Family Reunion at the Dinner Table
The 2019 Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner Guide for Prosperity
The Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner is undoubtedly one of the most highly anticipated and culturally significant times of the year. It’s an important tradition that requires meticulous planning and preparation in the weeks leading up to the event.
Symbolism and good fortune play an important role in the dinner. Therefore, it’s important to have your home and body ready for the celebrations so that the dinner and fifteen days of new year can proceed as they should.
It’s a happy time, not only because you’ll be surrounded by loving family and amazing food, but also because it’s a spiritually cleansing time of the year. A time where you can forgive and forget old grudges, brush away all off the negative aspects of the last year, and welcome prosperity, happiness, and good fortune into our homes.
As this is a holiday that many people look forward to for weeks in advance, it’s important to plan all of the details to ensure your Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner brings in the New Year with as much good fortune as possible.
To serve all of your family’s favourite dishes, alongside the symbolically lucky dishes, in an environment conducive to prosperity, isn’t easy. To help you host your reunion dinner without a hiccup, we’re providing step by step guides to ensure your décor and food are on point this new year.
Preparations for the Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner
Photo by: Warren R.M. Stuart
For a perfect celebration , the first thing you’ll need to look for are all of the products you’ll need for a good spring clean. Remember to clean before – not during – the 15 days of New Year festivities! This ensures that you do not “sweep away” the good luck and fortune that are bestowed upon your household during the festive period.
Once the spring cleaning is done, fresh flowers – though not white ones – and red and gold decorations can be hung around the house. Calligraphy of symbols blessings, happiness, and prosperity are also a great way to decorate your home.
Aside from tidying up the house, remember to tidy yourself up too! Cut, shave, and trim before the new year. Cutting hair during the 15 days of New Year festivities is considered bad luck; it’s tantamount to cutting ties and prosperity.
Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner Ideas
Photo by: Wiroj
Invitations, tableware, and gifts should also be planned weeks in advance. Invitations are traditionally sent to all members of the family in a decorated red envelope.
When it comes to decorations, paper lanterns can go in and outside the house, and serve as great table centrepieces too. Try covering your coffee table with a red tablecloth or runner.
The use of the colour red has nothing to do with current Chinese political leanings, and everything to do with the fact that is scares off the Nian, the beast of bad fortune, and is associated with life and all living things.If you’re in any doubt about what to do with something in your house at this time of year, you can’t go wrong with painting it red, covering it with something red, or putting something red on or in it.
As black and white are traditionally colours of mourning, they should be avoided at all costs, especially when choosing outfits to wear, or fresh flowers for the house.
Circles and squares hold significance in Chinese culture as they represent heaven and earth. Some square shaped items that you can use as part of your home decor are table runners, cushions, and dinner plates.
Hosting your Reunion Dinner at a round table with round plates is a great tradition and symbolically significant way of setting your table.
Gold napkin rings around red napkins provide a great finishing touch, and a paper representation of this year’s zodiac animal is also a great detail to include.
As a lot of dishes in Singapore are now served steamboat style, it’s wise to plan your table settings in advance to accommodate the larger hot dishes.
To summarise, a preparatory shopping list could look something this:
- Cleaning products – spring clean to leave room for good fortune to fill your home!
- Fresh flowers (not white) and calligraphy, preferably in red, to hang around your home
- Invitations to the dinner
- Red table cloth and table runner, napkins, napkin holders, tea cups
- Lanterns for inside and out, and the table
- Paper representation of this year’s zodiac animal
The next important thing to be considered is potentially the highlight of the day – the food!
Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner Food
Photo by: Mack Male
While some amazing Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner recipes are included below as a guideline, you may want to make your own version of the dish, or adopt a family favourite. Or maybe you are looking for a little inspiration for how to make some meals you already love appropriate for this special occasion.
Here is a guide to some foods and ingredients that are considered lucky. Try to incorporate as many of these in your reunion dinner menu as possible!
|Black mushroom||Make all your wishes come true|
|Sea moss, bok choy, and pineapple||Prosperity|
|Whole fish (including head and tail)||Abundance. It is important that some of the fish is left over, so there is enough abundance to go on for the whole year|
|Leafy greens, long grain rice, peaches, peanuts, and noodles||Longevity. It’s especially important that the noodles aren’t cut; that’s tantamount to cutting a long life short|
|Shrimp||Happiness and good fortune|
|Oysters||Promote success in business|
|Red dates||Success in all endeavours|
|Red Pomegranates||More Children|
|Tangerines/anything red cooked||Good luck|
|A sweet end to the meal||So you can enjoy a sweet life next year!|
Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner Menu
We suggest eight courses for your reunion dinner since eight is considered a lucky number.
