chinese wedding party 101

April 27, 2006 at 6:38 am (reflectionary)

Awww hell, and it wasn't even a Chinese wedding dinner party…

A friend of mine from San Diego who is getting married in July had just sent out an email to all his guests about the intricacies behind a Chinese wedding banquet — food playing a central role to the celebratory event. At the last wedding I went to, the MC tried to squeeze tiny tidbits about the rituals like the bouquet toss and wedding cake but somehow it got all lost in the buzz around the groom seranading the bride. The open bar didn't help much either for retaining the knowledge. (BTW, the invitation my friend sent is beautiful and tri-lingual [in Chinese, Vietnamese and English] and I think it is lightly jasmine-scented but I could be hallucinating.)

For the most part, our wedding will be pretty traditional. In the 5th to 3rd centuries BC, there were guides such as the "Book of Etiquette and Ceremonial" laying out the rites considered essential to any Chinese wedding.

A number of rituals were discussed there, such as the preparation of the bridal bed, typically installed by a bearer of many children to ensurefertility for the couple, the hair-combing ceremony the night before forboth the bride and groom as a rite of passage as they transition frombeing a son/daughter to husband/wife, and the tea ceremony to serve tofamily members on both sides to receive their blessings for the union.The color red is symbolic for all joyous Chinese events. In a wedding, this may be in the invitations, decorations, clothing, and other motifs. Although not required, red may be worn throughout the wedding by the bridein one or more of her dresses and by the guests.Ubiquitous in any traditional Chinese wedding, the Chinese characterfor "Double Happiness", dating back to the Tang Dynasty, is in the front of all our invitation envelopes and is taped and framed against the walls of the restaurant, bedrooms, corridors, and homes.Here's a link that gives some of the history behind the symbol (

In many Chinese weddings, eight and nine are good numbers. Eight ("baht") rhymes with "faht" ("to prosper"), whereas Nine ("gou") is a homophone tothe Chinese word for "long". Many of the dishes are symbolic for wishingthe Chinese couple prosperity, happiness, longetivity, and peace together. At our banquet, there will actually be 11 courses total. However, most Chinese actually do not count the appetizer plate or the dessert. Excluding thesethen, we have 9 main courses, served family style.

In many of the plates, such as the lobster, fish, and chicken dishes, you'll notice that these items will be served in its entirety, head and all. A Chinese proverb says to "have head have tail," to mean "completeness". Here are some of the menu items to expect:

An appetizer plate
Cold cuts, jelly fish, and roast pork. Pork is served here to
represent virginity. In the past, wealth had been measured by
the amount of livestock a family possesses. The groom's family will
offer a whole suckling pig for the bride's family as a gift.
Its presentation at the engagement is no simple feat,
so any family going through the trouble to offer this gift to
the bride's family meant that the bride was of good and pure

Garlic Stir-Fried Scallops
Scallops are symbolic for wealth, as many items that pertain to
currency have a derivative of its character in Chinese.

Roast Squab
Squab is a small, fledgling pigeon and is used here as a symbol for
peace to wish the couple a peaceful life together. The word for
it in Cantonese is "Yi Kap", which also sounds like the words for an
"an easy fit" in Chinese.

Abalone with Shitake Mushrooms
Abalone (pronounced "Bao-yu" in Cantonese) sounds like the phrase
"assurance of surplus". The Shitake Mushrooms enhance the flavors
and relate back to the texture of the Abalone.

Shark-Fin Soup with Crabmeat
This makes a good brothy complement next to all the other dishes.
For its cost and symbolism for wealth, serving shark-fin soup is
typically reserved for special occasions such as weddings and
major birthdays. As sharks do not get cancer, many Chinese also
believe that it's good for you,

Lobster stir-fried in Chicken Broth
The word for Lobster ("long ha") is literally "dragon shrimp"
in Chinese. Commonly used for celebrations, the dragon is a symbol
for strength. In a wedding, the Dragon represents the Male in the

Chicken stuffed with Kum-Hua Ham
A more romantic word for Chicken in Chinese is "Fong".
Literally it means "phoenix" and is a symbol for the Female
in the union. The Ham ("Kum-Hua") literally means "Golden and

Cantonese Style Steamed Fish with Ginger & Scallions
Fish is a symbol for abundance as any waters that have plenty of fish
will also have a lot of natural resources the fish can feed on. Its
word in Chinese, "Yu", is a homonym for "having enough".

