Given the influence of Toronto’s Chinese community, the Chinese New Year, occurring February 16th, is obviously a big deal. But if you’re not part of that community, you may not be familiar with the holiday’s feasts. Here, Sanagan’s customer Bonita Mok graciously shares some of her Chinese New Year food memories.
“Traditions vary from household to household and region to region. I grew up with a lot of braises in my household. One dish my mom would always make for Chinese New Year was pig’s trotters with black moss and dried oysters. These ingredients have a symbolic role. A lot of our New Year food traditions are often play-on-words; the Chinese names for these ingredients are homonyms for prosperity and good fortune. Other braises my mom would make are things like duck webs (*)and pork belly with preserved mustard greens.
Another tradition is having a whole chicken. My mother would often poach ours. It has to be a whole animal. That again demonstrates prosperity, but also a completeness or togetherness of the family. It’s the same with seafood — you would serve a fish whole. The chicken can also serve as a stand-in for the phoenix in the yin-yang symbol of the phoenix and the dragon, which represents harmony. The Chinese New Year table is not only a place of celebration and feasting, but it’s a representation of the well wishes and hopes for the coming year.
I’m slowly learning to make these dishes from my mom, but I’m still lucky enough that my parents come to visit and my mom still does the New Year cooking.”
Mom’s in the kitchen; everyone gathers around the table; ever so slowly the torch is passed: Chinese New Year sounds a lot like all the other great Canadian holidays. Except with more duck webs.
(*) Editor’s Note – Duck Webs are Webbed Duck’s Feet