Kung Hei Fat Choy!
Happy Chinese New Year 2015 – Year of the Goat/Sheep!
We’ve been making a bit more effort to remind ourselves of our roots by celebrating this festive occasion by cooking a CNY meal. Just like mince pies, a roast bird and Christmas pudding are all eaten for Christmas dinner, there are specific meals that are eaten for Chinese New Year dinner too.
Since both Tony and I have Chinese blood (I say it like that because although Tony is full Chinese, I am not), we thought it would be good to start our own family tradition where we celebrate our heritage as well as honour the traditions of the countries we grew up and live in.
I didn’t grow up with traditional Chinese meals. I don’t even think we celebrated Chinese New Year when I was growing up. If we did, I can’t actually remember how we celebrated. My dad didn’t do much to enforce his language or culture on us. So although I look like I’m Chinese, I didn’t actually grow up like one at all. And of course Tony tends not to remember specifics of things like what he ate growing up for CNY, so to work out what we were supposed to cook and eat as a celebratory meal, I had to do some research on the net!
Here’s what I found food-wise: Everything eaten on CNY is in some shape or form (whether by pronunciation of the dish / ingredient or by look) represents wealth (money, gold, abundance, prosperity), strong family ties, happy marriage, long life and luck (fortune). Now you know what Chinese people value in life!
So we decided to cook the following for CNY dinner:
Noodles for long life, usually for birthdays but we thought why not have something for long life on New Years too?
Underneath these mushrooms is actually “black hair moss” which in Chinese sounds like “fat choy” meaning prosperity and also part of the greeting you say to people on CNY, “Kung Hei Fat Choy”.
This is crispy pork belly, not a CNY dish but we cooked it because we had friends over and thought that if they didn’t like other things, at least they’d have something to eat!
Whole chicken. Although disturbing to some, I actually found preparing this chicken (there were still a few feathers on it I had to pluck and nibs I had to remove from the skin) preferable to getting them from the supermarket without head or feet. It made me recognise the entire bird, it had a face and as a result gave me a greater appreciation for the life that was given for us to have this meal. This is actually an old chicken – one that has had its life and as such, like any old animal, it’s skinnier (less fat and meat than any other chicken we’ve ever had) and the meat is tougher. You buy them whole from Chinatown. Serving a whole chicken represents togetherness/wholeness/completeness (in marriage, family, relationships).
The other two dishes were Whole Fish (the Chinese word for fish is “yu” which sounds like the word for surplus (giving the meaning that you will always have more than enough). Again the fish is served whole just like the chicken to symbolise completeness.
Lastly, we have the vegetarian dish Jai which is traditionally served on CNY. It has in it bean curd which symbolises happiness.
It’s a lot of work, just like Christmas dinner is a lot of work but I like this meal because each dish actually means something more than just food. It celebrates and keeps us mindful of all areas of life that are important.
We’ve learned that the word “wealthy” comes from the idea of “well being”. To be wealthy is to have well being – health, happiness, contentment, completeness and fulfillment in all areas of your life. Abundance allows you to give and share with others freely because there’s always more than enough for everyone.
So with that, happy CNY 2015 to you all. Wishing you wealth and abundance in all areas of your lives 🙂