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Travel

Gong Xi Fa Cai! Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner

This is the first time I have been in Singapore to celebrate Chinese New Year and attend our family’s reunion dinner. The reunion dinner is held on the eve of Chinese New Year.

I spent most of the night before making red velvet cupcakes to give out to my relatives as a Chinese New Year gift. Then on the eve I got up early (for someone on holiday) to help my aunty prepare food for our dinner. Lots of chopping and slicing, shredding radish and carrot for the loh hey (fish toss salad) and using a tooth pick to poke the centre of the gingko nuts out.

Once my aunt has finished cooking food for our lunch, we prepare a table in the house with some of every dish and invite my grandmother and grandfather to come down from heaven and join us for lunch.

On the table we put one of every dish, including some dessert (mandarins and ang koo kueh), their favourite drinks, some jasmine flowers because it’s my grandmother’s favourite flower and their names written on a red piece of paper. We lit joss sticks and each lit some smaller joss sticks as we said our wishes to my grandparents and invited them to join us.

Jasmine - my grandmother's favourite flower

We won’t start eating until my grandparents have finished their lunch. So the way to tell is to toss these two small red crescent moons and ask them if they have finished. Only when they land with one face up and the other face down does that mean they are finished. My aunt asked a couple of times and then she decided to let me try. First I lit two more joss sticks and said a few more things to them then shortly later I asked if they had finished eating and the answer came back yes.

The next thing we need to do is to go downstairs to burn some items to send to them in heaven for the new year. This includes paper money and paper clothes.

Lighting some paper money

Bags of paper clothes - one for each of my grandparents

Paper money for burning

After our turn to eat lunch I get back to it. Time to make cream cheese frosting for almost 100 cupcakes. And then the electric mixer breaks.. so I pretty much make most of the frosting by hand. It only takes me 2 hours to make the frosting and frost 98 cupcakes. Look how pretty they are!

Packages of red velvet cupcakes for my relatives

Our feast!

My aunt really out does herself and there is so much delicious food. I love it all, but the Indonesian chicken curry is amazing. (I helped with that… stirred the pot once haha)

But before we eat everyone has to participate in tossing the fish salad (Loh Hey). The salad consists of fish, finely shredded radish, carrot, and lots of other things (I’ll have to check with my aunt and fill this in later because I forget). Everyone gathers around the table with the salad with a long pair of chopsticks. Then everyone tosses the salad at the same time, the higher the better as this means that more prosperity and luck will come to you. It makes a big mess and is also delicious!

The night progressed with lots of eating, then playing cards (including winning and losing money, but not for me!). Then a bit of cleaning and waiting until midnight before we all fell asleep in our new pyjamas.

So GONG XI FA CAI everyone!!!

Chinese New Year in Chinatown

Breakfast today was quite different from yesterday. We went to the coffee shop Coffee Bean and I ordered the “Break O’Day” breakfast. Chicken sausage, scrambled eggs, toast and a salad. The salad consisted of lettuce, tomato, cranberries and almond flakes. Weirdest salad ever.

Then we headed to Chinatown to see the Chinese New Year market and so I could practice using my DSLR. I’m so glad that we went early and managed to beat the crowd. However I did see a line that was about 40m long for a famous bah kwa shop (flat square pieces of bbq pork mince). And absolutely no customers at two other bah kwa stores right next door. And also a crazy line at the bank supposedly because people are trying to change money for nice crisp notes for red packets (if you want to give money to me, please note I do not discriminate and will accept both crumpled old notes and new ones).

There is a wishing tree in Chinatown where you can throw your wish into the tree. You write it on a piece of paper which is attached to an orange by a string and you get three tries to get it into the tree.

I saw the biggest nian gao in Singapore (one of 12 in the whole country), I thnk about 45cm in diameter, as we walked through the Chinatown wet market. There were so many people buying tangerines, pineapples (love the bunches of mini ones for the altar), decorations, fa gao (a steamed cake for altars, will explain more later), pumpkins, pomelos, candy and decorations. Not to mention FOOD!

 

My aunt explained to me that for the altar in their home, they put a fa gao and nian gao which will remain at the altar until the end of the 15 days of Chinese New Year. And the aim is for it to be as mouldy as possible, as the more mould the better for prosperity (and of course, no cheating, mould must develop naturally).  She has also bought special joss sticks for the altar for Chinese New Year which have gold glitter on them and as they burn down the flame flickers/blinks.

