My family held our Chinese New Year Eve reunion dinner a little differently this year. It was the first time we decided to eat out rather than cook up a feast at home, and we also had to celebrate a week early due to everybody’s conflicting schedules. (I get double the fun as I’ll be attending the boy’s family reunion dinner tonight!)
Most Chinese restaurants this week will only serve a specially designed banquet (instead of the usual à la carte menu) that features a selection of traditional dishes which each are symbolic of wealth, happiness, and good fortune. There’s nothing too superstitious about the symbolism. Some of the Chinese food names are simply homophones for words that also mean good things or more often than not, the food may just look like something good… Like how tangerines, pomelos and oranges look like gold nuggets!
I used to just focus on eating the elaborate feast that my Mum would have prepared but over the last couple of years, I’ve become more interested in the symbolism behind each dish, so I’ve deconstructed that here to share with you.
We are at Sunny Seafood Restaurant which occupies the space that was once Peng Yue Lou Seafood Restaurant, above Auburn Central Shopping Centre. It is now co-run by the same people that brought you Sunny Harbour Seafood Restaurant in Hurstville so I was expecting good things… and they surely delivered!
This banquet was $550 for eight of us.
The banquet kicks off with a classic combination cold cuts platter. It includes tasty and well seasoned shredded jellyfish, roast duck, char siu, smoked pork trotters and marinated beef.
Next we have the black moss which is pronounced as ‘fà cài’. It actually means ‘hair vegetable’ when you translate it directly but when pronounced in a different tone, it can sound like ‘fat choy’ which means ‘wealth / strike it rich’. The black moss is served with lettuce (pronounced as ‘shēngcài’ which sounds like the word for ‘rising fortune and prosperity’), dried oysters (pronounced as ‘ho xi’ which sounds like the word for ‘good luck’) and shiitake mushrooms (pronounced as ‘dōnggū’ which sounds like the word for ‘longevity / sizing opportunities’).
I guess with all these symbolisms, this must be the ultimate Chinese dish!
Following on, we have a sauteed snowpeas (pronounced as ‘hé lán dòu’ and sounds like the word for ‘unity’) with prawns (prounounced as ‘dà xiā’ and sounds like the word for ‘liveiness’) and chicken.
Sharkfin and fish maw soup is a must at all Chinese banquets. Because these ingredients are such a delicacy and is very expensive, it is a sign of wealth!
Mmm…. lobster. Red is the colour for happiness so lobster symbolises joy and celebration. Feel free to argue that cooked lobster is actually orange and not red 😉
The lobster is braised with garlic, ginger and shallots and served with loads of e-fu noodles. Uncut long noodles of course represent a long life.
The word for fish (yú) has the same pronunciation as the word for ‘surplus’. So essentially this deliciously steamed barramundi means ‘having an abundance of riches’. More for me please.
Chinese cabbage (pronounced ‘pak choy’ and sounds like the words for ‘100 types of luck’) is served with mixed mushrooms in a thickened sauce.
Then we have the special fried rice which is an exquisite combination of scallops, prawns, sugar snaps and caviar! The golden flakes you see on top may look like fried shallots but they’re actually fried dried scallops! OMGosh, this is so tasty and the serving size is enormous!
The chicken dish must be served in its entirety so we have a giant plate of crispy skin chicken. This symbolises completeness and togetherness of family. The chicken was succulent and the skin was so glossy and crisp.
And finally, the sweets (red bean sweet soup, steamed cake, etc) symbolise a rich and sweet life for the coming year.
Kung Hei Fat Choy! Wishing you prosperity and wealth in this new year!
Sunny Seafood Restaurant
Level 1, 136 South Parade, Auburn NSW
Phone: (02) 9649 1668