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.

Sunny Seafood Restaurant, Auburn

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.

Sunny Seafood Restaurant, Auburn - Chinese New Year banquet - cold cut meats and jellyfish salad

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!

Sunny Seafood Restaurant, Auburn - Chinese New Year banquet - fat choy

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.

Sunny Seafood Restaurant, Auburn - Chinese New Year banquet - snowpeas, prawn 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!

Sunny Seafood Restaurant, Auburn - Chinese New Year banquet - sharkfin soup

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.

Sunny Seafood Restaurant, Auburn - Chinese New Year banquet - lobster braised with ginger and shallots, and served with e-fu noodles

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.

Sunny Seafood Restaurant, Auburn - Chinese New Year banquet - steamed barramundi

Chinese cabbage (pronounced ‘pak choy’ and sounds like the words for ‘100 types of luck’) is served with mixed mushrooms in a thickened sauce.

Sunny Seafood Restaurant, Auburn - Chinese New Year banquet - bok choy with mixed mushrooms

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!

Sunny Seafood Restaurant, Auburn - Chinese New Year banquet - special fried rice

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.

Sunny Seafood Restaurant, Auburn - Chinese New Year banquet - crispy skin chicken, whole

Sunny Seafood Restaurant, Auburn - Chinese New Year banquet - fruit

Sunny Seafood Restaurant, Auburn - Chinese New Year banquet - sweets

Sunny Seafood Restaurant, Auburn - Chinese New Year banquet - red bean soup

And finally, the sweets (red bean sweet soup, steamed cake, etc) symbolise a rich and sweet life for the coming year.

Sunny Seafood Restaurant, Auburn - Chinese New Year banquet - family reunion dinner

Sunny Seafood Restaurant, Auburn - Chinese New Year banquet - the banquet menu options

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

Sunny Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

  • great looking feast! lobster looks yummy :_)

  • I love what each dish symbolises! Such superstitions I suppose are helpful psychologically, but I wonder if many of these traditions will be passed on to the next generation as more people become secular?
    Nice looking banquet, although I’ve never quite got what makes people rave about this restaurant.

  • Mmm, good looking lobster… Happy Chinese New Year!

  • Jen

    I’ve been thinking hard about this recently, mainly because I am such a fail at speaking Chinese and my understanding about these traditions is so limited. I doubt I’ll be able to pass on any Chinese skills to my future kids so the least I can do is to expose them to the idea of these symbolisms, whether i believe in them or not. I think it’s important that they appreciate and value their cultural heritage. So every Chinese New Year, we’ll be eating an entire chicken, fish, we’ll eat black moss, lettuce and dried oysters and we’ll finish off with traditional sweets.
    P.S. Hello future kids!

  • So many awesome looking dishes, especially the seafood!
    The breakdown of the names are quite interesting. Are there food, for the very reason of the way they sound, are considered taboo on CNY?

  • Oh yes, ho see (dried oysters), we have them every year at my aunt’s and yes, while they’re not particularly on top of my list of ‘delicious foods’, they do very much represent CNY for our family.
    It’s rather odd seeing the layout of your banquet, my family orders the EXACT same thing when we’re out! Flooding back memories ha!
    Btw, look at Roland haha.

  • Jen

    Yup, what a fabulous way to start the lunar year!

  • Jen

    Thanks Tina! Happy Chinese New Year to you & your family too! 🙂

  • Jen

    I don’t think there are food-specific things in that regard. But some funny things you shouldn’t do during the first few days of Chinese New Year are:
    – you’re not meant to wash or cut your hair because hair is a homophone for the word ‘fa’ which means ‘prosperity’ and you shouldn’t wash/cut away your prosperity
    – don’t buy or sell books because the word book is a homophone for the word ‘shu’ should means ‘lose’

  • Jen

    I actually love dried oysters! Chinese New Year reunion dinners at home always include sea cucumbers and that’s something i really can’t stand! The odour and texture is just gross, haha…
    LOL, Roland in his new glasses? Hard to believe that I’m the eldest and only one (if you don’t count Bryan) with perfect vision!

  • Kung hei fat choy!
    I’ve never had a Chinese banquet like that before, but it looks amazing… My favorite thing about Chinese new year is the moon cakes and the red money packets, hehe..

  • I would disagree that there isn’t anything superstitious about the dishes – perhaps your family isn’t that superstitious? But try to feed a traditional Chinese person something unlucky on Chinese new year and you might get an earful. Found that out myself the hard way. Particularly if they’re the betting types. Either way – gong hei fat choi to you!

  • Jen

    Thanks for your insights Trina! Just read your latest blog post and I had no idea that gourds (sound homophonic to the colloquial term for ‘death’) or pears (sound homophonic to the word ‘divide’) were avoided! I guess my family isn’t as superstitious as I’d always thought they were! Happy Chinese New Year to you & your family.

  • Jen

    Mooncakes are normally just eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival and not during Chinese New Year festivals? But yes, I do like the red packets… Even though relatives & family friends may think I’ve gotten too old for it.

  • James Red

    I have been to the restaurant today to purchase their Fried dumplings, in the past I was charge the normal price, their normal price today for a large dim sum, however, I was over charged for four dollars.
    I asked for the reason of this differences, the sales girl, arrogantly and disrespectfully advise me that it was a mere technicality of words which contribute to this change of price despite it is the same kind of order.
    When i request for the manager, if he is a manager for an explanation, unfortunately, the manager,
    a shabbily dress man,he is more insulting than helpful.
    This would be my last ever purchase with this restaurant, I had not been there for a while because of their rude staff, and it had gotten worse.
    If anyone wish me to recommend a seafood restaurant, I definitely recommend another restaurant, for better price and better service.
    There is a better restaurant at Stratfield, quite close to the train station, food is much better and price is more agreeable.

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