Dong Dong Chiang! That’s what Chinese kids say when they’re pretending to do a lion dance. And thats me and the Irishman wearing our Dragon and Lion heads to usher in the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Snake!
This year our friends Karen and Dave, of the inimitable Red Hill Brewery fame, kindly offered to host Chinese New Year at their house as we had just moved back to the Peninsula and the thought of cooking my usual 8 course menu for 20 people was leaving me feeling lower than a snake’s belly.
Dave, also known as Foo King Dave in these parts of the Peninsula (*and some say his reputation extends as far as Springvale Shopping Centre), lived in China for some time and learnt how to cook Sichuan food complete with mouth-watering arse-numbing spices, so I knew we were in for a treat!
I spent the morning making fried wontons, homemade pork ingot shaped dumplings and prepping the yu sheng auspicious salad and then slipped (or should I say slithered) into a salmon pink silk cheongsam from Hong Kong.
Kaz and Dave’s kids were resplendent in their very pretty silk cheongsams and cute little chopstick buns. They made me a gorgeous knitted purple wool necklace for the occasion too. I wore the necklace to Melbourne this week and had all these hipster types asking me if it was Marni. Ha!
David, Rick, Karen, Anne and myself, the first to arrive at the party.
Now this, below, is the lucky Yu Sheng salad which is a Singaporean and Malaysian Chinese tradition. Each ingredient in the salad represents a particular blessing for the new year e.g. the chopped peanuts symbolise a household of gold and silver, and the fish sashimi symbolise abundance and excess.
That’s me and my little helpers who are helping me put each set of ingredients into the giant silver salad bowl as I recite the appropriate blessing in Chinese
They really got into the spirit of it! That’s them tossing the cinnamon powder, pepper and sesame seeds all over the salad to symbolise money, valuables and a flourishing business. Chinese values hey!
Finally, we got to toss the salad, which went as high as the roof. I think only 60% of it made it back to the table and the remaining 40% is still orbiting Earth somewhere. These Aussies take the salad tossing very seriously indeed!
Karen then asks me whether this is a decorative salad or do we have to eat it. I’m like “Decorative my backside! I’ve spent all morning chopping bloody fish and radish, you guys pick it out of your hair and eat it if you want your businesses to prosper! OR ELSE!”. Well you asked!
And then Dave rolled out two massive hot pots filled with Sichuan ma la broth and we all had the most delicious steamboat (that’s what we Chinese call hot pots) dinner outdoors under the stars.
Thanks guys for an amazing evening, and Gong Xi Fa Cai to all!