菜 胆 鳳 展 翅Double-Boiled Shark’s Fin in Chicken Wing
港 式 沙 皮 乳 豬BBQ Suckling Pig Hong Kong Style
虾 子 酿 脱 参Braised Stuffed Sea Cucumber with Prawns Roe
鲜 竹 云 耳 蒸 龙 趸Steamed Deep-Sea Garoupa with Fresh Beancurd Skin
Black Pepper Beef
Rice Seasoned with Preserved Meats And Chinese Sausages
贵 妃 金 沙 露Sweetened Pumpkin with Yam
酥 皮 窝 餅Chinese Pancake
The menu is given for your perusal. We took the chef’s recommended menu and made two alterations. In Malaysia, the chef will normally prepare three menus of increasing prices but the number “8” must appear prominently. This is because the words for “8” and for “prosperity” are very similar phonetically and it is considered good luck. Hence, our basic menu cost RM 888/- per table and other menus cost RM 788 and RM 1088. This incidentally is my 88th post.
As I said, times and traditions have changed in my lifetime. When I was young, no one works on reunion dinner night and that includes restaurants. In fact many businesses close for at least a week and some for as long as 15 days. Everyone expected to be with their families and have a home cooked meal for New Year’s Eve. Some very traditional families still observe this and even the choice of dishes is predetermined to represent some form of good luck for the coming year. As time moved on in the 1970’s, some restaurant owners tried to stay open during the Chinese New Year period but they had to pay their staff triple salary and the returns were poor as most people continued to eat at home. Today, most families have their reunion dinner at restaurants and the staff are expected to work without extra compensation. This change has been driven by a weakened economy.
I miss the old days. The celebrations and the family gathering were given a higher level of importance and priority which is sadly lacking today.
Here are some of other customs that are also observed but less frequently within the Malaysian Chinese population. Chinese New Year is not just about the day itself but here are 15 days of celebrations and observations. Likewise, one is also expected to carry out certain observances before in preparation for the New Year. The first is the ceremony for the Kitchen God. According to Chinese traditional beliefs, the Kitchen God is like an official sent from Heaven to oversee the well being of the family (he is often represented by an altar in the kitchen). However, a week before the New Year, the Kitchen God returns to Heaven to give a report on the family. Therefore it is important to offer the Kitchen God specially made sticky cakes made from lotus root and other sweets. It symbolizes sealing the mouth of the Kitchen God to prevent him from giving a bad report and if that failed, sweetening his words. It’s implied that the Kitchen God will keep his mouth shut in return for such offerings. In fact, it is a form of theologically inspired bribery.
Another belief which is held strongly by the older generation is that from the eve of the New Year for at least 24 hours, you should not use a broom to sweep the floor because it signifies sweeping all the good luck out of the house.
Firecrackers, which were a Chinese invention, are meant to scare demons away and to usher in prosperity. In Malaysia today, there is a ban on firecrackers for safety as well as noise control reasons. So like it or not the traditions are changing.
One final thought, for many Chinese, the Year of the Pig is generally an auspicious year for having babies. So watch out for a baby boom.