KUANTAN, Feb 5 – On Sunday evening, the Chinese community will be gathering for reunion dinners as an auspicious start before ushering in the Lunar New Year on Monday. While in the past, the dinner is traditionally prepared by the family in the house of parents or eldest member of the family, many are choosing to celebrate the occasion at hotels or restaurants.
An executive Chinese cuisine chef at a hotel here, Steven Tan Sun Huat, 45, said time and convenience were among the factors dinners were no longer held in the house as it was important for all family members to assemble to enjoy tradional delicacies together.
“Some are preferring to dine at restaurants or hotels as their elders are no longer around. It is quite difficult to decide whose house would be the place to gather. So it is easier to contribute money to foot the dinner bill and enjoy some quality together minus the clean-up afterwards,” he told Bernama here, today.
Steven who has 25 years cooking experience, said eating out is easier, especially for dishes which are tedious to prepare such the herbal chicken soup which needs hours of slow cooking to bring out the taste. He said dining out also caused many restaurants to remain open on New Year’s eve unlike in the past when restaurants are closed for employees to celebrate the festival with their families.
Meanwhile, he also added that he will also be working on New Year’s eve. while they will hold their reunion dinner when he is on leave two or three days later and his family is used to this routine. Commenting on the popular dinner dishes, Steven said fish is a must as the Chinese word for it symbolises ‘more’ in terms of fortune, health and happiness for the year.
“Nowadays, the dinner usually starts with tossing yee sang, a dish made up of raw fish, fine strips of vegetables such carrot, turnip, cucumber, ginger, preserved papaya with plum sauce, oil, groundnuts and sesame. All family members are to make their wishes when tossing the food, the higher the better,” he said and added that salmon is usually used for this dish.
The tradition of tossing yee sang is believed to have started 1,500 years ago in southern China and each item of the dish has an auspicious meaning for prosperity and longevity. Even though the dish originated from China, Steven said the delicacy had been improvised to suit Malaysians with a sourish and spicy taste. He said it has even been influenced by Thailand and other surrounding countries compared to the original dish from China which is rather bland.