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Eat for luck

Fish is yu in Chinese, same as its homophone, yu, which could also mean abundance.

Kathleen A. Llemit

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In less than a week, the world will greet the Chinese Lunar New Year, so expect a bountiful spread in every home that observes the occasion.

A Chinese New Year spread often features familiar dishes that are believed to bring luck and fortune.

A whole fish, for example, is considered lucky. The Chinese believe it to be a symbol of abundance. Fish is yu in Chinese, same as its homophone, yu, which could also mean abundance. Thus, a festive plate of a whole fish, usually steamed and garnished with greens, is usually found in Chinese New Year spreads.

Fish Maw Soup is normally served during special occasions like the Chinese New Year. It is a traditional Chinese meal that is rated along shark’s fin, abalone and sea cucumber. Fish maw, dried swim bladders of large fishes, contains rich proteins and nutrients. Eating the soup symbolizes one’s wish for good health and prosperous business in the new year.

Yu Sheng Salad or Prosperity Toss is a Cantonese-style type of food which consists of strips of raw fish (usually salmon), shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments. Yu Sheng, which literally means “raw fish,” is commonly conflated to the word “fish” which is said to be a homophone of the word “abundance.” It is believed that the higher you toss the Yu Sheng Salad, the more luck you’ll receive this year.

Another familiar dish is abalone, which in Mandarin is referred as bao yu. With such meaning as “Bao” (guaranteed) and “yu” (abundance), it is no wonder that despite its hefty price, it is one of the most popular dishes among the Chinese. Its shape, oval and turned up at both ends which reminds one of a gold ingot, is also thought to be lucky, symbolizing wealth and prosperity.

Stir Fried Scallops in XO Sauce, meanwhile, also symbolizes prosperity, particularly scallops which represent richness and abundance.

Fried Glutinous Rice with Chinese Pork is also a must-have. The Chinese word for cake sounds like the Chinese word for tall. So eating glutinous rice during the Lunar New Year symbolizes growth, which either could be in career, health or income.

Birds in Chinese take up a lot of meaning. They could be symbols of freedom and happiness or love and commitment (Mandarin ducks). It could also mean good luck and abundance (peacock). Thus, it is no surprise to see avian dishes in a lucky spread.

Of course, there’s a reason why nian gao or tikoy is a favorite gift this time of the year. Nian gao is a homonym for “higher year.” Thus, many Chinese favor giving and eating this sticky rice treat as it means they are hoping for a better year ahead for themselves and for their family, friends and loved ones.

NIAN gao or tikoy.

Hotel hop
While these can be prepared at home, there are establishments around the metro that offer these treats, as deftly prepared by their top chefs.

For a serving of good fortune, Marco Polo Ortigas Manila’s award-winning authentic Cantonese restaurant, Lung Hin, showcases Lunar New Year menus prepared by its team led by executive chef Ken Leung.

The Good Wealth set menu features Lung Hin’s signature Sauteed Tiger Prawns with Homemade Chili Sauce, Steamed Fresh Garoupa with Superior Soya Sauce and Crispy Roasted Baby Duck. On the other hand, the Good Fortune set menu includes Baked Slipper Lobster in Supreme Stock, Braised South African Abalone with Japanese Oysters and Vegetables and Signature Salt-Baked Chicken. These are available from 24 January to 3 February 2020. Reservations may be made through (632) 7720-7720 or restaurant.mnl@marcopolohotels.com.

A special blessing ceremony will be held at the Ground Floor Lobby of Marco Polo Ortigas on the first day of the Lunar New Year (25 January 2020). This ritual will be led by Master Hanz Cua at 11 a.m. Guests may also look forward to the traditional lion and dragon dance after the blessing ceremony.

POACHED Garoupa.

In the name of good luck, New World Makati welcomes 2020 with auspicious meals exclusively served at its Cantonese dining destination, Jasmine. Under the helm of its Chinese executive chef Wong Kam On, Jasmine carries a la carte duck dishes such as Boiled salted duck, ground ginger, Braised duck, taro, coconut sauce; Stewed duck, Chinese style; Deep-fried boneless duck, stuffed minced shrimp; Roasted duck breast rolls; and Sauteed sliced duck with pineapple.

From 24 to 26 January, New World Makati guests can welcome the start of the year with an overnight stay inclusive of breakfast for two adults and two children six years and below, as well as a special koi-shaped nian gao gift. The room package starts at P6,888 net.

with Pauline L. Songo

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