The boyfriend shared this article (from Yahoo! Fit to Post) right after our endless feasts during CNY. I thought it is indeed timely to sit back & review what was the FOOD all about.
No one really cares how prawns are done (fried in with salt and pepper in this case) this CNY, as long as it helps them laugh the sorrows away.
By KF Seetoh of Makansutra
It’s already begun- my first big feast of that great feasting festival called Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival. I suppose many of you out there have too, perhaps it’s with the in-laws, due to inconvenient timing, relatives or with soulmate buddies.
The last few days and the next two weeks or so ahead had and will all flavoured by bak kwa, mushrooms, abalone, prawns, fish, dried oysters, chicken, vegetables, longevity noodles, peanuts, kwa chee (melon seeds) and of course raw fish salad, all washed down with orange fizz. Then regular menu at your regular chinese restaurant has gone on leave. Truth be told, transient chefs, service staff and transient menus have boldly taken over.
But the sad fact is Chinese New Year isn’t really about feasting. Just think about the ingredients we all associate with it. This holiday season is to celebrate the beginning of Spring season and to give thanks to above for the abundance in harvest and fortune for the year preceding.
It is also a time for family bonding, to forgive, give thanks to providence and come together to usher in another prosperous year ahead. Much like thanksgiving, we embrace compassion, forgiveness and strengthen family bonds and friendship ties. So how on earth did food get in the way of so many commercial messages.
“Fatt” this and that with “fatt” dishes and live longer with “fatt choy” hot pot, just because “fatt” meant fortune and sound like the number eight in Cantonese. Everything has to be graceful and auspicious, if something fell off your hands, like a glass tumbler, someone had to shout “plant seeds and flowers will grow”, or something to the effect about making up excuses for your blunder.
We even take pains to eat the sweetly irritating fried nian kao (sticky rice cakes) just because it “prevents the heavenly officers of above from making bad reports about your family when they eat it”, (their mouths get all sticky and they mumble). We even eat what we eat this season because they all happen to sound auspicious, not delicious. To begin with some:
–Peanuts (fa sung) and many have allergies to them, are consumed because it means well being. Throw it into any stew and voila, it’s auspicious.
–Abalone, if not for some marketing whizz’s genius to name it “bao yue” or definitely lucky, it would just be another cheap rubbery clam like the pacific clam. Our Kiwi friends once harvested abalone (or Paua) for its shell and turn it into ornamental jewellery. They fed the abalones to their pets then. They now know the fatt power of bao yue and sell them with abundant vigour to the highest bidder in Asia.
–Prawns sounds like “haha” or laughter, which is that all important medicine to cure all pains and sorrows of the past. Notice how nobody cares how it has to be exactly made, just as long it’s fresh and intact (not de-shelled and headless).
–Dried Oysters, black moss fungus and mushroom (tung ku ho si fatt choy)- this one goats me. It is not exactly a flavour concept top modern chefs would introduce and perhaps something Bizzare Food show host Andrew Zimmen would devour for entertainment. But this has got to be the most auspicious dish this season- it means sorrow, good tidings and prosperity, all about the balance of good and bad having a total effect on your wealth and well being.
-Fish, and again, nobody cares how it’s done but it has to be unforgivingly fresh, with heads and tail intact, as it is not auspicious to have a platter of “yue” or smoothness ahead, on a broken and stale, fishy note.
Every item placed on the Prosperity Raw Fish Salad were carefully introduced to mean all things auspicious and harmony topped with Yue Sang(sashimi) or abundant prosperity.
-Ho Wan Yue Shang, or Prosperity Raw Fish Salad, is the mother of all Chinese New Year dishes here. It was invented here by the Four Heavenly Chefs (two still alive and kicking) over 50 years ago. They turned a humble plate of street side raw fish salad that you get with rice porridge into a national festival feasting icon that many, irrespective of colour and creed, will gladly toss and shout auspicious idioms as they devour.
So remember, this Spring is all about forgiving, compassion and prosperity. There is a reason why the quality of many food, service and etiquette offered in many Chinese restaurants currently rhymes with the word luck. They can’t cope when three quarters of the country descend on them over two weeks. That’s when the heavens above again remind you of the real reason for Chinese New Year. Kongxifattchai and Wanxiruyi to all.
This post was first featured on Makansutra.