Text and images by KK Chong, DET Corp Comms
Lunar New Year in Singapore is an exciting time for the whole family with bright festive decorations adorning malls and streets around the city. A highlight for many is a sumptuous reunion dinner when family members and relatives come together for good food and fun. Above you can see the spread for ten people including my family, cousins and auntie.
Hongbao (红包) or red packets are small red packets containing money given to children, family members, friends and employees as a symbol of good luck. In Chinese culture, the color red is associated with energy, happiness and good luck.
There are different versions of the history of Hongbao. Hongbao come in all sorts of designs in Singapore. No matter how old one is, if you are single, you are qualified to receive a Hongbao. These are mine
As for dining out, the legendary Singapore Chili Crab is as popular during Lunar New Year as any other day. However, a huge family feast together is a must for most families and something everyone looks forward to.
Let’s take a look at some favorite festive dishes for the Lunar New Year in Singapore…
Yusheng is a customary Lunar New Year dish, and “Lao Yusheng” (捞鱼生）meaning tossing the raw fish is commonly practiced in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong throughout the New Year period. The dish is usually served at the start of every meal. The main ingredient fish is used in this dish because Yu (鱼) also sounds like abundance in Chinese which is an auspicious word.
“Lao Yusheng” also commonly known as “Lo Hei” in Cantonese literally translates to “tossing up good fortune”, and it refers to a delightful practice in Singapore during Lunar New Year when family members or friends come together around a massive plate, tossing its contents vigorously while chanting auspicious phrases before eating it. It is believed that the higher the toss, the better your prospects and fortune in the year ahead.
As the Chinese meaning of Yusheng represents raw fish, raw fish (typically salmon or white fish) is the star of the dish and is served with other ingredients. Usually arranged on a very large circular plate, apart from the raw fish, it is made up of shredded carrot, green and white shredded radish, pickled ginger, crushed peanuts, pomelo, cinnamon, pepper, golden pillow crackers and is accompanied by a variety of condiments. There are many different modern versions in Singapore like with abalone or other types of garnishes.
人日 Renri (Literally Human Day) refers to the 7th day of Zhengyue (正月, the first month in the Chinese calendar). According to Chinese customs, Renri was the day human beings were created. It is celebrated not only in China, but also in other regions influenced by Chinese culture.
In Chinese legends, Nüwa (女媧) is the goddess who created the world. She created the animals on different days and human beings on the seventh day after the creation of the world. The seventh day of Zhengyue is viewed as the common “birthday” of all human beings.
One of the essential dishes on Renri is the Qi Yang Cai (七样菜), literally translated to seven types of vegetables.
The vegetarian dish typically incorporates seven different types of vegetables with different meanings. In the picture is what my mom had cooked.
‘Cong’ or spring onions – to be smart
‘Suan’ or leeks – one will have money to count
‘Qin cai’ or celery – to be hardworking
‘Bai he’ or lily bulb – hundred things will go well
Some Chinese families believe in eating Zhai Cai (斋菜) on the first day of the Lunar New Year. Zhai sounds like disaster too in Chinese. So eating a vegetarian dish is like eating away disaster.
This is my mom’s famous Zhai Cai that my relatives always rave about and look forward to every Lunar New Year.
After dinner, family members get together to enjoy Mahjong which is a favourite game for many during Lunar New Year in Singapore.
About the Author (Editorial Team)
Cliché inspirational quotes make me cringe while creative ideas and people inspire me. Love food, dogs, traveling and staying healthy. Not one who is contented to be marching on the same spot for too long, I am grateful for the many opportunities given to explore and learn new things in Delta since 2004. See you on LinkedIn @ https://www.linkedin.com/in/chongkk/