The Wood Horse Has Arrived! 马年已到!

It’s official! The Wood Horse has arrived and will last from 31st January 2014 till 18th February 2015!

Some background:
The Chinese Zodiac consists of 12 animals – Rat, Cow, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Chicken, Dog and Pig. In Chinese Five Element theory, Horse is in the Fire group and is also the strongest Fire animal among the 12 creatures. This year being the Wood Horse, the Wood can help Fire to burn, so that the Fire can last longer but too much fire can backfire too, lol… Impatience and hot temper are some of the bad attributes when there’s too much heat!

Prior to the invention of automobiles, horses provided people quick transport to their destination. To the Chinese, horse is not only a symbol of travels, it is also a sign of speedy arrival which equates to timely success in their mission. Therefore, the horse is one of Chinese favourite animals and zodiac sign.

Because horses were useful in wars before modern technology came along, people have higher expectation of the animal rather than working them on their farms. In ancient times, riding on the horse back also implied that the person was from a noble or higher ranking family. Thus, it is believed that people born in the Horse year care about how they portray themselves in public in terms of their look and speech.

Okay, enough of zodiac, you can always search for more information online. Now, let’s get to my Reunion Dinner last night 😉

Yesterday’s Reunion Dinner was held at my parents’. My dad and my brother’s friend did a good job cooking up a storm but I was acting like an ass donkey, turned my camera’s ISO setting super high so much so that the following images did not do them justice.

These are my dad's writing for a prawn recipe. I have always loved the way he writes the characters. My handwriting looked like bean sprouts or musical notes.

These are my dad’s writing for a prawn recipe.
I have always loved the way he writes the characters.
My handwriting looked like bean sprouts or musical notes.

七彩魚 or Rainbow fish to make life more colourful. That's not the official name for this Promfet dish but my reasoning, lol...

七彩魚 or Rainbow fish to make life more colourful.
That’s not the official name for this Promfet dish but my reasoning, lol…

Why another fish?

Why another fish?

Fish (Yu – 魚) sounds like “surplus” (Yu – 余) in Chinese. Apart from greeting fellow Chinese 新年快樂 (Xin Nian Kuai Le – Happy New Year), we usually add the auspicious phrase 年年有余 (Nian Nian You Yu) meaning abundance year by year. The expression 年年有余 is used to wish them to have ample surplus every year!

By serving fish at Reunion Dinners, we are wishing our family members abundance in life. The fish, however, will not be consumed entirely (that’s why we needed two fish), but is eaten halfway and keeping the rest for the next day as a symbolic gesture of having more than we need and thus carrying over the “extra/surplus” into the new year!

Dry-fried Big Prawns Cantonese Style.

Dry-fried Big Prawns Cantonese Style.

We also had two Prawn dishes. Prawns in Cantonese “har” (虾 – and that is why this dish is cooked Cantonese style) sounds like the laughter “hahaha” (哈哈哈) so big prawns means hearty laughter. We wish our family to have joy all year round.

Another prawn dish (pictured below) means more laughter and this time with Leek (garlic shoots – 蒜) which sounds like “calculating” (Suan – 算) in Chinese. Counting money and laughing all the way to the bank is what serving this dish meant. Hehehe…

Prawns with Chinese Leek.

Prawns with Chinese Leek.

Vegetable hamper.

Vegetable hamper.

Vegetable (Cai – 菜) sounds like wealth (Cai – 财) so this is definitely a must in Chinese homes. Everyone wants to be wealthy enough to retire early.

All of us chipping in to get dinner ready.<br />Okay, I didn't helped. I <del datetime="2014-01-30T23:59:55+00:00">took pictures</del> record memories :)

All of us chipping in to get dinner ready.
Okay, I didn’t helped.
I took pictures record memories 🙂

Dinner is served!

Dinner is served!

Steamboat or Hotpot is a common Reunion Dinner option as everyone gathered around the table to cook and enjoy the meal.<br />It encourages intimate mingling and communications using food as a bonding tool.

Steamboat or Hotpot is a common Reunion Dinner option as everyone gathered around the table to cook and enjoy the meal.
It encourages intimate mingling and communications using food as a bonding tool.

We had brown rice as the colour is "red"and RED is Good Luck to the Chinese.

We had brown rice as the colour is “red”and RED is Good Luck to the Chinese.

Chinese Roasts. We had Crispy Pork Belly and Roast Duck.

Chinese Roasts.
We had Crispy Pork Belly and Roast Duck.

Curry Pork Ribs.

Curry Pork Ribs.

Meat was considered a luxury in the old days and were eaten only during festive occasions. To have several kinds of meat means, you get it… And to be curry favoured, one must be in a better position 😉

Stewed Chicken and Mushrooms.

Stewed Chicken with Mushrooms.

Stewed Chicken with Mushrooms in Cantonese is 冬菇焖鸡  (dong gu marn gai), where 冬 (dong – winter) sounds like 东 (dong – east) to mean 东成西就 or in plain English, “Wishes immediately fulfilled from East to West”.

Dad, Sissy and I. Mom was too shy this time.

Dad, Sissy and I.
Mom was too shy this time.

So you see, each dishes had been carefully selected for their auspicious representations and festive sayings to convey good tidings during the Reunion Dinner (年夜飯), welcoming the Lunar New Year.

I wish all good things go to you on 快马加鞭 (means to “whip the flying horse to an even swifter speed”) and hope you’ve enjoyed your dinner like we did, too!

Happy cooking, eating and bonding 🙂

P.S. This morning, we will be having 年糕 (Nian Gao) for breakfast.

Click here to see post for recipe and Nian Gao’s symbolic pun 年年高升 (Nian Nian Gao Sheng)!

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Comments
13 Responses to “The Wood Horse Has Arrived! 马年已到!”
  1. May you and yours have a healthy and prosperous New Year…
    Love, hugs and blessings…ME and the Boss

  2. Rörschåch says:

    What a beautiful feast. I’d like a couple of those shrimp, please. Happy New Year, Sam. Hope the year of the horse is simply brilliant for you and yours!

  3. daniellajoe says:

    Wow wow Sam that’s a lot of food 🙂 what you call that dish that have corn and lettuce and eggs? It looks like I want to make it 🙂 ….

    • Sam Han says:

      Are you referring to the “Vegetable Hamper”? They are raw vegetables for dipping into the steamboat soup and can be any ingredients you fancy. There were no eggs (button mushrooms, if that’s the picture you were talking about).

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