My mom dropped off a turnip cake for Chinese New Year, and it’s delicious. Turnip cake symbolizes prosperity and fortune.
(I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention to my other posts about symbolism in Chinese food, but there’s a lot of food that symbolizes some combination of prosperity, fortune and wealth. No wonder the Chinese like to eat so much.)
Anyway, turnip cake is a cross between a cake and a pancake. It’s made of daikon (a long, white, Chinese turnip), rice flour, Chinese sausage, and dried shrimp. My mom also throws in dried scallops and cilantro. The mixture is pressed into a cake pan and steamed.
Then it’s delivered to my house, where I cut it into pieces and panfry them until they’re crispy on both sides. Yum.
Greetings, year of the ox. What do you have in store for me this year?
Chinese New Year’s Eve is your big, lumbering frat boy brother-in-law who comes home drunk and passes out on your coffee table, but not before knocking over a planter and a bookcase. New Year’s Day is your quiet roommate who lets herself in without making any noise, and slips into her bedroom without you noticing a thing.
After all the festivities and food of the Eve dinner, most Chinese people abstain from eating meat on New Year’s Day. Historically, it was to give the farm animals a break from the other days of the year when they worked so hard to provide food to the family.
Also, you’re not allowed to clean the house or wash your hair on New Year’s Day, lest you sweep or wash away any good luck. Apparently, dirt is lucky.
It’s Chinese New Year’s Eve, and it’s one of the busiest nights of the year for Chinese restaurants. I remember one year when my family made a reservation at a new restaurant in Richmond. Well, when we arrived the place was a gong show, and they had our reservation in their book, but no available tables. Any other night, we could have walked next door and had a decent meal. But just try to get a table in Richmond, on New Year’s Eve, without a reservation. Good luck.
Now we stick to places that actually honour reservations (most places, really) or eat with another family. This year it’s the latter, and I’m looking forward to a night of tasty – and symbolic – food.
Steamed whole fish
Serving a whole fish symbolizes prosperity. The fish, usually a whitefish like tilapia, is steamed in a shallow dish with soya sauce, ginger and green onions. Someone gets to “carve” the fish, which involves serving everyone a piece of the top side of the fish, deftly removing the backbone, and then leaving the bottom side of the fish in the pan.
Do not, under any circumstances, try to get to the bottom side of the fish by flipping it over. My family never observed this rule while I was growing up, and in grad school, I almost did this at a friend’s New Year’s Eve dinner. He flew across the table at me, arms flailing, his mouth open in a slow-motion “nooooooo……..” as he stopped me before I damaged the table’s prosperity.
January 26th is Chinese New Year, ushering in the year of the ox. This is a time for lots of eating, with lots of symbolism around the food.
So, it’s Chinese New Year’s Eve on Sunday. I’m really looking forward to a monstrous dinner with family and friends that night, but I’m a little sad that I can’t go to Toddish McWong’s Gung Haggis Fat Choy. It’s the best of both worlds: Chinese New Year and Robbie Burns Day. Even better, this year marks the 250th anniversary of Robbie Burns Day.
Think about it: haggis and lucky money. Kilts and dragon dances. Bagpipes and firecrackers. The combinations are endless.
Apparently, there are still tickets available. I really want someone to go and give me a full report of the evening. Guest blog, anyone?
Posted in Events
Tagged chinese, haggis
I’m an only child, so I’ve never had to argue with siblings over who got the newest toy, or who got to sit where, or whatever siblings argue about. See? I’m such an only child that I don’t even know.
When it comes to family treasures, the thing I want most is my mom’s marinade for soya sauce chicken. She has two jars of dark, dark brown sauce in the freezer that are older than I am. It’s essentially a braising liquid for any kind of meat (usually chicken) or, my favourite, hard-boiled eggs.