IN a country like the Philippines, where a large Chinese community thrives, Chinese New Year is always a major occasion and cause for celebration. And according to the lunar calendar, which the Chinese follow right alongside the Western calendar, Chinese New Year falls on January 31, 2014, and this year happens to be the Year of the Wooden Horse, which is generally believed to be a good year for everyone.
Aside from having a festive Dragon and Lion Dance to shoo away evil spirits and attract good vibes and good fortune in the new year, one important Chinese tradition that is now practiced in the Philippines is the Prosperity Toss. It’s actually a Prosperity Meal that starts with the tossing of the Yee Sang Salad (also referred to as Yu Sheng Salad) and is followed by lauriat courses of dishes believed to bring good luck in the coming year.
A Yee Sang Salad is a raw fish salad whose historical roots can be traced to Old China but is more likely a recent tradition started by the Singaporean and Malaysian Chinese. Families and/or friends gather around a platter of Yee Sang Salad, where salmon strips, shredded vegetables, peanuts, condiments and sauces are neatly arranged side by side.
To do the Prosperity Toss, all ingredients are combined on the platter, and everyone, armed with chopsticks, mixes up the ingredients and tosses them high up in the air while shouting “Huat Chay!” or “Lo Hei!” The higher up you toss the ingredients, the better, even if you make a big mess at the table.
After all the merry tossing, everyone partakes of the Yee Sang Salad, which was just what happened last Tuesday (January 21, 2014), when Makati Shangri-La Manila’s top officials, led by the Shangri-La Group’s area manager and Makati Shangri-La general manager Alain Borgers, hosted a Yee Sang Lunch at the hotel’s highly acclaimed Shang Palace.
Two tables were set up for the Prosperity Toss, one led by Executive Chinese Chef Richard Thong and the other led by Borgers and restaurant manager Agnes Chua, with Singaporean Ambassador Hirubalan V P and his wife Mano Totamby as special guests. Everyone gathered around the tables and did the Prosperity Toss, after which the restaurant staff served small portions of the Yee Sang Salad to everyone.
What followed was a delightful 8-course lauriat lunch prepared by the Shang Palace kitchen staff.
The Prosperity Meal began with a Suckling Pig Combination Platter teeming with different cold cuts, roasts, jelly fish and egg. My favorite, as always, was the jelly fish.
Next came the Dried Scallops, Shredded Chicken and Bamboo Pith with Crab Meat Soup served in individual soup bowls. It was served at just the right temperature, and everyone at our table agreed that it was so typical of Shang Palace – delicious and flavorful, and generous with its ingredients and portions. Soup has, after all, been one of the strengths of Shang Palace.
Then the dishes came one by one. There was Stir-fried Scallops with XO Sauce. The huge, luscious and fresh scallops were stir-friend with broccoli flowers, flavored with a light XO Sauce that made it refreshing to the palate.
Following it was Braised Baby Abalone Dried Oyster with Black Mushroom and Garden Green in Japanese Beancurd Skin. This is a typical Chinese gourmet dish that is usually served during special occasions such as Chinese New Year.
Next up was Steamed Lapu-Lapu, Hong Kong Style, in Light Soya Sauce. Now, this is the dish that I always look forward to in Chinese lauriats, whether it be Chinese New Year or no occasion at all. It’s a great dish to serve for Chinese New Year because fish is believed to bring abundance throughout the year.
In place of the Deep Fried Crispy Chicken, which was on the original menu, was a Duck dish that’s also believed to bring good luck and fortune.
The Wok-fried Glutinous Rice with Winter Meat in Lotus Leaf that followed was incredibly flavorful and delicious. It was actually a cross between Kiampung (Chinese paella) and Machang (savory sticky rice dish wrapped in lotus leaves into a pyramid shape and steamed). This one was also made with sticky rice wrapped into a huge lotus leaf pouch and got a lot of its flavor from the Chinese sausage that it was cooked with.
Dessert came in the form of Crispy Fried Nian Gao (translation into layman’s term: tikoy) and Chilled Pumpkin Cream with White Fungus (white, flower-shaped seaweeds boiled to tenderness).
Set menus such as this, which feature multiple courses of traditional Cantonese delicacies, are available at the Shang Palace for dinner on January 30, 2014 (from 6:00 to 10:30 p.m.) and for lunch (from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.) and dinner (from 6:00 to 10:30 p.m.) on January 31.
Tikoys in three variants – Traditional, Yam and Coconut – will also be available at the Chinese New Year booth at the hotel lobby until February 4. So with Red Bean Tart, Pineapple Tart and Radish Cake.
For guests who choose to stay at the hotel for the Chinese New Year celebration, Makati Shangri-La offers special room rates starting at Php6,888 per night for two adults and two children aged 6 and below. The package includes buffet breakfast at Circles Event Café and a voucher for a 2-piece Prosperity Fish Tikoy.
Other dining delights related to Chinese New Year have been put together at the hotel’s other dining outlets, such as Inagiku, Circles and even the Isabela Ballroom.
(Makati Shangri-La Manila is located at Ayala Ave. cor. Makati Ave., Makati City. For inquiries and reservations, call 813-8888.)