The festive season is just around the corner; with the Lunar Chinese New Year exactly a week away.
Any festive celebration always brings food to mind, which is always the centerpiece to keep family reunions and friends gathering animated as conversations continue to flow while satisfying their appetites at the same time.
The Chinese are always lavish with their celebrations; a tradition which is traced back to the early days during the civilization era. A celebration feast is always associated with a table filled with carefully crafted and prepared dishes.
The preparation of the dishes are always with thought and delicate preparation, with extensive and meticulous efforts put into the cooking method, sourcing of raw materials, garnishing to the style of presentation. The whole process is to ensure that one can find fulfillment and happiness in the tastes of the food, and that will be a sense of achievement to the person preparing it.
The amount of dishes symbolizes the generosity and prosperity, to laud the joy which comes with the celebration and the types of food are well-balanced with a varied selection of staples like rice/noodles, fish, prawns, poultry, pork, soup and concluded with something sweet to soothe one's soul at the end of the meal.
While the West has their 4-5 course set meals, Chinese celebration meals always come in 8-9 courses designed to serve 10 pax. The Chinese loves crowds, and large numbers add to the merry environment and of course, shared happiness with rowdy banter and laughter going around.
These elaborate course set meals can be found in weddings, birthdays, besides the festive celebrations and those who attend Chinese weddings are definitely not unfamiliar with these courses.
However, the course set meals are grand and with the variety of food, they are definitely tempting, not to mention stimulating one's palates and memory to induce that craving for these dishes.
It was a birthday we celebrated at this restaurant, Green Bamboo Restaurant which I have previously blogged earlier last year.
Typical courses of Chinese course set meals, in a general orderly manner:-
(We have customize the number of dishes due to small number of diners in our group to avoid wastage of food)
Like Western dinners, appetizers always grace the start of the meal and names of the dishes are often associated with an auspicious term as the Chinese are great believers in good symbols for they believe it brings happiness, luck and all things good.
Four Seasons of Happiness typically comes in a variety of mini samplers presented on a round plate, and each could symbolize one element associated with good meaning charms.
(Sometimes, it could be FiveHappiness and Six Happiness - the usual number associated with good beginnings)
(Sauteed jelly fish with sweet and sour sauce)
(Fried yam basket filled with kung pow chicken cubes, assorted vegetables topped with cashew nuts)
(Braised fish rolls with light egg batter gravy)
(Mayonnaise pork ribs)
Steamed Garoupa in plain light soy sauce
Spicy Mango Prawns
Braised mushrooms and broccoli with pacific clams
A Birthday meal is never complete without the auspicious Longevity noodles.
The name says it all, and the braised noodles is simply my daddy's favorite.
Though I must say, the presentation is definitely not really what I was expecting, and I believe they could have done a much better job rather than making this look like a mess.
Desserts are popularly presented with a combo of sweet soup along with an assortment of pastries.
Fried and sweet flaky pastry filled with lotus paste and glutinous rice balls filled with peanuts.
Sweet chilled Longan soup to polish one's taste buds after the fulfilling meal.
This is only a customized version and an elaborate full course set meals are usually found in wedding dinners and also large birthday celebrations where a minimum of 10 pax fill an entire table.
This may be an idea for dishes to whip up for that upcoming Chinese New Year reunion dinner, though it is usually the favorite dishes of family members as everyone returns to gather around the round table.
The most important of Chinese meals are not about the number of the dishes, though significant, but rather, the union of all the loved ones and the sharing of laughter and stories which brings warmth to the soul, and that makes up the meaning of the celebration :-)