Noodles in Abalone Sauce
For its length, noodles are symbolic for longevity in the Chinese
culture. This dish is served to wish the couple a long, happy marriage.

Chow Fan (Fried Rice) with Scallops
There's a fried rice dish with a tomato based fried rice
on one side and normal fried rice on the other, symbolizing both
sides coming together. But we don't like this dish and
just opted for normal Fried Rice with Dried Scallops.

Dessert – "One Hundred Years of Good Togetherness"
This sweet dessert is served to newlyweds to wish them a sweet life.
The hot sweet soup should contain lotus seeds (symbolic for fertility)
and a bark-like vegetable (bak hop, literally "hundred-togetherness")
to wish the newlyweds one hundred years of togetherness.

Other protocols at the Banquet:
The banquet starts with a meet-and-greet and guest sign-in at the door.
In a traditional Chinese wedding, most of the guests will choose
to give red envelopes stuffed with cash at the reception area to wish the
couple a happy marriage.

Food will be served about one hour from the start of the reception, with
a brief introduction of the bride, groom, and their family members.
About halfway through the banquet, the bride and the groom will make
their way around the tables, making toast with their guests and thanking
them for their attendance.

During the banquet, the guests may slap their chopsticks or utensils on
their plates to coerce the bride and groom to display their affection for
one another, typically to get them to kiss. Tricks may be played on the
bride and groom throughout the night. (I'm not encouraging any of you to
do so…)

At the end of the night after the cake has been cut and served, the couple
and their parents will be at the door, thanking all their guests as
they leave.


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i like it hot.

April 25, 2006 at 5:09 am (masarap/taste good, reflectionary)

there are a few things i've learned from my tatay. i learned how to wash rice before cooking it (called saing). i learned how to shuffle a deck of cards right before playing solitare. i found the pleasure in sitting quietly on a spring afternoon listening to baseball on the radio. but the two things that that i remember the most from my tatay is how to make bibinka and how to make ginataan. i think i'm straight with the bibinka, but the ginataan is a little more tricky.

ginataan is a warm, coconut milky creamy dessert that is like comfort food with a lotta surprises in it.

sometimes, there's some jackfruit.

sometimes, there's saba cooked in brown sugar syrup in it.

sometimes, some taro root.

other times, there's sticky rice balls.

or, a pleasant purple surprise – ube (purple yam). the way i like it is with corn, rice, and bilo-bilo (small sticky rice balls).

today, i made my first batch with the aforementioned ingredients.

get this stuff:

1 cup sweet rice flour

1/4 cup water

1/2 tbs. vanilla

2 packages frozen coconut milk (thawed)*

1 cup skim milk

1/2 cup sugar**

1 can coconut cream

1/2 package frozen sweet white corn (trader joe's is the sweetest)
1/2 cup uncooked rice, rinsed

do it:

1. heat coconut milk, milk & cream in a pot on medium heat till it simmers. add rinsed rice.

2. in a separate bowl, combine rice flour with just enough water to hold the dough together (approx. 1/4 of a cup). you want the dough to hold shape but not be super sticky.

3. once rice is soft, make small dough balls and place in pot. cook dough for 5 minutes, simmering on medium heat. add frozen corn and bring back to simmer. mix in vanilla and turn off heat.

4. get your ginataan on.

there could be many different variations of this dessert. you could add cocoa powder to make it chocolaty, or some fresh mangoes right before serving it to give it a little tang, chop up a bit of plantains and simmer for awhile. the possibilities are ginormous. 

*i like using the frozen coconut milk because it tastes more fresh than canned, however, canned will work as well.

**adjust the sugar to suit your taste. add a bit more if you have a sweet tooth ( :

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thank you to all who have taught me how to pipe rosettes

March 22, 2006 at 6:53 am (reflectionary)

piping buttercream is now my favorite meditative ritual. its like painting, only, the canvas is an edible, shareable 9-inch circle or rectangle.

part of the theory of “each one, teach one”, (coined by frank laubach, the “father” of literacy) is the idea of active learning, which paolo freire also theorized in pedagogy of the oppressed. this idea of active learning means to use multi-sensory techniques to enrich the learning environment allowing one who is learning to process and absorb information more readily and retain that information.

