Sunday, 22 February 2015

Happy Chinese New Year!

So, I'm back in Singapore for now! And because Chinese New Year (I'm just gonna call it CNY from now on) started later this year, I managed to participate for the first time in three years!!

Chinese New Year lasts for 15 days, and since it's only day 4, I will just talk about the first few days.

Days 1-15: FOOD

Top layer: Bak-kwa. On the plates: Mandarin Oranges

Chinese New Year is the time for fattening, delicious food. There's Bak Kwa (think of sweet pork jerky/sweet bacon), oranges (which in Cantonese is a homonym for gold), peanuts (I'm sure there's some significance) and lots of sweets. Most foods, and in fact most Chinese New Year related goods/activities, are tied to a saying about good luck or wealth or something like that. 

Another of my favourite foods is Popiah, which is really a year round food. But we seem to eat it a lot in new year. I'm suddenly at a loss for how to describe it, but it has vegetables, sweet sauce, chilli, garlic, lettuce - you basically pick and mix your ingredients.

Day 0/除夕(chu xi):
Home-made Yusheng
 The day before CNY is chu xi. The main event is the family reunion dinner, and since most people have two sets of parents from two different families, it's pretty much a day of eating. Lunch will be a reunion lunch, and dinner a reunion dinner.

Before dinner (and lunch), we toss the yusheng. Yusheng seems to be a CNY food local to South East Asia, and there's quite a lot of dispute as to who created it. Malaysia wants to claim it, but according to one of my grand-uncles, he knows the chef who created the first dish and it was definitely made in Singapore. The dish has all the ingredients separately, and we mix it with long chopsticks, yelling lucky phrases. Students like me tend to yell things like "学业进步" (xue ye jin bu - Studies improve), but things like "工作顺利" (gong zuo shun li - work goes smoothly) and other sayings are also popular. And when you have a family like mine, things get very specific like "A GPA above 3.5!" and "Pass all modules" and "Let the boy learn to speak Chinese!"

After Yusheng, it's time for Steamboat (also the same menu as lunch). We use an old-fashion charcoal steamboat, and I think that gives the best taste. Steamboat is really like the Japanese shabu-shabu, but with different stock.

Day 1/初一 (chu yi):

The first day of CNY is when we go bainian (拜年 - visiting). We actually cut down on the number of houses, but we still went to um, I think 10? Maybe 11? (If you include Church we have to +1) houses this year. Basically, the younger generation goes to pay their respects to the older generation. And because I have a bad memory and haven't seen most people for many years, I have to be reminded who is who. Basic rule of thumb is to add one generation to whatever title my mom and dad used.

It's marvellous because I get to see so many people in one day! Sure, it's tiring, but this is family. Ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind. Ok, Stitch moment over.

For some reason, all TV screens were showing Stephen Chow movies. Not just one, many, many Stephen Chow movies. They all have roughly the same story though (just different settings) - playboy gets into trouble, somehow makes everything right.

Also, my aunti-poh's house has an awesome toy-train!

This is just one corner! 

Day 2/初二 (chu er):

Normally, we finish up visiting on Chu-er, but we managed to finish all the visiting on Day 1, so we could relax! Most of the time, we stay at my grandma's house, because that's where visitors would go.

This year, I brought back my kimono, and managed to put it on myself! Somehow.

The length is quite off, but I'm just relieved I managed to put it on!

And later, I managed to put it on my cousin, and it looked even better on her!

Day 3 was like I mentioned in a previous Google+ post, spent mostly in Malaysia. It was fun, and I don't think much will happen until Day 15. We have another friend's reunion dinner planned, but that's about it. But I will be meeting lots of people this week! 

And from my cousin who rocks the kimono, have a happy CNY!

You can see more of her awesome works at

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