Happy Year of the Rabbit! Lunar New Year is a memorable time for Asian nationals. While traditions and customs vary enormously across the continent, this is generally a time to light fireworks and firecrackers, join parades and dances, chase away bad luck to welcome a prosperous new year, and obviously enjoy traditional festive food with family. With plant-based eating gaining steam in several Asian countries, this celebration is full of sumptuous dishes that are sure to tantalize the taste buds. Some of these are traditionally plant-based, while others can easily be turned into meat-free options.

We have collected some of our favorite signature dishes from China to Malaysia and beyond that make Lunar New Year truly special, while also being kind to animals and the planet.

Greater China Region

Chinese New Year (also called Spring Festival) celebrates the beginning of the lunisolar Chinese calendar, which has guided agricultural activities since ancient times. Common plant-based dishes include veggie dumplings (“Jiaozi[餃子]”), fried or steamed lettuce (生菜 which has a similar pronunciation to 生財 – “making a fortune”), tangerines (桔 – which looks and sounds similar to 吉, meaning luck) and fish-free turnip cakes – dim sum made of radish and rice flour. A special treat Lever’s team will be enjoying this year is Kung Pao Chicken – prepared with Haofood peanut-based chicken.

Haofood’s Plant-Based Chicken


Malaysian cuisine during Chinese New Year is awash with delicious plant-based dishes. One of the most popular is Yee Sang (Prosperity Toss Salad). This dish, in its fish-free version, is served as a communal platter and is made of shredded vegetables, fruits and nuts, giving it a vibrant, colorful appearance. Lo Hon Zhai (Buddha’s Delight) is also a famous meatless dish, featuring a mixture of different vegetables, mushrooms and tofu stir-fried together in a delicious sauce. Lastly, Nian Gao, or New Year Rice Cake, is a sweet and sticky dessert made with glutinous rice flour.

Yee Sang

South Korea

Several South Korean dishes for New year celebrations can be made plant-based. By leaving the beef out, Tteok Mandu Guk becomes a savory soup with rice cakes and dumplings, while Japchae is a colorful stir-fry of glass noodles and vegetables with a sweet and sour sauce. Pyogo Jeon is a specialty of stuffed shiitake mushrooms, and a perfect match to these dishes is Sujeonggwa, a warm and fragrant cinnamon punch.



Vietnamese cuisine is well-known for its vibrant flavors and fragrant spices, and this is especially true during Tết (Lunar New Year). Meat-free households can choose among dishes like xôi gấc, a red sticky rice or pho chay, a vegetarian version of the classic noodle soup made with tofu, mushrooms, and fresh vegetables. Finally, banh chung chay, a savory and hearty New Year rice cake, is often served as part of the festivities. Fun fact: while most of Asian countries will welcome 2023 as the Year of the Rabbit, the Vietnamese community celebrates it as the Year of the Cat.

Xôi gấc


With Chinese Filipinos being one of the largest overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, it is no surprise that Lunar New Year is a special non-working day in the country. Plant-based options in the Philippines include Tikoy, a sticky and sweet glutinous rice cake that is a must-have for the holiday. Lumpia, a popular dish of Chinese descent, is a savory spring roll filled with vegetables and also a favorite. Lastly, Hopia, a red bean cake, is a flaky pastry filled with sweet mung bean paste.


Have you booked your flight yet? We hope you have enjoyed this snapshot of some of the interesting and unique ways that Lunar New Year is observed in Asia. Wishing you a prosperous and joyous new year, from Lever Foundation’s Asia-based team.


This work happened because of the support of people like you. Please consider donating today to build a more humane and sustainable protein supply in Asia.