The following courses are a good idea for a template:
- An Appetiser
- A Vegetable Dish
- A Noodle Dish
- Fried Rice
- A Beef Dish
- A Steamed Chicken Dish
- A Steamed Fish Dish
Remember: The point of the dinner is to bring happiness and prosperity into your household and the lives of your family for the next year. While it’s wonderful to follow tradition and prepare traditional dishes, it’s also important to eat the food that makes your family happiest. Feel free to replace any of the above with your family favourites!
Reunion Dinner Recipes Ideas
Photo by: cegoh
Here we have shared some amazing recipes that provide ideas for each of the eight courses listed above. You can swap and change ingredients to include some of the particularly lucky foods listed earlier too!
Appetiser: An appetiser really sets the mood for the dinner, so why not start as you mean to go on and begin with a bang! These appetisers will have your guests begging for more, and super eager for the other seven courses! And as an appetiser, you really can’t go wrong with dumplings.
Dumplings are delicious, and come in enough varieties that there’s surely one to please all of your guests. they also symbolise wealth, which is exceedingly important at this dinner! What’s more, as they are shaped ingots, dumplings symbolise wealth and prosperity. Two great varieties are pan-fried vegetable dumplings, or Har Gow, delicious shrimp dumplings.
And as the Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner is all about bringing the family together, and meatballs symbolise the family, meatballs could also be an awesome appetiser. Here’s a yummy recipe for meatballs.All of the ingredients required for these meals are generally super easy to find, which is also an added bonus! Want to be the first to know when all these ingredients go on promotion? Join our Giant Super Savers Club and receive the latest promotions straight to your mobile phone!
Photo by: Soon Koon
Soup: Steamboat dishes are really popular in Singapore this time of year, and are a great way to serve your soup course.
Two tasty options are available online here that have gone down a treat at steamboat parties previously, and either could make a tasty addition to your meal! For others, it’s not a Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner without fish maw soup, and this traditional dish is a firm favourite in many households.
Photo by: Alpha
Vegetable Dish: There are some delicious vegetable options, and while it’s easy to get excited over succulent pork or beef and fortuitous fish, the vegetable dish shouldn’t be overlooked, as it can be an equally tasty and exciting option. Gailan with crab meat sauce is one possibility, while Lo Han Chai is also a traditional vegetable dish that would be appropriate for a Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner.
Photo by: digitalphotolinds
Noodle Dish: How about some delicious rice noodles with pork and bean sprouts? Alternatively, try making braised longevity noodles. The noodles are a really important part of the meal, so even if neither of these noodle recipes really suit your fancy, it’s worth finding one your family will love to serve on the day!
Photo by: takedahrs
Fried Rice: Let’s be honest – the Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner is a big deal. Every course is a big deal.
You don’t want to take the easy option or go with simple foods, it’s a night to pull out all of the stops and really serve up a feast. No ordinary or simple fried rice dish will do!.
So for this massive event, why not go with this impressive banquet fried rice? It’s sure to keep everyone happy, and make the dinner memorable!
Photo by: wEnDy
Chicken Dish: Having a whole steamed chicken is a very traditional part of the menu, and serving it whole with both the head and feet attached symbolise joy.
However, most contemporary families now simply serve their favourite chicken dish so the choice is yours. You can go the simple route of steaming your chicken, or make an elaborate chicken dish with other luxurious ingredients included.
Try this Abalone Chicken Congee, which will surely please the whole family, and will be a magnet for prosperity in the coming year!
Photo by: Alpha
Fish Dish: Fish is most definitely one of the more indispensable plates to have on the table during your Chinese New Year Dinner! This is what attracts abundance, and by keeping some left over fish you are ensuring that the abundance will last all year.
While simply steaming a whole fish is a simple and tasty option, if you feel trying something new, this fancy stir fried broccoli with fish looks scrumptious – however on the day it may be prudent to carve the fish when serving, rather than cooking it chopped.
Photo by: Craig Dugas
Beef Dish: Coming in as the last but by no means least plate is the juicy beef dish. There are some amazing flavours and spices that can be used to cook beef, and while this is the kind of day to show off your culinary talents, it’s also a day to try and attract luck. Anything red cooked is seen as extremely lucky, so why not serve up this amazing red cooked beef dish?
While this would be a great template that could be used to plan an awesome Chinese New Year reunion dinner, it doesn’t need to be followed rigidly.For example, while the meat dishes above are for chicken and beef, there are some scrummy pork or duck recipes that may be more appealing to your family.
