Today is Chinese New Year eve (年除夕). One of the key events that takes place today is the reunion dinner(团圆饭). This is an important ritual in all Chinese families, and parents look forward to gathering all their children at the same table for a sumptuous meal. On this day, members of the family return home from all corners of the world to have a meal together.
In my family, this important tradition is maintained every year. Preparations for this important meal would start a few weeks ahead, with my mum preparing the list of items to buy. On the day itself, she wakes up early to start preparations for the meal. Typically, at dinner, the table would be overflowing with dishes, all lovingly cooked by my mum.
Some highlights from the dinner today:
Basically a salad with raw fish slices. The chinese word for fish sounds like excess(余). In other words, there will always be abundance of all we need. The whole family tosses the salad together for luck.
This signifies wealth, as the word for leeks sound the same as counting in Chinese. There is a saying in teochew (my dialect): 吃蒜吃蒜, 年年有钱算. Loosely translated, it means that there will always be money to count!
Buddha jumps over the wall (佛跳墙)
This is a Chinese delicacy, so named because it is so delicious it is supposed to entice vegetarian monks to eat this meat dish. This is my mum’s version, which includes delicious scallops, pork tendon, sea cucumber, mushrooms and abalone.
There were other dishes like chicken, duck, pork, prawns, crabs and vegetables. Well, I did mention that the table was full 😉
Of course, there were desserts!
Glutinous Rice Cake (年糕)
My mum wraps this in egg roll skin, and fries the cakes. This results in a crisp shell covering a sticky sweet interior. Yummy goodness!
Tangyuan and yam paste (汤圆, 芋泥)
Tangyuan is traditionally eaten with the family, and its round shape symbolises family togetherness. My mum serves it with yam paste, a traditional teochew food. Did I mention that yam paste is one of my favourite desserts?
This is the way my mum expresses her love for us – by cooking up a storm, and watching us eat. Hopefully I’ll be able to learn her cooking skills, and continue this tradition in time to come. Nothing beats a home-cooked reunion dinner. 🙂
Happy Chinese New Year everyone!