Traditionally, Chinese New Year Eve is a very important festival where families get together to have a meal. Most Chinese families who worship ancestors would have a lot of traditional Chinese dishes prepared during the day to offer to their deceased ancestors. So, a reunion dinner on Chinese New Year Eve will consist of these dishes.
Some of the traditional Chinese New Year foods available on most homes are :
Kiam Chye Ark or Duck with salted vegetables
Curry Chicken or Kari Kapitan
Fish maw soup or hoo pheow thng
(I am too lazy to link all my previous recipes for the above so go to this Chinese New Year recipes and select the recipes you want)
The above are the more popular dishes from Penang because in Penang, majority of the Chinese are from the Hokkien descendants. These dishes normally taste better when left overnight so most people cook in bulk to enjoy the dishes over the Chinese New Year.
Meanwhile, for Cantonese homes, they only offer foods to their ancestors on the second day of Chinese New Year. However, from my experience, Cantonese too have their specialities and they emphasis a lot on the name of the dishes. Cantonese must have prawns (har sounds like laughing) , pig’s trotter with fatt choy (fatt choy means get lucky) , steam fish (yee means abundance) and other freshly cooked dishes.
Chinese steamboat for reunion dinner is also very popular because one can adjust the amount of foods to be serve. Moreover, one does not need to make a lot of preparations for Chinese steamboat.
Of course, it is fun to have reunion dinners at the hotels buffet but somehow, there is nothing as fun at being at home where one can be as loud, as noisy and as boisterous as one wants. After all, that’s the whole meaning of a reunion where relatives meet up after a long absence and they take the opportunity to catch up with each other.
Reunion dinners are no longer the same to me after the deaths of my parents-in-laws and my mother. They used to be the ones who ‘gel’ the family together. After their deaths, my siblings-in-law and siblings all have their own grown up families and we usually have our own reunion with just the kids. Now, I shall wait for the kind of meaningful reuninon dinner when my sons are grown up and have lives of their own. I hope they will keep this tradition of reunion dinner because I always emphasis on reunion dinner since they were little boys. Meantime, I usually prepare Chinese New Year lunch for my siblings-in-law families, a tradition that my mom-in-law set down when she was around.
Other good ideas for Chinese New Year reunion dinners are making our own yee sang at home. All we need is to buy some nice salmon sashimi from those Japanese foods supplies shop and get a box of yee sang stuffs to toss. Or how about making poh piah party whereby we prepare the pohpiah fillings and let the guests make their own creations. I also made a nasi lemak theme Chinese New Year dinner before as it is a refreshing change to eat Malay style nasi lemak. One year, my family went to overseas for a holiday and ‘sponsored’ a nasi kandar Chinese New Year lunch. The shop, Kayu Nasi Kandar charged us RM500 for mutton, fish and chicken curries (minus rice, only dishes). Cut throat, eh?
My mom-in-law has given me the honour holding their annual family gathering 20 years ago, when I was married. I am the youngest daughter-in-law but I have taken this task seriously. Every year, I will be very busy with what to prepare for the in-laws gathering. Though I dread the work, I enjoy the ‘pahwer’. It is an honour in a Chinese family to be given this task as it is not easy to prepare a memorable meal for a family of 30-40 relatives because my hubby has 7 other siblings.
God’s willing, I will continue this tradition as long as I have the health and wealth to do it.