Thursday, November 23, 2006


Went to a Chinese lunch-wedding last Sunday, the first one we went to in Singapore. Few rituals are more revealing about a particular culture than weddings. It tells a lot about the history and the values of the people, and for a foreigner this is fascinating. So I approached the lunch with curiosity, but I have to confess that I was a bit apprehensive as well, as I had never been to a Chinese wedding before.
As we arrived, the groom warmly greeted us at the entrance, then led us to our table. After a nice, simple ceremony, we were treated to a nine-course Chinese lunch. And if I had any hint of apprehension before, it was totally unjustified, as I'll show you. Let me guide you through the banquet:
1. Lobster salad: small bits of lobster and fruits. Very nice.
2. Braised shark's fin soup with crab meat and golden mushroom (I know, not environmentally friendly, and I wouldn't order it myself at a restaurant, but I was told this is a must-have dish at Chinese weddings. It's very expensive, and it's delicious).
3. Stir-fried scallops and twin mushrooms with asparagus. Very good as well, the scallops were tender and the asparagus were nicely done (crispy and with a subtle earthy flavor).
4. Steamed "live" prawns. They are not actually alive when they reach the table (but they were when they were thrown into the steaming pot)
5. Braised baby abalone with fish maw in oyster sauce. My least favorite dish, a little too chewy for my taste.
6. Steamed "live" garoupa in Hong Kong style. Same thing as the prawns. That's what you call a fresh fish. Tastes very good.
7. Braised duck with lotus seed and sea cucumber (are you still with me?). The duck was juicy and tender, but the sea cucumber is not really my thing (it's not bad, but it has the taste and consistency of "water jelly").
8. Braised Ee-Fu noodle. Noodles with mushroom and bean sprouts. This is really good. I used to have this at Crystal Jade, a local Chinese restaurant chain.
9. Double-boiled snow fungus with papaya. The dessert. It's more like a hot, sweet soup, with some pieces of papaya.
I didn't eat all these dishes by myself, in case you're wondering. The waiter would bring the dishes in a big bowl or plate and then would serve us in individual bowls like these below.
The best was yet to come however (or so we thought). Ever since we'd entered the saloon, we had had our eyes on this beautiful layered cake.
I was a little puzzled however, when I noticed people leaving the party after the dessert. To our surprise, our Singaporean friends who were with us at the table, told us that the cake was just a mock-up, it wasn't a real cake, it was just for the photo, something common at Chinese weddings here.
This is the wonderful thing about culture. When you think you have learned the codes, assimilated all the subtleties of the unwritten rules, something like this catches you totally by surprise. There's always something new to learn. "Just for the photo"..., very interesting.
We were a little bit disappointed, but at the same time I felt relieved there was nothing else to eat. Needless to say, we could barely walk after this gastronomic experience. The bride and groom were very kind in inviting us for their wedding. I left with my stomach full and with a sense of gratitude for their generosity in sharing their culture with us.

1 comment:

407 IN VITRO said...

I really have to get some lunch, and I have to get it RIGHT NOW!