Saturday, February 9, 2008

Reunion Dinner I

It is a Chinese tradition that when a woman gets married, she'll have reunion dinners at her in-laws'. Outrageously unfair. So what I did after I got married was I'd go to my parents' for a quick dinner, then scoot off to the in-laws. MIL wasn't happy at first, but I was adamant about my arrangement because with my 2 bros and my sis not around for CNY, it leaves just one bro around with the old folks. I know a lot of battles are fought among couples over the reunion dinner, and if I may, let me suggest that if you live in the same place, try and go to both sides, or have one do lunch and the other dinner. Or, like me, we do a reunion dinner when my sis and family get back from Sandakan. But if you have to come from far, alternate your dinners yearly. How's that?

This year, MIL has relatives from Shanghai and they were in Mulu Caves during the new year eve, so reunion dinner was postponed from the traditional eve to the 1st day. Which meant I could have reunion dinner with my mom and bros, SIL and niece! And since mom's too old to cook, I got to do that in my house. And so we had a simple dinner, bearing in mind that we would be having another the next night.

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Reunion dinner spreads have changed a lot since we were young. In the past, Dad would have 8 dishes to symbolise 'fatt' (good luck). The chicken for the reunion dinner must be a spayed, home-reared cockerel reared specially for CNY, which means it will weigh about 4 to 5 kg! These chickens, called 'yim gei' (spayed chicken) in Cantonese, are usually plain-boiled and have tougher flesh that is aromatic, oily and delicious! The next must-have dish is the stewed 'fatt choy' oysters dish that symbolises prosperity and success especially in business, then a stewed pork koe yuk, then a fish to symbolise lots of wealth because "yaw yu yaw jing" (plenty of leftovers; abundant wealth), raw lettuce (one of the few times when Chinese don't stir-fry their greens) to symbolise health and long life because lettuce in Chinese sounds like the Chinese word for life, alive and to give life/birth. As for the other dishes, in the old days, the best and most expensive would be reserved for this most important dinner of the year. One of these dishes we used to have was abalone slices with kailan greens. But now that a can of good abalone costs more than RM200/US$62, some people go for substitutes like clam slices or even gluten/vegetarian imitation abalone slices . Another was sharks' fins soup, which we used to look forward to. In those days, you get real fins and the soup is thick with them, some of them in whole pieces, and not thick with cornstarch like those served these days. Btw, all prepared sharks fins now, especially the wet ones, are fake. Go ahead and pay rocket prices for gelatine strips if you want.

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I made Foochow fish maw soup with prawns and pork mince balls, and dried scallops for that extra flavor. Topped with fried garlic, this soup is heavenly. For a richer version, go to Greg n Nee's on my links.

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Now that the whole world is getting diabetic, I realise why our ancestors created a Chinese cuisine that is weak on desserts. Usually fruits or a light, sweet soup is served after a banquet meal. For CNY, most families would make 'tong yuen', which is glutinous rice balls and I think it symbolises family unity. Being Cantonese, I did a simple sweet soup of Chinese brown sugar (those that come in slices) and old ginger for flavor, and since the soup is already sweet, I added unfilled glutinous rice balls (just add water to glutinous rice flour, roll into small balls, drop into boiling water and scoop out when they rise to the top of the water). If you use filled glu rice balls, balance the sweetness by serving it in plain hot water.

7 comments:

Denise ^ ChiCkyEGG said...

GOng Hey Fatt Choi~
(1) I just weight myself, I MUST accept the fate that I am heavy by 1.5 KG!!!

(2) When I'm trying to reply ur msg saying " Dont expect boys to help out in the Kitchen, etc " , I quicky erase tt !! BCUZ~! both my sisters are just like Ming & Wey! LOVE PC GAMES !

(3) Hey I love ur SOUP! how u make tat ? mum makes her abalone soup with chicken & pork bones! High Cholesterol >_<

NEE said...

Hi hi.. happy chinese new year.

i know wat you mean about eating with own mother and mother in law. greg and i and his bro and wife all had two meals. one at 6 pm and another one at 8pm hahaha..really really stuff by the end of it. tummy torture but wat to do..everyone is happy.

Anonymous said...

Hi Terri, Gong Xi Fa Cai.

Wish I was home for CNY! Missed all the CNY foods, must definitely go back for next CNY. Very little CNY atmosphere in this neck of the woods. Plan to go to a Chinese restaurant for dinner and watch Lion dance this Monday! Your friend in Ohio.

Linda said...

Hello, Gong Xi Fa Choi. How long did it taketo cook all of those yummy dishes?

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

denise: hey, try not eating starch at nite. my soup? check Nee's blog. i omitted mushrooms. garnished with fried garlic. will do a post on it.

nee: yes, i personally have experienced some unhappy times over where to go for the reunion dinner...

Khing: u must come back next year cos CL and Wendy also making plans to come back!! we miss u all!

Linda: 2 hours :) hey, when can i come for Siam meehoon??

Linda said...

Wow 2 hours? OMG you are a pro ;). Did it include the preparation? It took me 2 hours to cook 5 dishes, and I think 5 hours of preparation, which included peeled off crab for crab corn soup, made ngo hiong, etc. I am a beginner cook.

Hmm..Siam meehoon? I think you must have mistaken me with someone else. I am a regular reader of your blog =)

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

linda: ?? u not linda 'chili padi'?? oops!but hey, hi, nice to hear frm u! ah, u asked 'to cook' so tt doesn't include cutting n preparing, which my helper does :)but u made corn soup with crabmeat from scratch plus ngo hiong, n tt takes time. mine is simple stir-fry n steam n the koe yuk is bought!

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