into obscurity – even the name. In 1996 the traditional Chinese New Year morphed into the more generic and politically-pleasing Spring Festival.” {Source:}

Traditionally, Chinese New Year honored deities and ancestors. Today, the festival involves centuries-old rituals, home decorations, celebrations, food and social customs. Last week I was in Shanghai and experienced some of the excitement and preparations firsthand. It’s customary for every family to cleanse their home, sweeping away the bad luck and making room for the good fortune in the coming year. However, the guide we had on our excursion to Zhouzhuang water village said it’s considered taboo to even talk about the dead or cemeteries.

Snow Pea and Radish Stir Fry-9002

Decorating your house in the auspicious color red – considered the color of “good luck” and the color of fire which is thought to ward away evil spirits, and wearing new clothes, again in the color red for joy and happiness, is traditional. Not everyone dons a bright ensemble of red, but you never white or black – the colors of bad luck and death respectively. You also greet your relatives, neighbors and friends and wish them well and give red envelopes with lucky money to children and unmarried people. Our office in Shanghai, threw a low-key party and gave out red envelopes of cash and gifts to honor the hard work of our Chinese associates and the the wildly successful, roller coaster first six months in business. And to satisfy the appetites of the visiting Americans and introduce our Chinese staff to one of our customs, the founder had his favorite cuisine catered in:  gringo Mexican food – guacamole to margaritas from Cantina Agave; mediocre at best, but good Mexican food is hard to come by in Shanghai.

Chinese New Year, Year of the Horse, Chinese paper cutting art

 A proud red horse displays the art of Chinese paper cutting at a charming shop in Tianzifang.

Tianzifang, Shanghai

My favorite place in Shanghai: the artsy, boutique galleries and stores tucked in the alleys of Tianzifang.

Naturally, food is a crucial component to the New Year festivities. Throughout the first five days of the celebration, the Chinese consume tons of long noodles in hopes that they’ll translate into long life. Some dishes are even eaten simply because they have a lucky sounding name. For instance, fat choi, made of hair-like plants and pitch black, is an absolute must-eat for most Chinese families, and sounds like the phrase “get richer” in the local lingo. Often fat choi is served alongside ho shi, dehydrated oysters whose Chinese name bears a strong resemblance to the sounds for “good events.”

The last course in a traditional New Year’s feast is always fish. I’ve read and been told slightly different versions of the significance of fish. Our guide in Zhouzhuang told us fish is the last thing to be eaten on Lunar New Year’s eve and the word sounds like “rich” – if you have been able to save some money that is a good indicator of riches in the new year, another says the Cantonese word for “fish” sounds like the word for “abundance”, and yet another said it sounds like “surplus” – all of which comes down to prosperity or riches in the coming year. Holiday Asia describes the tradition as  a feast for the eyes only and the word for fish in Chinese (yu) sounds exactly like “left” as in, you better hope there’s something left in your bank account after two weeks of partying. Hahahaha. “Placed on the table to serve as a reminder to go easy on those credit cards, the fish is granted a post-mortem reprieve to encourage the family to spend wisely.”

Chinese New Year traditions, Chinese New Year food

Last week, I shared a recipe for a quick and easy Grilled Whole Fish with Soy, Ginger Sauce and, as an accompaniment, today’s recipe for stir-fried Snow Peas with Radishes and Almond brings a lot of crisp, fresh flavors and vibrant color to the table.

Snow Pea and Radish Stir Fry, Chinese New Year recipes

Snow Pea and Radish Stir Fry with Almonds
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A simple stir fry of sweet Snow Peas and crisp radishes brings vibrant color and fresh flavors to healthy weekday dinners or festive Chinese New Year celebrations.
Serves: 4 servings
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce*
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Asian (roasted) sesame oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon dried red chile pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced unpeeled fresh ginger
  • 2 large garlic clove, minced
  • 10 ounces snow peas (Chinese peas)
  • ¾ cup trimmed and quartered (lengthwise) radishes
  • 3 green onions, cut into ½ inch pieces on the diagonal (including the green stalks)
  • 2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
  • sesame seeds (optional garnish)
  1. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and chile flakes; stir to combine and set aside.
  2. Heat a wok or large deep skillet on high heat. Add the sunflower oil and tilt to cover the bottom and sides. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the ginger and garlic. Cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds; do not let them brown. Add the peas, radishes, and onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until the peas and onions are tender-crisp, about 2-4 minutes. Add the sauce and toss to combine. Remove from heat.
  3. Add the almonds and, if using, the sesame seeds. Toss and serve over cooked brown rice, if desired.
For best results, even this simple dish requires the standard stir fry protocol of having all your ingredients cut, measured, and ready to go.

*I use Coconut Aminos which has no soy and far less sodium than even reduced-sodium soy sauce. It's also paleo friendly. The original recipe called for canola oil which I avoid as most canola oils are not GMO-free.

Adapted from Melissa's 50 Best Plants on the Planet by Cathy Thomas.

Snow Pea and Radish Stir Fry, Chinese New Year recipes, Lunar New Year recipes

On the final day of the festivities, everyone dines on nian gao, sweet rice cakes, or “go.” Shaped like the full moon (and eaten on the full moon) these glutinous cakes are shared amongst family and friends as a sign of unity. In this case the word “go” sounds similar to the word for “high.” For the Chinese, this translates as doing all things in life at the highest level; careers, education, etc.

Chinese New Year ning gao


So, go out, do it well, and may you prosper in the coming year!!

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Happy Chinese New Year! 

Disclosure: Thanks to Melissa’s Produce for sending me a bounty of popular Asian produce to create this recipe and more dishes to come for Chinese New Year.

7 Responses to “Chinese New Year – Snow Pea and Radish Stir Fry”

  1. Ally January 27 at 5:46 pm #

    What an amazing trip, Priscilla! You’re a fabulous story teller!

  2. Brooks January 28 at 9:28 am #

    I agree with Ally, Priscilla. How fun for you to be in Shanghai this time of year! The photos are fantastic, but no more so than the Snow Pea and Radish Stir Fry with Almonds. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  3. melissasproduce January 29 at 8:17 am #

    Chinese New Year is climbing up the ladder of my favorite food holiday (time). HAHA. This looks delicious and healthy!

  4. Deirdre Michalski January 31 at 9:22 am #

    This looks so good I am going to try it this weekend!

  5. sippitysup January 31 at 10:36 am #

    I’d say ‘naaaay’ for the year of the horse, but then I’d be afraid you’d think I didn’t want any stir fry. GREG

  6. great stir fry recipe :0


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