January , 2018
The Symbolism Behind Popular CNY Reunion Dinner Dishes
One of the best things about being Malaysian is that we don’t really have to deal with withdrawal symptoms from New Year celebrations. Why? Because just a short while after returning to the humdrum of school and workweeks, Chinese New Year comes along! Whether we celebrate or not, together as Malaysians we look forward to house visits, catching up with friends, tasty food, and ang paos from our respected elders.
In this Year of the Dog, join us at Ben’s Independent Grocer for A B.I.G. Reunion to stock up on everything you need for the festivities. One of the most highly anticipated aspects of CNY is the reunion dinner, so we’ve put together some interesting facts about the traditions and symbolism behind your favourite reunion dinner dishes.
1. Yee Sang
Sharing a plate ofYee Sang is not only delicious, but a really fun experience! Friends and family members gather around a table to toss or ‘loh’ the multi-coloured contents (a mix of shredded raw fish, pickled vegetables, condiments and sauces), with higher tosses believed to reap better luck. Also known as ‘Yu Sheng’, this dish stands as a symbol of prosperity and good health in Chinese tradition.
2. Steamed Fish
Having a whole steamed fish dish at the table is mandatory at any Chinese New Year reunion dinner. Typically steamed with ginger and light soya sauce, the significance of preparing this dish is cleverly tied to an old Chinese saying which goes “nian nian you yu”, meaning “May the year bring prosperity”. In the earlier phrase, the Chinese character for prosperity, ‘yu’, also carries the meaning ‘fish’! If you’re not Chinese, yu probably didn’t know that. It is also common practice not to finish the entire dish, so that the leftovers symbolise ‘always having more than you need’.
3. Emperor Herbal Chicken
Believe it or not, the name of this dish is inspired by the actual delicacy that was prepared for an Emperor who reigned during the days of old Imperial China. Back then, it was believed that in order for the Emperor to govern effectively, a specific and strictly monitored diet was required to ensure a state of optimum mental and physical health. Using ingredients that have roots inTraditional Chinese Medicine, this dish allegedly serves as an energy-booster to defeat mental exhaustion from over-working or having insufficient sleep. As those are very familiar symptoms of the modern working adult, it’s no surprise that this tradition carries on to this day.