Lunar New Year Feasting

Sihk Gau Daaih Gwai: to have a rich meal like a king

In Ancient China, the number of dishes served to a person during a meal signified their social ranking. The emperor received nine, while feudal kings got seven dishes. A nobleman ate five dishes, officials three, and ordinary people only two. In those days, people also used vessels called gwai to hold their food; most of these containers were made of wood, although some were created from bronze or bamboo. 

Happy lunar new year! Yesterday was the start of the Chinese New Year, a time for friends and family to come together and celebrate. As always, these gatherings involve good food.

I recently read Bharti Kirchner’s article, “Food for Thought,” in The Writer magazine (March 2013 issue) about the importance of food in novels. Food can be a common bond between the writer and the reader. Sometimes it can unearth poignant memories, evoking deep emotions. It can also serve to spice up characters and scenes with tasty details. I first experienced this when I found the mention of an intriguing fried egg recipe in Gus Lee’s “China Boy.” I took his notes and created my own sugar-and-paprika version.

I’m using the current New Year celebrations to dig into my roots and dive headfirst into my past mouth-watering memories. Yesterday, I satisfied my Malaysian heritage with such treats as roti canai, chicken satay, teh tarik (pulled milk tea), and beef rendang (a type of curry). Today I went to dim sum with friends and ate dishes like ha cheung (shrimp rice rolls) and lo bak gou (fried turnip cakes). Unfortunately, I missed out on two of my favorites: roast duck and dan tat (egg tarts). There are still two more weeks left of festivities, though, so let the feasting continue!

Dan tat, Taiwanese-style. They’re delicious, too!

How does food play a role in your stories, your memories, or your life?

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  1. Gung Hay Fat Choy! It’s a good thing I read this post after dinner, otherwise I would leave the house and go to my favorite Chinese restaurant. We actually had Mongolian BBQ on Saturday, so that was the extent of our New Year’s celebration. But, as you said, we have two more weeks of food and fun.

  2. All this talk about your tasty foods is making me hungry! How does food play a role in my stories? None. But you brought up food for thought (pun intended). :o) very interesting, Jennifer.

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