Lunar New Year
Family reunions are an important part of Chinese New Year celebrations around the world. Some families prefer to eat specially prepared dishes around a big table at home.
Other families prefer to have banquets at Chinese restaurants – either free-standing eateries or the Chinese dining rooms of classy hotels.
Executive chefs at Chinese restaurants usually put on lavish spreads with set menus and/or special dishes that can be ordered a la carte..
A traditional Chinese New Year banquet usually starts with a cold course.
This is usually either served individually on a small tray to each diner or on a combination platter in the middle of the table.
The cold course is then followed by a roast suckling pig.
Cherries or flashing red lights go where he eyes used to be, adding a touch of whimsy to what is supposed to be a joyous and festive occasion.
Sometimes the suckling pig is served as part of the combination platter, such as at the Chinese New Year banquet served at Dynasty8 in Macau.
The suckling pig is followed by a parade of dishes, and the ordering of the dishes follows a strict sequence.
There is always some kind of fish. First, most Chinese people like it. Second, it is thought to be nutritious.
Third – and most important – the Chinese character for fish is a homonym with the Chinese character for abundance (yu).
So serving a fish course symbolizes an abundance of sons and/or good fortune in the Lunar New Year.
Other dishes follow in rapid succession. Some of these dishes are fixed – such as some kind of fried rice and some kind of noodles.
Other dishes vary, depending on what the chef thinks will please his or her diners.
But abalone is almost always a featured ingredient in one of the courses.
Not only is abalone tasty, it's also a bit pricey. And what better way to celebrate the new year than with a somewhat extravagant dish?
Take the Braised Dry Oysters with Sea Moss, Persimmon Mushrooms, Lettuce, and Abalone, which is being served at Dynasty8 in Macau, for example?
This mouth-watering concoction sounds like pure indulgence, doesn't it?
Best Southeast Asian Chinese Restaurants
Chinese New Year is celebrated wherever there are Chinese people, and nowhere are the celebrations more festive than in Southeast Asia.
Sometimes emigrant populations are more loyal to their traditions than the folks at home!
From the former Portuguese enclave of Macau to Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, and Singapore chefs at Chinese restaurants try to outdo each other by coming up with new takes on old favourites.
Or they try dazzle your taste buds with innovative new recipes, such as the Braised Dry Oysters with Sea Moss, Persimmon Mushrooms, Lettuce and Abalone and the Steamed Crab Claw with Golden Egg White, which are being served for the first time this year at Dynasty8 in Macau.
Here's a short list of what 10 of the best Chinese restaurants in Southeast Asia have on offer in celebration of the Year of the Rooster.
Dynasty 8 – Macau
The Chinese restaurant at Sands Cotai Central in Macau will serve a nine-course Chinese New Year set menu from 27 January to February 2017.
The menu will be available at lunch and dinner.
Featured dishes will include double-boiled superior soup with dendrobe flowers, seaweed pearl and mushrooms; braised dried oysters with sea moss, persimmon mushrooms, lettuce and abalone; and steamed red spotted garoupa with soy sauce.
Dynasty 8, Sands Cotai Central, ground floor, Cotai Strip, Macau. Telephone: (853) 8113-8920.
Yan Ting – Singapore
Executive Chinese Chef Tony Wun and his team will serve an array of a la carte dishes and six or eight course set menus from 9 January to 11 February 2017 at Yan Ting, the fine dining Chinese restaurant at The St. Regis Singapore.
New creations will include raised King Prawn with Shrimp Oil, deep-fried Dace Fish served with Clam Sauce and Braised Boneless Short Ribs, and noodle and rice options like Double-boiled Chicken with Glass Vermicelli and Wanton served in Claypot and Wok-fried Glutinous Rice with Wind-dried Sausages.
Yan Ting, The St Regis Singapore, upper level one, 29 Tanglin Raod, Singapore. Telephone: (65) 6506-6888.
Carousel – Singapore
If you’re into hotel buffets, you will love the spread that Carousel will serve from 27 January through 29 January 2017.
Located on the ground floor of Royal Plaza on Scotts in Singapore, the Carousel is considered by local foodies to be the Lion's City's best buffet restaurant.
New this year will be Rice of the Phoenix Yu Sheng, a new take on an old local favourite, chicken and rice.
Other highlights will include Double-boiled Abalone Broth with Peppercorn, Roasted Crispy Chicken with Seafood Otah, Rendang-marinated Cod with Ginger Flower and Peanut, Char-grilled Okra, Turmeric Glutinous Rice, Kaya Semifreddo with Rose Petal Spaghetti, Coffee Hazelnut Cocoa Crumbs and Lychee Soy Beancurd Pot.