i’m working on a project at work where active learning is a key component for learners to achieve success in their literacy goals. tonight, we held a cake decorating workshop for learners and tutors. one might think that cake decorating and literacy has no correlation. the facilitators, a learner and tutor, started off having a platonic literacy relationship, until they both realized that they shared one passion – decorating cakes. after enrolling in classes together, they started decorating cakes for friends and relatives. for our organization’s anniversary celebration, they baked and decorated the centerpiece cake. word got out about these two cake phenoms and they created two baby shower cakes for staff at the santa clara county library. and tonight, they patiently taught seven eager deco-wannabes how to make shells, cut a cake into perfect layers and explained to me what a cake belt was and how it would help my cakes bake more nicely.

i never cease to be humbled by those around me, teaching me, through food, that its the sharing process where we learn multitudes about how to be better givers to each other and to ourselves.

thank you.

baking with nanay. bylizelle festejo

i remember the delicious scent of lemon chiffon batter and the thick, pasty taste of it. yet, it was sweet because of the merengue that was the base of the batter. sometimes, she would add strong coffee to it made from three teaspoons of strong folger’s crystals. other times, she would just add ube powder to tint the batter into a deep purple. or was it really just blue and red food coloring? my memory fails me here for all i remember is the house filling up with the warm aroma of freshly baking cake. or the sound of the electric mixer softening the buttercream frosting while the sugar crystals scrape the insides of the bowl. or the time my sister burnt the side of her arm trying to take the spoon to mix away from me. or the deep brown crust of the cake stuck to the insides of the pan after she had turned it over onto a cooling rack where in a little while, it would be ready to frost. in those impatient moments, we would take turns scraping the brown crumbs from the pan with a spoon with very little time and distance between the pan and our mouths.

i wish i saved the recipies she had written for me one summer afternoon where she showed me how to make the cakes my dad remembers having every birthday. together, we went to the store buying a bunt cake pan, softsilk cake flour, lemon extract and a flour sifter, all tools needed to create the perfect delectable cake. i was eager to learn and she, at times, was impatient at my unwillingless to listen and attempts to try to do it my way. despite the miscommunication and mistakes, together we made her famous mocha chiffon cake. and together, we ate it too.

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japanese food takes a long time to prep no wonder why its $$$$!!

January 17, 2006 at 8:04 am (reflectionary)

my mom and i went shopping at mitsuwa yesterday. it’s wintertime so what i was happiest the most about seeing on the shelves were the boxes of meltykiss, ahem, meltyblend. this year, aside from the standard royal cacao, they have in stock royal almond!

inside the box reads, “gently melts in your mouth like a snowflake”, and i swear, these little individually wrapped chocolates are cubes of winter wonderland heaven. last year, my friend yasko brought me back a box of green tea meltyblend on her trip home to japan. i remembered that these chocolates were what nudged me along writing lit papers while i was in school. the best thing is, they’re individually wrapped in foil cellophane so you definitely have to work for it. currently, i am reading chocolate: a bittersweet saga of dark and light by mort rosenblaum and so far, meiji chocolates weren’t even mentioned. minus five for an almost 10 star read.

my mom and i tag teamed prepping dinner tonight so while she rolled up sushi with mango, snow crab and shrimp, i made some fried dough bits for a crunchy kani salad that she prepped earlier, broiled chicken teriyaki, made miso soup using dashi miso, seaweed and tofu and baked my first maccha green tea cheesecake (post distribution of portions to my family):

the pan i had orignally prepped (with a crust and all!) started to leak so i was forced to use a brownie pan. i should definitely invest in a kaiser pan very soon. the cake turned out pretty well, though i used some stale brittany galettes, they toasted up alright.

genmai-cha, cheesecake & blueberries (yay!)

my mom and i both agreed that it will be a VERY long time till the next time we set out to cook some japanese food for dinner again.


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random cake pic

January 14, 2006 at 4:57 pm (reflectionary)

everyone likes cake.

tres rosas circa 1987.

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99 ranch

January 7, 2006 at 2:53 am (reflectionary)

besides the honey balls, my favorite thing to get here is the produce. where else can you get a huge pack of portobello mushrooms for $2.71?

sweet pink pomelos are also in season!

my favorite books at the moment:

Tip #2 – ‘Baby chickens’ are just as tender and favorful as cornish game hens but have more meat.


Pick up a copy of the Jan 2006 Utne magazine:

Hot Cocoa
First wine, then coffee, now chocolate: America goes gourmet. But is there a dark side?
By Anjula Razdan

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