For example, this succulent braised roast pork with dried oyster and black sea moss is full of key symbolic ingredients to ensure that your family has a fantastic next year. Or how about this fabulous braised duck with sea cucumber dish that would surely be a treat to the most discerning diners?
One last thing: there should be something sweet to finish off the meal!
Steam up a storm and enjoy a prosperous year with this easy to follow recipe for Nian Gao, traditional New Year cake, to round off your meal.
Where to eat?
If you’re one of the lucky Singaporeans who have gardens or front porches, try hosting your reunion dinner outside! While there is absolutely nothing wrong with hosting your dinner outdoors, many traditional families still prefer to be inside, so the family is physically close, and the elder members of the family are warm and have comfy chairs to sit on. It’s a matter of personal preference.
Hopefully, this guide will help you to plan a wonderful Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner that’s easy and affordable and lets you enjoy good fortune and prosperity in the following year. We’re sure that you and your loved ones will be thrilled at the chance to spend quality time together and enjoy a delicious and intricately planned highlight dinner of the Chinese New Year Season!
Bonus: Get first dibs on the latest promotions on ingredients when you join our Giant Super Savers Club now!
CNY Reunion Dinner Brings The Whole Family Together | Star2.com
Entrepreneur Adeline Lee, 58, said this will be her family’s happiest reunion dinner yet, as four generations of the family will unite for the feast. The youngest addition is five-month-old Lucian Chong, the firstborn of her only son Alex Chong and daughter-in-law Joan Tiong.
Lee, who is Group Chief Operating Officer of Sakura Kristal group of companies, said that her family mostly dines out during reunion dinners as she would be busy with her work in the chain of restaurants. Moreover, the dining hall in her home is too small to accommodate a dozen people including her extended family.
Lee’s family are vegetarians on the first day of Chinese New Year.
“It’s a family tradition that is handed down from our grandparents,” she said, adding that the family would cook large portions so that visiting relatives can also enjoy the vegetarian dishes.
If the family is dining at home, she said, it would take three hours to prepare the festive meal. Her favourite is Poon Choi (or Basin Dish, a traditional Chinese New Year dish which consists of assorted dishes in one big ‘basin’). This year, the family plans to cook Lap Mei Fan (waxed meat rice) on the second day of Chinese New Year.
A Hakka, she said the traditional festive meal would consist of Cha Chee Yuk (deep-fried meat with five-spice powder), braised pork trotters and roast pork with nga ku (arrowhead).
Memories of dinners in the ancestral home
Petaling Jaya-based architect Alan Teh, in his 40s, comes from a big family. He grew up in a Chinese village in Bukit Mertajam, Penang.
His father has seven siblings. Although his parents have moved his grandfather’s house, they still return to the patriachal home to celebrate Chinese New Year every year.
Recalling those fond memories during this festive season, he said: “All my uncles would come back and celebrate Chinese New Year together at the old kampung house. However, ever since my grandparents’ house was demolished to make way for development, we now have our own (individual) family reunion dinner, It’s not as lau juak (Hokkien for merry).”
Alan Teh (front row, second from left) and his clan at their anchestral home in Kg Aston, Bukit Mertajam, in 2007. The photo was taken before they were evicted to make way for development. Photo: Teh Giek Hooi
In those days, the main course was steamboat. However, his grandmother would also prepare traditional Teochew dishes such as vinegar pork knuckles, guan chiang (Chinese vegetarian beancurd rolls), pork spring rolls, stir-fried tofu with leeks, and glutinous rice cakes.
Then there is this essential custom. The family would eat the flesh of the fried fish, but leave the head and tail overnight in the kitchen. The Chinese phrase yu tou yu wi (Mandarin meaning there’s head and tail) reminds them that they should always complete their tasks and wish for positive rewards.
This year, Teh will again be at his parents’ house in Bukit Mertajam for the reunion dinner. It is not a big affair but Teh is looking forward to his mother’s steamboat dinner, especially his favourite ingredient, fish maw!
Software engineer John Lee, 44, reminisced about the times he used to drive back to his hometown in Kota Baru for Chinese New Year.
“It has always been my most memorable moments – when my grandmother would make all our favourite dishes, such as the Nyonya hong bak (braised pork with aromatic spices), steamed crab meatballs and peppery chicken soup. My grandmother was a Peranakan while my grandfather, Kelantanese Chinese. We speak a form of local Hokkien dialect with a mixture of loghat Kelantan (Kelantanese dialect).”
