I was invited round to Chinese New Year Eve dinner at the house of Very Stylish Neighbour. She is from Singapore and when it comes to food, she does it well and with bucket-loads of enthusiasm. We were going to have a typical Singaporean Chinese New Year meal. I wore my red dress for good luck and I had the requisite oranges to bequeath fortune and wealth to my hostess for the coming year.
We started off with yee sang, which is a new year salad. The salad ingredients have to be placed in a particular order, accompanied by a wish – sashimi, lime, pepper, oil, carrots, green radish, white radish, condiments, peanut crumbs, flour crisps. The wish is specific to each ingredient and is broadly to do with abundance, health and good fortune. For instance, while pouring the oil, we chanted “Make 10,000 times of profit with your capital.”
We tossed the salad collectively with our chopsticks, high as we could, the better to assure our good fortunes. I felt like I should’ve been clad in swashbuckling silks – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon style – armed with a sword to deftly mix the veg in four swift strokes. We shouted out our wishes so that the gods could hear. “Pay rise! New house in Hampstead! Good Health! Win the lottery!” You get the picture.
Salad done, we got to work on the main meal, which was a hotpot. In the centre of the table was a boiling pot of water surrounded by a hot grill plate. There were dishes of cut vegetables, sliced meats, and seafood, and we dipped our chosen morsels into the pot or onto the hot plate. Everything cooked quickly. We ate ravenously. As each bit of food was dunked, the boiling water transformed progressively into a rich soup stock.
We ate until we were beached whales. When we could no longer fit another sliver into our bellies, we dropped in the noodles (long life) and broke two eggs (double happiness) and drank up the soup’s goodness. Ahhh …
What a heartwarming communal ritual.
We finished off with a rice dumpling called tang yuan and read our horoscopes for the coming Year of the Horse. Mine said I would meet my soulmate in the second half of the year (fab!), although it warned that I should not drink too much alcohol in case of stomach diseases (huh?).
Gong Xi Fa Cai. Kong Hee Fatt Choy.
~ Spotted Cow