The Lunar New Year celebrations have long brought families together. Nowadays, families and friends alike celebrate at home and in hotels, and look for both new and traditional dishes for these joyous occasions.
Each country has its own way of celebrating a new year. In Thailand and Laos, they celebrate the new year festival Songkran with splashing water as a sign of purification. In Vietnam it is known as Tet, and in South Korea it is Seollal. Each has its particular food for the celebration, such as the tasty banh tet (steamed rice with mung beans and pork in banana leaf packages) in Vietnam, while Laotians enjoy a delicious pouhn pa (seabass with chargrilled eggplant and chilli).
Across China, the spring festival which marks the start of the new lunar calendar is celebrated with firecrackers, hong bao or ang pow (red envelopes), new clothes, and of course festive food. Delicacies such as rou gan or bak kwa (grilled, sweet dried meat similar to jerky) and nian gao (glutinous rice cake) are common during this season.
In China, banquets abound with symbolism, with longevity noodles for long life, fish (read yu in Mandarin) as a sign of abundance, fried spring rolls which resemble gold bars represent prosperity, and dumplings shaped like silver ingots for wealth. Jiao zi (dumplings) are packed with minced meat, cabbage and spring onions – but never pickles because that suggests the future will be sour or unpleasant. Originally from Song Dynasty (AD 1132–1279), pen cai (literally big bowl feast) is a luxurious braised dish of pork, chicken, mushrooms, prawn, abalone, scallops and vegetables, which has also found its way to South-East Asia in the last few years.
In Singapore and Malaysia, Chinese families toss a salad with yusheng (raw fish) high in the air during this time – the higher it is tossed, the more prosperous one’s year will be.
Hotel buffets are proving a popular choice for families during the festive season too, reported The Straits Times in Singapore. One chef estimated that revenue during the two-week Chinese New Year period increases by at least 50%.
Across ASEAN, not only do buffets allow hotels to cater to a variety of guests’ tastes, satisfying those who want a traditional meal with food symbolic of the Lunar New Year, they are also a great choice for diners hankering after a new experience. Besides, who doesn’t love the taste of good fortune in the coming year?