At the beginning of Spring, there will be some "spring" customs, and diet custom is one of them. So, what do people usually eat at the Beginning of Spring, such an important solar term?
Eating spring cake
Eating spring cake is one of our folk eating customs at the Beginning of Spring. In some regions (Northeast China, North China, etc.) there is a custom of eating spring cake at the Beginning of Spring. Spring cake is a pancake made of flour and it is usually eaten with vegetables. At first, spring cake and vegetables were put on a plate, which is called the "spring plate". From the Song Dynasty to the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the popularity of eating spring cakes was growing, and there are records that the emperor gave spring cakes to all officials at the Beginning of Spring. In the Qing Dynasty, spring cakes were filled with more rich contents. People would prepare side dishes or all kinds of stir-fried vegetables, which could be inserted into the cake. Eating spring cake at the Beginning of Spring means welcoming the spring and praying for a good harvest.
Nowadays, spring cake is still made by baking or steaming inherited from ancient times, and the size of it depends on personal preference. Some people like to eat it with sweet soybean paste or scallion, and some even prefer to eat it with cooked meat such as shredded chicken in sauce.
Eating spring rolls
Eating spring rolls is a traditional custom of our folk at the Beginning of Spring, which is evolved from the custom of eating spring plates, like eating zongzi at the Dragon Boat Festival, and eating dumplings at New Year's Eve, having been continued for thousands of years. Spring rolls are made with the filling of dry noodles, which are fried and deep-fried.
It is said that there were spring rolls in the Eastern Jin Dynasty, which were called "spring plates". At that time, when it was the Beginning of Spring, people would put pancakes made of flour on a plate and eat exquisite vegetables, so it was called "spring plate". At that time, they were not only eaten at the Beginning of Spring, but also carried on spring outings. In the Tang and Song dynasties, this trend became more prevalent. In the Tang Dynasty, the spring plate was also called Wuxinpan. In the Qing Dynasty, rich families or ordinary families all ate spring cakes. Later, the spring plate and Wuxin plate evolved into spring cake. Eating spring cake has gradually become a traditional custom in order to achieve good luck and eliminate disasters.
With the development and improvement of cooking techniques, "spring cake" has evolved into a small and exquisite spring roll. At this time, it not only becomes a folk snack, but also a palace cake, entering the hall of elegance. The spring roll is one of the nine main dim sum dishes among the 128 dishes in the "Manchu Han Imperial Feast" in the Qing court.
Lettuce is often found in literature about the Start of Spring’s diet, but the meaning of lettuce varies from place to place. However, the lettuce here refers to the wild vegetables that just grow at the beginning of spring, which is given by the people to "welcome the New Year". Lettuce can be fried or eaten raw. Lettuce sounds the same as "generate money" in Chinese, and it also has the meaning of new life, symbolizing that the Beginning of Spring is a good start.
Translator: WANG Yiwen
Reviewer: BAO Minmin