I put out the chuen-hup (the Chinese New Year candy box.) It’s usually a lidded, round box-tray divided into compartments that traditionally contains red melon seeds, candied/dried fruits and vegetables, and some candy. You can buy plastic ones at Chinese supermarkets (impersonating the lacquer ones that were used in the old country in the old, old days.) Mine is lacquer, but it’s Burmese, purchased in Thailand. And since I really don’t like red melon seeds or candied/dried coconut, lotus roots, lotus seeds, etc, I filled it with things I like to eat. Hey, in California, where we’re free to adapt/create our own traditions, like having lion dancers at Chinese weddings, I can make the following justifications for what I included in my chuen hup:
Almonds, tamari: In Cantonese, almonds are called “hung yan“: “hung” sounds like luck.
Walnuts: plain toasted: In Cantonese, walnuts are called “hup toh“: “hup” also means ‘united’, ‘together’.
Raisins: they’re sweet (for sweetness in life.) There’s a Hispanic custom where you’re supposed to eat 12 grapes for good luck on the stroke of midnight at New Year.
Candied ginger: OK, this is the only ‘traditional’ item. I always keep some around, because it aids in digestion and warming.
Roasted, salted edamame: they look like little green jade beans. I see it as a harbinger of wealth.
Fruits chews shaped like bears: They come in orange, yellow and red: which are colors of wealth (gold) and luck (red)
Chocolate: instead of the usual gold foil wrapped milk chocolate coins, I got these dark chocolate balls wrapped in foil that are printed with a map of the globe. I thought it was obvious that you were supposed to take off the foil wrapper: but maybe that’s because I’m used to European chocolates at Cost-Plus, where chocolates are wrapped in foil that are shaped and imprinted to look like toys, animals, etc. But two people unwittingly popped the whole thing in their mouth . . . oops.
We hosted the annual crab feed for my extended family yesterday, which turned out to coincide with Chinese New Year. It’s really taboo to kill (crabs) and slice (anything) on New Year’s. I was so busy in the morning I didn’t have time to comb my hair. Which it turns out, is also a no-no on new year. One saving grace.
This year was the first time we had the crab feed at lunch; so it was the first time my relatives got to see our place in daylight. “So that’s what it looks like out that window!” one of my aunts exclaimed.
We did the usual crab, clam chowder, Acme bread (Joe insisted on the onion bread, as well as baguettes), and steak for non-crab-eaters. But instead of salad, I decided to do steamed broccoli, because it’s easier to eat with your fingers, and the leftovers don’t wilt as quickly. Also I decided to serve fruit and little individual custards for dessert, as something light and refreshing. One of my aunts brought a mango mousse cake. So we had triple dessert.
I didn’t have enough ramekins for the custards, so I resorted to using Chinese and Japanese teacups. It turned out fine, except, I didn’t add enough sugar, and probably didn’t beat the eggs enough, because it was a bit dense, but fortunately, not over-cooked.
Even though it’s winter, there’s quite a decent selection of fruit: strawberries, persimmon, pears, kiwis, tangerines. People really liked the fruit, broccoli and bread: asking, “Where did you get it from?”
“Farmer’s market, of course!” (I always kid my aunt about buying fruit and veg at Costco.)
Farmer’s market evangelism continues . . .
Next Saturday, we host another crab feed. Let’s see if we can make it through this week without getting the house/dining table cluttered, so we don’t have to clean up again for the guests!