2018’s the Year of the Dog – Look for Loyalty and Noodles

Chinese New Year template

One of the things I love about Chinese New Year is that it’s usually about six weeks after Christmas (starting sometime between January 27 and February 20) when the days are short and sometimes gloomy, even in Southern California. It’s a bright, festive holiday with emphasis on family, friends and great food. This year Chinese New Year begins on Friday, February 16 and the festivities run through February 21.

2018 is the Year of the Dog, one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac. The Chinese zodiac also moves in a 12-year cycle, so those born in 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, and 2018 are also known as Dogs. According to the Asian astrology, the year you are born and the animal this represents determines a lot about your personality traits.

Although each of the twelve animals gets an outing every dozen years, there are different varieties — 2018 will be the first Year of the Earth Dog since 1958. Anyone born in an Earth Dog year will be communicative, serious, and responsible in the workplace.

2018 year of the dog happy new year greeting card, poster, banner design.A Dog’s most defining characteristic is their loyalty. They will never abandon their friends, family or work, and they offer good advice and help others fix their bad habits. Honest and just, they are popular in social circles. Despite how they act, they are worried and anxious inside. However, their determination will not let this stop them.

One of the most important parts of Chinese New Year celebrations is the feasting: On New Year’s Eve, the extended family would join around the table for a meal that included as the last course a fish that was symbolic of abundance and therefore not meant to be eaten.

In the first five days of the New Year, people eat long noodles to symbolize long life. On the 15th and final day of the New Year, round dumplings shaped like the full moon were shared as a sign of the family unit and of perfection.

Every year, I like to celebrate with my staff and friends (who are all like family) at one of the many wonderful restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley, which is the epicenter of the Chinese community in Los Angeles. The restaurant will be festooned with red paper cutouts for luck and happiness, paper lanterns, kumquat trees, which symbolize wealth and good luck and colorful roosters in every form. We’ll have a multi-course meal of foods that carry symbolism for health and good fortune in the New Year.

Here are some of the foods we’ll enjoy and their meanings:

fried fishFish for prosperity — In Chinese, the word “fish” sounds like “surplus,” and having a surplus at the end of the year is a good thing. Not only is the type of fish important—carp and catfish, for example have names that sound like good things for the new year—but the way the fish is eaten matters. The fish is always served at the end of the meal. The head should face distinguished guests or elders, which represents respect, and diners can enjoy the fish only after the one who faces the fish head eats first. The challenging part is that the fish shouldn’t be moved. This makes for some sometimes awkward, sometimes hilarious reaching across the large round banquet table! The two people who face the head and tail of fish should drink together, because this is considered to be lucky.

Tasty and hot chinese dumplings in wooden steamerDumplings – Classic Chinese dumplings for the New Year are made to look like silver ingots and symbolize wealth. The dumplings are made of an elastic dough and filled with minced meat and vegetables. The more pleats in the dough, the better. If the seal is too flat, it can mean poverty. To make the dumplings extra lucky, people sometimes put a white thread inside for long life. Sometimes a copper coin is placed in the dumpling and the person who eats it will become wealthy.

Spring rolls – These also represent wealth, because when the meat- and vegetable-filled thin wrappers are fried they look like gold bars. People say, “A ton of gold,” before eating spring rolls as a wish for prosperity.

sesame balls stuff with custard lavaGlutinous rice cake: Higher income or position, growth of children and the promise of a better year — Usually eaten as a dessert, glutinous rice cakes can contain sugar, sesame seeds, red dates and water as the main ingredients. Different regions in China have different versions.

Sweet rice balls: Family togetherness — People toast them with, “Happy family reunion.” These are also a dessert and are sometimes filled with fruit preserves, sesame paste or red bean paste.

Citrus fruits – Because they are round and golden in color, they represent fullness and wealth. This is fortunate, because January and February are prime time for all varieties of citrus and they are at their sweet and juicy best. The Chinese word for “orange” sounds like the word for “success,” and one of the ways of writing “tangerine” contains the character for luck. Eating pomelos and shaddocks (similar to pomelo) is thought to bring continuous prosperity.

NoodleNoodles – These symbolize happiness and longevity. It’s important to serve the noodles long and uncut for long life. They are longer than normal noodles, either fried and served on a plate, or boiled and served in a bowl with their broth.

There are several noodle recipes in my latest book, The Age Beautifully Cookbook. To start the New Year on a healthy note, my Vegetarian Stir-Fry Noodles with Annatto is a little bit out of the ordinary, but delicious and full of FoodTrients.