John Lee’s family gathered for lou sang during Chinese New Year in 2010, when his grandmother was still around. Lee remembers the delicious dishes that she used to cook for the festive dinner. Photo: John Lee
Reunion gatherings are boisterious affairs, with the noisiest being the young children – cousins, nephews and nieces – who add a lot of joy to the occasion. The adults will be in the living room watching TV or playing games, such as mahjong or cards, while some busy themselves in the kitchen, preparing the festive fare.He said: “We would stay up for as long as we can. The children will change into their new pyjamas to welcome the new year. When the clock strikes midnight, we wish everyone a Happy New Year before going to sleep.”
Now, Lee’s extended family resides in various parts of the Klang Valley – Cheras, Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya and Puchong.
“My aunt and her family always organise an open house on the first day of Chinese New Year and invite friends and family members over for a Kelantanese feast of nasi dagang accompanied by ikan tongkol, ayam gulai and udang gulai,” he says.
Lee’s grandfather, Yeo Kim Eng, 99, is currently staying with his uncle in Puchong, Selangor. His grandmother passed away in 2014. This Chinese New Year, the reunion gathering will be celebrated here.
Lee said: “My son, seven, is always happy to meet his great grandfather. My 70-year-old mother will be cooking our favourite dishes.”
Reunion dinners then and now
Assistant manager Lim May Kwoon, 29, who works in Bandar Sunway, Selangor, related that her current Chinese New Year experience is very different from 10 years ago.
When she was a student, the reunion dinner was a chore as she had to help out with the cooking.
However, she feels “very blessed” as the youngest in the family because she gets the largest portion of everything. “If dessert was ice cream, I can ask for two scoops and mum will always say yes (for special occasions).”
For this Penangite, one of her fondest memories is having KFC in Komtar for the reunion dinner. She was about five or six years old then and, after dinner, her father bought her a dress to wear on the first day of Chinese New Year. “It was the best time I’ve ever had,” she said.
Her family does not really practise strict customs during the festive period. “But one thing that always stays the same is mum’s cooking. I can’t wait to be back home and be mum’s spoiled little girl,” she said.
Reminisced Lim: “Nowadays, we usually have steamboat reunion dinner. The soup base will always be my favourite too tor thng (Hokkien for pig stomach soup)!”
The family has no taboos on the types of dishes for this annual event but there will always be pineapples, simply because ong lai in Hokkien means “here comes luck”.
Lim used to stay up to greet the new year when she was younger.She said: “My mum’s ang pow will always be the first I get before I go to sleep in my new pyjamas. I cannot really remember when I stopped doing that. I should probably do it again this year, just for the fun of it.”
This year, she said, her mother has decided to be ambitious and cook a full meal instead of steamboat.
Said Lim: “I can imagine the whole day of preparation, and the ‘aftermath’. But instead of feeling it is a chore, I’m looking forward it. I would love to be able to cook with my feisty mum for many more years to come!”
Warm and homely affairs
Marketing consultant Shane Loh’s fondest memory of Chinese New Year reunion dinners is when her grandparents were still around.
“As my father has 10 siblings, family reunions at my grandparents’ house in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, were always a crowded affair filled with other uncles, aunties and cousins. The tiny house was always packed to the fullest, with more than 30 of us. Everyone helped out in one way or another – cooking, setting up tables, cleaning and eating,” said Loh, 35.
Her favourite dishes used to be her grandmother’s deep fried pork braised with black fungus and her grandfather’s pork ribs with pickled cucumber.
Now that she is married, reunion dinners are spent with her in-laws, and they alternate between dining out and eating at home.
A Cantonese, she said: “I still prefer reunion dinners at home rather than eating out. This year’s reunion dinner will be steamboat at home.”
Reunion dinners at restaurants, she felt, are always hasty with mass-produced dishes.
“Reunions at home just feel more homely, warm and different even with simple dishes. That is, if everyone helps out and contributes to making it a good one,” Loh said.
Feeding the Crowd at a Family Reunion
By Cheryl Fall
Cooking a meal for a large group (family reunion or otherwise) takes planning and stamina. Here’s a handy guide to food quantities and food safety, and advice on organizing a potluck party.
Planning for potlucks
The most common form of group comestibles is a potluck feast — which is the cheapest and easiest way to feed a crowd.
For potluck meals, every attendee must bring a contribution to the buffet table. You get a wide variety of items from a wide variety of cooks. (You can even swap recipes with some of the other gourmets in your family at the reunion.) Some folks may even bring along old family favorites that you haven’t had since you were a child. What a treat!