My aunty Veron has been preparing food for our reunion dinner on Chinese New Year eve for weeks. Tomorrow I will be baking cupcakes to give to my relatives for Chinese New Year and on Sunday I’ll be helping my aunt with some of the cooking. This will be my first Chinese New Year in Singapore with my family and I think I need to prepare my stomach for an incredible feast. Today’s training included lunch at my favourite soya chicken shop in Chinatown, Chiew Kee Noodle House and then twister fries (curly fries/prosperity fries) from McDonalds.

Later in the evening I went with my aunt and uncle to a nearby temple of the God of Wealth to see how they were preparing for Chinese New Year. It’s a busy time of year for the temple and there are many things you wouldn’t see at any other time of year.

Huge joss sticks that people have "sponsored" and donated money for.

New uniforms for the imperial guards, these items will be burnt to send them to heaven.

 

Orchard Road on 4 hours sleep

Three posts in as many days! I’m on a roll.

I don’t know why I get disappointed with plane food, when my expectations should always be low. But the menu said Chicken Bolognese! I love spaghetti bolognese… It’s the first home-style food I start to miss when I’m travelling in Asia. This was not what I would call bolognese in the slightest. They should probably just call it Chinese style minced chicken sauce with noodles and save me the heartache. Now I really want a good homemade spaghetti bolognese and I haven’t been out of Australia for 24 hours. At least there are lots of other foods to distract me in the meantime.

I managed to get a few hours of “sleep” on the plane, so when I arrived at my relatives’ apartment at 7am we headed out for breakfast and I planned to stay awake til the evening. We went to Chong Pang for some Hawker Centre breakfast. I had Char Siu chee cheong fan, which is one of my favourite foods! Nom! And I tried some Prawn Noodles (Har Mee) and chwee kway a steamed rice flour “cup” topped with preserved radish. A great way to start the day and make up for the horrible mush they pass off as a meal on the plane.

I spent the rest of the day with my Aunt Jane walking around Orchard Road looking at Chinese New Year decorations and stalls and “shopping”. I only bought one thing on Orchard Road (Do you here that oh husband of mine??) and it was a $2 packet of disposable piping bags from Daiso to make cupcakes for Chinese New Year!

I picked up some supplies for my baking and then headed home for a nap before dinner. My Aunty Veron prepared steam boat and fried chicken wings for dinner. Complete with super cute panda face fish cakes!

Heading to bed now and I plan to brave Chinatown tomorrow for some photo taking.

Photos below from today:

  • offerings for ancestors for Chinese New Year
  • an amusing box of fruit
  • so mad for Angry Birds here that there are even Angry Birds red packets
  • the biggest Jade Buddha in the world currently visiting Singapore
  • dried and waxed meats for Chinese New Year
  • cute cakes
  • stumbled upon a dragon dance at Centre Point shopping centre
  • and the Snack Corner of the apartment!

Candy and water

Wanted a bottle of water but didn’t bring Aussie cash. Eftpos minimum $10 so bought some maltesers and snakes just to get water. Water which I can’t even bring on the plane. Skulling now to hydrate. Andrew stole my money so the extra calories are all his fault. 😉

Can’t wait to get on this plane and sleep. *yawn*

Also this backpack is HEAVY! Note to self, travel with husband or someone who can carry my bag or give me more checkin allowance for future trips.

No more sleeps!

I’ve mostly packed, kind of. Everything is in a big pile on top of a box and a suitcase in the middle of the lounge room.

So the random things I’m bringing over to Singapore for my relatives this trip are:

  • 4 boxes of Cheezels
  • 1 tray of mangoes
  • 6 packets of biscuits

Not too bad this time. Previously I’ve had a million boxes of maltesers and packets of tim tams. Was randomly selected for an explosive materials scan at the airport and had to open a backpack filled with only about 10 packs of tim tams. Oh yeah, explosively DELICIOUS!

And just so you know, there are a few food items I always like to bring back.

  • Royce chocolates
  • Dried Philippine mango from the Takashimaya food level
  • BBQ Curry Twisties
  • Various flavours of Kit Kat from Japan
     Here’s some photos of some of the Kit Kat varieties I came across. Melon was my favourite!

 

Oh hai there!

Welcome to my brand-spanking-new little blog.

I’ll be travelling to Singapore, Japan and Malaysia in the next few weeks and fingers crossed I stick to filling this space with lots of stories and pictures from my travels.

Oh the foods I will eat!