Birthday Lunch @ Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐 Wisma Atria
Although we celebrate our gregorian-calendar birthdays annually, traditional Chinese birthdays are usually observed in a grandiose way only on two significant occasions:
1) when a baby turns 1 month old (red eggs and ginger party) and
2) when an adult turns *60 years of age (60th birthday marks one life cycle) or
2a) when the adult turns *61st (then a peach buns party is called for).
Note on 2 and 2a: Depending on the dialect groups, some celebrate 60th while others believe one has to surpass 60th in order to qualify as long life. My mother-in-law lived to a ripe old age of 97 years.
And thereafter, a birthday celebration is held every 10 years, that is the 70th (71st), the 80th (81st), etc, until the person’s death. Generally, the older the person is, the more prestigious the celebration occasion is.
The connotations of these two occasions are survival (beginning – alpha) and longevity (end – omega) and thus call for illustrious celebrations.
Customarily, the Chinese way of counting a person’s age is different from the Western way. Chinese takes the first day of the New Year in the lunar calendar as the starting point of a new age. No matter which month a baby is born in, it is already 1 year old, and an additional year is added to its age as soon as it enters the Lunar New Year (also known as Chinese New Year – CNY). Thus, if a child is born on the last hour of the past lunar year, the little one is considered 2 years of age even though it is actually a couple of hours’ old. So my age would be gregorian plus 2 years come CNY next January as I am a December child. Is your mind spinning yet?
Sidetracking: I will not touch on one month celebrations as my age leans towards 60, lol… I’ll keep the Red Eggs and Ginger Party celebrations when my daughters give birth 😉
Back on track… Often, grownup offsprings would celebrate their elderly parents’ birthdays; this is to show respect for their parents as well as to express gratitude for what has been done for them.
Commonly, foods with auspicious symbolic implications are offered on 61st birthdays, i.e. a breakfast of 寿面 or long-life noodles and a couple of red coloured hard-boiled eggs which symbolise longevity. The long egg noodles are never trimmed for shortened noodles equates to shortened life span (taboo). 寿桃 or Peach Buns (red food colouring sprinkled on peach shaped steamed bun with sweet lotus paste filling) are only procured when one reaches the qualifying age of 61.
To make the occasion monumental, immediate families, relatives and friends (even acquaintances) are invited to the merry-making. And everyone at the celebration eats the three foods (mentioned in the above paragraph) to extend their best wishes to the celebrant.
In Chinese culture, 60 years makes 1 life cycle and 61 is regarded as the beginning of a new one. When a person is 60 years old, he or she is expected to already have a big family filled with children and grandchildren. It is an age to be proud of and that is the reason why elderly people celebrate their birthdays. To cross the threshold of 60 means one has outlived the first life cycle and is considered an “immortal”.
Typical birthday presents comes in the form of a hamper of 2 or 4 hard-boiled red hen eggs and long noodles. A tower of peach buns is also well received. These gifts are significations of longevity. Ostentatious gifts like ginseng, bird nest, tonic wines and hongbao (money in red paper envelopes) are also presented.
Well, I am not 61 years old so you will not see these foods in my post today. However, I did have noodles and eggs (although they were black).
Hubby, Julie (sister-in-law) and my 2 babes were present at the table. The portions we ordered was just right.
The dainty Vegetarian plate of colourful cool shreds was aperitive with a hint of tang and lots of crunch.
The soft-centred Century Egg with pressed garlic was a change from the usual take of egg and pickled ginger. I liked this dish.
The Drunken Chicken had a strong whiff of alcohol but the wine was mellow on tongue.
The Pea Shoots with garlic tasted slightly grassy and had bitter aftertaste (both are the natural attributes of this vegetable) was well executed with quick stir-frying method instead of blanching.
The Xiao Long Bao was spot on as expected. This is after all one of their signature dishes. A rendition that consists of juicy meat filling wrapped in a melt-in-your-mouth skin with a minimum of 18 exquisite folds. Ha, I forgot to count the folds.
Prawn Pancake was definitely ambrosial and we were very tempted to order a second serving. The waitress had to wait a couple of minutes while we debated among ourselves (she asked “Want or don’t want?”) and finally voted with a negative. “Is that your final answer?” we nodded and she walked away.
Shrimp Fried Rice, who wouldn’t love this? I limited myself to one tablespoon as I read an article from some dietician long ago that 1x fried rice is 4x plain rice and I wanted to reserve my calorie intake for the beef noodles 😀
Noodles in Special Sauce – Handmade noodles “la mien”, the texture was al dente but the sauce was ordinary.
I much prefer the Beef Brisket Noodles’ medium-clear broth which was tasty. The chunky brisket was very delicate and flavoursome.
Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐
Address: Wisma Atria
435 Orchard Road.
Tel: 6732 1383