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Jan 22, 2004 08:00 PM

Chinese New Year's Eve Banquet: Lucky Eight Cold Appetizers

  • m

Last night the Fish, Fong, Fujiyama, Wilson, and Wong clans gathered with a few friends to greet 4701, Year of the Monkey, with a sumptuous banquet. Our first order of business was to pop the corks and raise our glasses in a toast to the new year. Then Perry "chowchild" had a quick Cantonese and Mandarin lesson and proved his proficiency in both before his aunties forked over the "lucky money" in a red envelope.

At 7:45pm, the first course was served - a dazzling carousel of eight cold plates accompanied by four condiments. The condiments or relishes could be combined with the various dishes to create different flavor notes and tones.


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  1. For those who like to know the ending before you decide to read along, here's the state of my brother William's table at the end of service. Streamers from the poppers, a bevy of wine glasses and empty bottles, remains of desserts, the tray of sweet meats, and the last of the tangerine centerpiece.

    Linked below is the slide show of William's pictures from table and perspective to get a different look at this special meal.



    1 Reply
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      great report of a very special meal - thanks for sharing.

    2. Some astonishing knife work demonstrated here in creating the chef's impressionist view of a monkey's head.


      1. A warm and sweet syrupy broth with a pair of red dates for good luck and some crystal clear chewy nubbins of shark cartilage imported from China. Presented in glass bowls with dragon-handled gilded liners, it looked like molten gold.


        2 Replies
        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Amazingly, even though almost every morsel of the repast was a revelation, the only thing I am still craving tonight is this date soup! The straightforwardness of the syrup accented by the bits of gelatinous cartilage just clicked into a haunting food memory now filed away in some corner of my taste subconscious.

          1. re: Miele Maiale

            I agree that the visual simplicity of this dessert was somewhat deceiving. A clear syrup with near-invisible pieces of cartilage and the duo of floating red dates. I'm not versed in what type of refined and less so sugars a Chinese cook would use to create that syrup, but there was a gentle undertone in the flavor that reminded me of the brown type of sugar used in champurrado.

        2. The final savory dish was rice in a clay pot topped with a red and white yin-yang pattern of white chicken pieces and red lop cheung sausages. This was served individually in small bowls and topped with a soy-based seasoning sauce.

          I felt it was the weakest of the dishes. Yet Maria "coolbean" mentioned that she was surprised how much she enjoyed the white rice at the end of this long meal. We agreed there was something about the simplicity and blankness of this dish that was appealing after so many intricate and detailed courses. Tom used his portion to enjoy more of the fish's sweet-sour sauce.


          1 Reply
          1. re: Melanie Wong
            Maria (coolbean)

            Yeah, it was definitely the weakest dish, but wow, what a contrast after all the intense flavors of the other dishes! It was just very cleansing. I could have even used more rice after dessert. ;)

          2. This was a whole fish in name only as the individual rolls were constructed of fish filets rolled around a stalk of crunchy gai lan that was green on one end and a peeled white on the other. The sweet and sour sauce was perfectly balanced and complex with many subtle flavors. To represent harmony and wholeness, the deep-fried head and tail were presented with the fish to reconstruct the body. Bryan L. and Michael Rodriguez quickly claimed these prized crunchy parts.