Carousel, Royal Plaza on Scotts, ground floor, 25 Scotts Road, Singapore. Telephone: (65) 6737-7966.
Hai Tien Lo – Singapore
Executive Chef Lai Tong Ping and his team will serve eight Chinese New Year Reunion set menus from 9 January to 11 February 2017 at Hai Tien Lo, the Chinese restaurant at the Pan Pacific Singapore hotel.
Special dishes will include Double-Boiled Buddha Jumps Over the Wall with Maca and Wolfberries, tender Steamed Farm Chicken with Minced Ginger, Flourishing Wealth Reunion Yu Sheng with Boston Lobster, Norwegian Salmon and Surf Clams, Fortune Yu Sheng with Surf Clams and Norwegian Salmon – the list goes on.
Hai Tian Lo, Pan Pacific Singapore, 7 Raffles Boulevard, Marina Square, Singapore. Telephone: (65) 6336-8111.
Golden Flower – Macau
Welcome the Year of the Rooster in a garden setting at a two Michelin star restaurant.
The Golden Flower set menu includes assorted cold appetizers, five hot dishes, two traditional Northern style snacks, and steamed wild fungus with red dates and crystal sugar as dessert.
Dishes can also be ordered a la carte. Featured Chinese New Year dishes include deep-fried green garoupa with sweet and sour sauce braised sea cucumber with Shandong leeks, and tea-smoked crispy chicken.
Golden Flower, Wynn Macau, Rua Cidade de Sintra, Macau.
Shang Palace – Bangkok
The Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok, will welcome the Year of the Rooster with a traditional Lion Dance Ceremony at 10.30 am on Saturday 28 January 2017 at the five-star hotel's main entrance.
A Longevity Set dinner will be served from 27 to 30 January 2017. Special a la carte dishes and Chinese New Year dim sum will also be available.
Classical Chinese music will be played on the guzheng at dinner on 27 January and at lunch and dinner on 28 January 2017.
Shang Palace, Shangri-La, Bangkok, 89 Soi Wat Suan Plu, New Road, Bangrat, Bangkok, Thailand. Telephone: (66 2) 236-8579.
The China House – Bangkok
Chef Andy Leong and his staff will serve two set menus – Congratulation and Success – from 27 January through 5 February 2017.
A la carte disshes will also be offered.
A highlight will be the tossing of the annual Ya Sang raw fish salad, which reputedly brings prosperity and good fortune.
Lion dancing and an eye-dotting ceremony will take place in the lobby of the hotel on 28 January 2017.
The God of Wealth will distribute Lai See lucky packets at all of the hotel's restaurants.
The China House, Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, 48 Oriental Avenue, Bangkok, Thailand. Telephone: (66 2) 659-9000.
Shang Palace – Kuala Lumpur
The talented chefs at the Shang Palace, the fine-dining Chinese restaurant at the Shangri-La, Kualla Lumpur hotel, wll serve an array of festive dishes for the Chinese New Year.
Featured dishes will include claypot dishes, poon choy, braised white cabbage with fish maw in golden broth, and braised sea cucumber with golden garlic and leeks.
Five Chinese New Year set menu will also be on offer: great prosperity, rich fortune, wealth treasures, happy reunion, and immense wealth..
Shang Palace, Shangri-La, Kuala Lumpur, 11 Jalan Sultran Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Telephone: (60 3) 2032-12514.
Table8 – Jakarta
Chinese set menus will be served on 27 and 28 January 2017 at Table8, the fine dining Chinese restaurant at the Hotel Mulia Senayan in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital.
Traditional acrobatic lion dance performances will also be performed throughout the hotel duringt the Chinese New Year holidays.
Hotel Mulia Senayan, Jalan Asia Afrika Senayan, Jakarta, Indonesia. Telephone: (62 21) 5747777.
Spiral – Manila
Chinese Chef Michael Tai and his team will showcase a bountiful feast to usher in the Year of the Rooster from 25 to 29 January 2017 at Spiral, the Chinese restaurant at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila in the Philippine capital.
The cooking styles of Guangdong and Sichuan provinces will be in the spotlight with Cantonese and Hakka dishes from Guangdong and Sihuanese dishes from Sichuan.
Popular dishes from Hong Kong and Taiwan will also be featured.
Adding to the excitement, a fashion show will be held on the 25th, with fashions by renowned courtier Albert Andrada.
Spiral, Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila, CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City, Metro, Manila, Philippines. Telephone: (632) 832-6988.