”Twas the night before…”
Chinese New Year, and not only was there a squeak, there were many squeaks, and chatter, and laughs, and “huat ah!” happening in many Chinese Singaporeans households.
Well, it is, after all, the Reunion Dinner at the end of the Lunar Rooster Year. In 40 minutes’ time, the Rooster has to fly off and vacate its watch to the Dog. Reunion dinners traditionally brings the family together, and normally, the married sons and his family will join his parents for dinner. The married daughters and her family are encouraged to have their reunion dinners with their own parents on another day or earlier time.
This post is not supposed to be about the ancient story of how the 12 Chinese Zodiac Animals came to form up the Calendar, (you can actually find it on Wikipedia), but it is about what was on the table at my family’s dinner. Lol!
Yes, food, glorious food! We Singaporeans love to eat, and we live to eat. So, what better way to a good reunion than to have good food?
For just four of us, we had:
1. 十样汤 or Jap Hwa Teng 🍲 (Ten Items Soup) [pardon my *Minnanese],
2. Stir-fried Arrow Root with Prawns, sliced lean mean, and *Fat Choy (发菜 ‘Hair Vegetable’),
3. fried fish (we had Sea Bass) with stir fried *leek,
4. Stir fried Puay Leng (Chinese Sharp Spinach) with scallops, white Shimeji mushrooms, and black dried Chinese mushrooms,
5. Quarter of a roasted duck, and
6. Sliced canned *Abalone.
That actually is a lot of food! And yes, we have leftovers, which is good, as it signifies we will have extras for the new year.
In my opinion, there are a lot of Chinese practices that are more related to history than any other significances. Example, cooking more food, and rice, on the last dinner of the year so that there will be extras, or leftovers, for the new year. Like I mentioned, it’s supposed to mean that there will be (in hope of) extras in the new year, eg. extra wealth, extra good health, extra good fortune, etc. And these practices were pretty much made up by the common folk in each area of China. I’m quite sure S that some practices in the South can hardly be found being practiced by the folk in the North, and vice versa. It’s also the same as how over here in Singapore, I can have friends from the other Chinese groups eating different dishes as compared to mine. (By the way, I’m part Hokkien, Teochew, and Peranakan, so what food I have on my table is a little representation of these cultures.)
On the table, there are food mostly from Southern China, particularly from Hokkien and Teochew cultures. There are also some borrowed dishes from the Cantonese. (The Teochews are actually just next door to the Cantonese.) Peranakan culture borrowed cooking styles from the various Chinese groups, especially the Hokkiens, so there we have another cuisine borne of such cultural mixtures, which I am really quite happy for.
I’ll be at my Eldest Uncle’s home tomorrow for the great Lee family reunion. That will be another round of Food-spectacular for each of my mother’s siblings will be bringing a dish, from the spicy to non-spicy, from the complex to the simple. I can’t wait for the banquet!
6 more minutes till midnight…
*Minnanese, or Minnan language 闽南语: Southen Chinese languages evolved from lost Tang Dynasty language. Now includes Hokkien and Teochew languages.
*Fat Choy, or Hair Vegetable : a type of photosynthetic bacteria that is used as a vegetable in Chinese cuisine. When dried, the product has the appearance of black hair. For that reason, its name in Chinese means “hair vegetable.” And due to the sound of its name sounding like 发财, “grow rich”, it is cooked in dishes to signify abundant prosperity.
Happy Chinese New Year!!! 新年快乐🎊🎉🎆
*Leek: that long thick vegetable that looks like a Jedi light-saber to a child. Leek, 蒜, has the same sound as 算, /suan/ ‘counting’, so it is auspicious for the eater to always have money to count.
*Abalone 鲍鱼 /Bao yu/: has the same sound as 保余 ‘assurance of abundance in wealth’.
Yes, we Chinese eat lots of prosperous-sounding food.
Alright. I’m turning in now.
To you who are celebrating the Chinese New Year, wishing you good health, good wealth, and good life! To those who are not, it’s ok; I wish you the same. Huat ah!!!🎊
For more information about Chinese New Year foods: click here.