Seven vegetables on the seventh day of the Chinese New Year

Last Thursday was the seventh day of the Chinese New Year, also known as 人日 and considered as everyone’s birthday. It’s traditional to have lo hei (捞鱼生) on that day, but for Teochew people, it’s also the day that they cook seven vegetables (七样菜 or 七样羹).

For the past few years, we’ve had it for dinner at The Old Folks but this year The Wife decided to make it at home herself.

I’m not Teochew, and therefore not familiar with this particular tradition, so I’ll rely on this excerpt from a short write-up in the local Chinese newspaper:

这道菜源自潮州传统,一般用大菜(芥菜)、芥兰、蒜、白菜、厚合、春菜及芹菜这七样蔬菜煮成,配以红糖。

民俗学家游龙子表示,初七吃七样菜已是自古传下来的习俗。

“ 潮州人对饮食讲究, 农历正月初一之后天天大鱼大肉,选择在初七吃蔬菜来解腻。近年来尤其有更多年轻人热衷。”

民俗学家陈军荣表示:“初七是人日,本不应杀生,因此有在初七吃七样菜的说法。”

Which loosely translates to:

“This dish originates from Teochew tradition, and is typically cooked using Chinese mustard, kai lan, leek, Chinese cabbage, chard, mustard green and celery, with some red sugar.

Folklore scholar You Long Zi states that eating seven vegetables during the seventh day of the Chinese New Year is a tradition that has been passed down from olden times.

“The Teochew people are particular about their food, and after feasting on heavy meat and seafood heavy dishes from the first day of the new year, they choose to have vegetables on the seventh day to detox. In recent years, this has been especially popular with young people.”

Folklore scholar Chen Jun Rong states: “The seventh day is “Peoples’ Day”, and should be a day where no animals are killed and therefore giving rise to the idea of having seven vegetables on that day.”

We didn’t have the exact combination of vegetables required, so The Wife scrounged up whatever was available in the fridge and proceeded to fry it all up in her wok. And even though the ingredients weren’t quite the same as those used by The Old Folks, the taste was quite close to what they usually make.

She posted a Facebook story to document the process and found out that co-incidentally, her good friend DT in California had made the same dish. If you’re like me and assumed that she used kimchi in her version, she didn’t. The orange colour was from the vegan soy chorizo that she added.

Hmm… somehow I don’t think vegan soy chorizo counts as a vegetable, and it’s definitely not something that old Teochew people would agree with for such a traditional dish.

But hey, whatever makes you happy. Though I have to say that from the photo, it did look quite yummy.

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