Every Chinese year is energised and activated by the traits of the animal it falls in. The Year of the Dragon starts on January 23rd 2012. Hold on to your hats! 2012 will be a fast moving year - and the dragon is the ruler of weather and water, so expect the unexpected.
The most well-known of the Chinese zodiac legends states that Buddha invited the animals to participate in a race. The prize was a coveted position on the Chinese Zodiac calendar. The first 12 animals to cross the river would appear on the Chinese Zodiac calendar in the order in which they completed the race.
The first animal to make it across the finish line according to Chinese Zodiac legends and mythology was the rat. It seems unlikely that such a small animal could win such a strenuous race, especially when one considers all the contenders.
Chinese Zodiac legends and mythology explains that the rat used his brain rather than his brawn. It hitched a ride on what it perceived was the mightiest swimmer. Just before the buffalo reached the shore, the rat jumped off the buffalo’s back and crossed the finish line before the buffalo, putting the rat in first place.
The buffalo came in second and as promised in the legends and mythology, was the second animal listed on the Chinese Zodiac. The tiger, also being strong, came in third, followed by the rabbit that jumped his way across and was helped during the last stretch by the dragon. A snake hid in the hoof of the horse which is how it managed to make it across the river. At the last minute the snake jumped out and scared the horse into seventh place.
The sheep, monkey and rooster helped one another across and earned their spots on the calendar as well. The dog made it too, but decided a bath was more important than the position which is why it came in eleventh. Finally, the pig appeared and is listed last. According to Chinese Zodiac legends and mythology, the pig feasted and rested half-way through the race, but made it across guaranteeing its position.
Well, like the pig, we definitely believe that Chinese New Year is a time for feasting! We will be putting together a Chinese New Year banquet like the family dinners I remember from my childhood, with the most traditional foods, plus some tasty family favourites like Ma Po Tofu.
The dumplings will all be handmade by us in the kitchen, so that will be around 200 or so dumplings that will need to be made, fresh on the day ;-)
Preserved Cucumbers in XO sauce
Jiaozi/Guo Tie or Potsticker dumplings - These dumplings signify family reunion. In northern China families traditionally spend New Year's Eve together preparing the dumplings, which are eaten at midnight. Crescent-shaped Jiaozi are a symbol of wealth and prosperity because of their resemblance to ancient Chinese money (silver ingots).
Pork bone soup with Chinese Radish just like my grandmother used to make
Orange Chicken - oranges are traditional symbols of abundance and good fortune; serving a whole chicken symbolizes wholeness and prosperity.
Pak Choi in Oyster Sauce
Spring Onion noodles with Cha Siu - noodles signify longevity - it's important not to cut them!
Ma Po Tofu this one is my sister's favourite dish, with minced pork and tofu.
Steamed whole Cantonese Seabass The word for fish, "Yu," sounds like the words both for wish and abundance, and serving a fish at the end of the meal symbolizes a wish for abundance in the coming year
Tang Yuen these round sweet dumplings are symbolic of family unity and harmony. Tang stands for reunion and yuen means round or complete.
Really, we should have 8 dishes as 8 is a lucky number so I won't count the first 2, they are just "snacks" :-)
Cost will be £50 for this special meal of which £45 will go direct to MSF.
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