Foods to Celebrate
There are five Taoist elements which are Fire, Water, Earth, Wood and Metal. The New Year 2016 will be especially bright and blazing because it is the Year of the Red Fire Monkey. Fire represents life, passion and brings joy and creativity. Wearing red is lucky in 2016. Lucky numbers are 4, 6, & 9 and flowers are crepe myrtle and chrysanthemum.
Not only is it Chinese New Year, the Lunar New Year is celebrated by many Asian cultures.
Myth and Legend
It is a time of wondrous celebration, with origins which go back to a time of myths and legends. There are paper-dragon dances, parades and red clothing to commemorate the legend of Nian, a mythical beast who terrorized villagers once every year. The colour red and the din that is created is meant to drive away any lingering devils or spirits. Now the word Nian, in modern Chinese means “year”.
The Year of the Monkey
The New Year is marked by animal, for according to legend, Buddha invited all the creatures in his kingdom to appear before him. The 12 animals which completed the journey – the rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, serpent, horse, goat, monkey, cock, dog and pig – were then honoured with rotating names of the year. The exact date in the Western calendar changes because it is fixed using a Chinese lunar calendar in which each month begins with the new moon. People born in a particular year are believed to share some of the personalities of that particular animal.
It is a time of feasting, with particular foods for different good wishes. Now, I’m not about to suggest eating monkey, though I know in China monkey brains are considered a delicacy. How about we celebrate with what monkeys love instead? Bananas! Try this all Australian recipe with Asian flavours which my friend Stephanie Alexander cooked with me at Wyndham District High School (which is part of her Kitchen Garden Foundation) when I was shooting Lyndey Milan’s Taste of Australia in WA. (Award-winning book & DVD available at www.flamedistributionstore.com).
More traditionally, delicacies include prawns, for liveliness and happiness, dried oysters (ho xi), for all things good, raw fish salad (yu sheng) to bring good luck and prosperity, Fai-hai (Angel Hair), an edible hair-like seaweed to bring prosperity, and meat-filled dumplings boiled in water (Jiaozi). “Jiaozi” in Chinese literally mean “sleep together and have sons”, a long-lost good wish for a family. This is my version of angel hair – Glass noodle salad – just add some prawns to it for extra luck!
No New Year Eve’s meal would be complete without fish. The Chinese character for “abundance” sounds the same as “fish”. There is also a vegetarian dish with a special seaweed called fatchoi, which sounds the same as the word meaning prosperity. Try my Betel leaves topped with spicy fish.
Given the cold and wet weather, you may also like to celebrate the New Year with my Roasted Duck in Red Curry.
Whatever the food, the quantity prepared at this time is to symbolise abundance and wealth for the household!
To check out what to do in Sydney for this year’s Chinese New Year, click here to see what events are on.