These colorful noodles, which are made with my Annatto Oil and Annatto Water, are as delicious as they are healthful. They can be served as a main course, appetizer, or side dish. I use flat rice noodles like the kind used to make Pad Thai. You can substitute other varieties of mushrooms, and almost any cabbage will work—Napa, savoy, bok choy, green, or even red—and use store-bought vegetable broth instead of homemade. This is a gluten-free dish, so I use tamari sauce instead of soy sauce. Bragg Liquid Aminos provides even more flavor. If you’re not worried about gluten, you can use chow mein noodles or vermicelli.

Annatto contains vitamin E for beautiful hair, skin, and nails. Annatto’s brilliant color comes from carotenoids, antioxidant pigments that help protect cells from ultraviolet damage. Anatto is also rich in tocotrienols, a special form of vitamin E that has cholesterol-lowering and antioxidant properties.

Shiitake and wood ear mushrooms are good sources of selenium, which lowers cancer risk and boosts immune function.  Shiitakes also contain lentinan, which has anticancer properties. Cabbage is a cancer-fighter thanks to its indoles (sulfur compounds), which also make keratin in nails, hair, and skin.

Vegetarian Stir-fry Noodles with Annatto

annatto noodles chopsticks

Serves 6–8


¼ cup Annatto Oil (recipe below)
½ cup julienned white onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 cup julienned shiitake mushrooms
½ cup julienned wood ear mushrooms
4 cups Vegetable Stock
¼ cup Annatto Water (recipe below)
1 cup julienned cabbage
¼ cup julienned carrots
2 Tbs. low-sodium tamari sauce
1 Tbs. Bragg Liquid Aminos
Salt or salt substitute and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 oz. rice or cornstarch noodles (or chow mein or vermicelli)
Lemon wedges, as garnish


  1. In a large pan, sauté the onion and garlic in the Annatto Oil over medium heat for 3–5 minutes.
  2. Add the mushrooms, vegetable stock, and Annatto Water and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the carrots, cabbage, sauces, and spices and cover the pan. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10–15 minutes or until the carrots are tender.
  4. Add the noodles and simmer another 3–5 minutes or until they are transparent.
  5. Remove from the heat, toss thoroughly, and garnish with the lemon wedges.


Chef’s Note: To make this dish heartier, add 1 cup of organic, free-range chicken breast strips to the pan when you add the mushrooms. If you use dried mushrooms instead of fresh ones, just soak them first in hot water for 15–20 minutes or until they are soft.

Annatto Oil and Annatto Water

You can store Annatto Oil in the refrigerator for up to a month and Annatto Water for up to a week.

Annatto Oil

Yields ½ cup


½ cup annatto or achiote seeds (whole, not ground)
½ cup olive oil


  1. Heat the seeds and oil in a pan over low heat for about 5–7 minutes or until the oil turns a bright reddish-orange color. The seeds will sizzle and turn dark, but do not let them turn black and burn.
  2. Strain to remove the seeds.

Annatto Water

Yields ½ cup


½ cup annatto or achiote seeds (whole, not ground)
½ cup warm water


  1. Add the seeds to the water and let soak for 5 minutes.
  2. Work the seeds with your hands for a couple of minutes until the water turns orange.
  3. Strain to remove the seeds.


F  Disease Prevention – Reduces risk factors for common degenerative and age-related diseases like cancer and diabetes.

beauty Beauty – Promotes vibrant skin and hair and keeps eyes healthy.

Ai Anti-inflammatory – Reduces the inflammation process in cells, tissues and blood vessels, helping to slow aging and lower the risk of long-term disease.

About Grace O

GRACE O is the creator of FoodTrients®, a unique program for optimizing wellness and longevity. She is the author of two award-winning cookbooks – The Age Gracefully Cookbook and The Age Beautifully Cookbook, which recently won the National award for Innovation from the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. She is a fusion chef with a mission to deliver delicious recipes built on a foundation of anti-aging science and her 20 years in the healthcare industry. Visit FoodTrients.com to learn more. Email us at info@foodtrients.com
What Do FoodTrients Do?
Ai Anti- inflammatories

Reduce inflammatory process in cells, tissues, and blood vessels, helping to slow aging and reduce risk of long-term disease.

Ao Anti- oxidant

Prevents and repairs oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals.

IB Immunity Boosters

Support the body’s resistance to infection and strengthen immune vigilance and response.

MB Mind

Improves mood, memory, and focus.

F Disease Prevention

Reduces risk factors for common degenerative and age-related diseases.