Hosting a potluck for a crowd does require a bit of planning. Using a Potluck Tracking List (as shown in Figure 1) can help you keep track of who’s bringing what. The feast can be a real bummer if everyone brings salads and nobody remembers dessert!To simplify the potluck process, you may want to assign each branch of the family a different item. For instance, your Aunt Tilly and her grown children can handle the salads, while Uncle Hubert’s clan can bring main dishes.
However, some family members often want to bring special potluck items that they’ve made for years. Whenever possible, try to accommodate them. Sharing these special dishes — and the stories that often accompany them — serve to enrich the reunion experience.
Figure 1: Potluck Tracking List.
Figuring out how much food to provide can be a challenge. A few family members always require more than the normal amount of food. If your nephew Clyde is a 7-foot-tall linebacker, he ly consumes enough food for a couple of people.
The same rule goes for beverages. But there are also family members that will require less food than the normal adult, such as children and some seniors. Here’s the advice: Don’t worry about it.
When it comes to potluck meals, there’s always more than enough food!
Use the following lists to help you figure quantities of common reunion items. Keep in mind that this information is merely intended as a guide — nothing is written in stone. The amounts are 50 attendees. You can easily double or divide the amounts.
Reunions, just all parties, need lots of appetizers and snack items. This gives folks something to munch on while they’re waiting for the main meal. Here are some appetizing ideas:
- 8 large bags of potato chips
- 5 pounds of assorted cold cuts
You can never have too many salads or vegetable dishes! Consider the following:
- 60 rolls or 5 loaves of bread
- 2 pounds of butter or margarine
Also choose two or three of the following items:
- 6 quarts potato or macaroni salad
- 25 melons (cantaloupe, watermelon, and/or honeydew)
- 1-1/2 quarts of salad dressing
- 8 quarts vegetable or pasta salad
- 1 gallon of fresh, steamed vegetables
Meats and main dishes
Be sure to keep the meat chilled in your cooler until it’s ready to cook, and pull out only as much as you can cook at one time. Use the following list for figuring out meats and main dishes for the masses:
- 20 pounds of meat (such as ground beef) or poultry
- 25 whole chickens, average size
- 1 15-pound whole turkey with 1 pound of cranberry sauce
- 15 pounds of hotdogs with 15 packages of buns
And now for the best part of the meal — dessert! Some folks may not chocolate or are diabetic, so be sure to include a variety of items. For example, you can plan for the following:
- 2 gallons of ice cream (if you have a freezer available)
Ice cream isn’t a practical dessert for a picnic unless you have found a nifty way to keep it frozen. Instead, substitute a few dozen cookies for the ice cream.
Be sure to have plenty of ice on hand so folks can refresh their drinks! You can store fresh ice in separate coolers (from the beverage coolers) and refresh the beverage coolers as necessary. Be sure to check your ice stash regularly — it melts pretty fast. If it looks you’re running low, send someone to the local mini-mart or corner grocery store for a fresh supply.
Opting for BYOs
You can also plan a Bring Your Own (BYO) event. BYOs can range from Bring Your Own Beverage (the classic BYOB) to Bring Your Own Everything (BYOE).
BYOE guests are expected to pack their own picnics, complete with food, beverages, plates, cups, and utensils. If you decide to host a BYOE, be sure that your guests understand what the term means so they don’t leave the reunion disappointed and mighty famished.
Avoiding an intestinal disaster
When preparing the foods for your family reunion, you need to keep a few things in mind to avoid food-borne illnesses — especially during the summer months when the hot sun beats down on your picnic feast.
Keep in mind that harmful bacteria begin to multiply after they reach 40 degrees Fahrenheit. You can’t always determine by sight or smell that food is spoiled. The following guidelines can help prevent the clan from getting Montezuma’s revenge.
- Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Don’t let cold foods sit without refrigeration for more than 2 hours. If the weather is hot, refrigerate cold foods immediately after serving.
- Store beverages and foods in separate coolers. The lids to the beverage coolers tend to be opened more often, allowing the cold air to escape.
- Take only as much meat the cooler as you can cook at one time. Keep the remainder in the cooler until you’re ready to cook it.
- When making chicken and pasta salads, make certain that all ingredients are thoroughly chilled before combining them.
- Keep washing. Be sure that your hands, utensils, and work area are clean before handling food and as you prepare different dishes (For example, you don’t want to prepare a salad on a counter that still has evidence of raw poultry from the fried chicken you made earlier.)
- Transfer marinated meats to a clean platter — never reuse the platter that held raw meat and marinade without thoroughly washing it.
- Have plenty of antibacterial wipes or antibacterial liquid soap for guests to use before eating.