Lifestyle

In Singapore, Chinese New Year is a multicultural holiday

For about two decades, Shila Das has been bringing her chicken curry and nasi biryani to her best friend, Wendy Chua, because they New Year celebrate together in their native Singapore. They start the day with those dishes, then eat hot pot.

The women, both 51, began spending the holiday together as teenagers, watching lion dance troupes perform in the Chua’s wide atrium. Nearly three decades ago, Chua’s family of Chinese descent has tasked Ms. Das, who is Indian and Vietnamese, to preside over their household. New Year celebrations, a Singaporean tradition centered around yu sheng, one of the country’s most popular New Year’s dishes. Ms. Das led the family in tossing ingredients, tossing raw fish, crackers, shredded carrots and pickled ginger in the air while shouting auspicious phrases in Chinese. (Lo hei means “fortune” in Cantonese.)

“Just imagine. In this Chinese house, there’s this Indian girl standing in the chair and leading every year,” Ms. Das said.

The Lunar New Year, which falls on February 1 this year, is celebrated mainly in Singapore by members of the Chinese-Chinese community, who make up three-quarters of the population. They include Hokkien, Cantonese and Teochew people from southeastern China; Hainan from Hainan island province; Hakka, a group of migrants scattered throughout China; and Peranakan, who have been in the area for more than 400 years and are also of mixed Malay and European origin. Each ethnic group has its own traditions, but years of living together, and among other ethnicities such as the Malays and Indians, have created the island’s colorful and distinctive cuisine.

Because Singapore is a port city where people from different cultures have mingled and shared food for centuries, sharing a multicultural holiday meal “came as natural as breathing.” “. Christopher Tan49 years old, a writer specializing in writing cookbooks about traditional Southeast Asian pastries. For the holidays, he makes nian gao, a type of glutinous rice cake that is considered a symbol of Chinese prosperity.

Desserts for the holidays are often made from rice grown in the region. But British settlements and colonization eventually brought flour and butter to Singapore, which are also commonly used today.

When the chef Shermay Lee visiting her ageless aunt for the festival, she was greeted with a plate of warm homemade pastries: elongated scrumptious biscuits, sweet pineapple tarts, and paper-thin biscuits rolled into delicate cigars . Those family recipes were passed down from Mrs. Lee’s grandmother, Chua Jim Neo, a prominent Peranakan food character and mother of Lee Kuan Yew, a founding father and the first prime minister of Singapore.

Ms. Lee said her grandmother also often served the Lunar New Year dinner on festive red and yellow lacquered porcelain, with fork and knife instead of chopsticks – a typical Peranakan table setting. “It’s part of Singapore’s colonial history,” said Ms. Lee, who has rewritten and updated her grandmother’s cookbook.

Feast of 15 days Sharon Wee, a Peranakan cookbook author in New York City, grew up eating that took weeks of preparation. Before New Year’s Eve, she would watch her mother season fresh yellow noodles with sambal belacan, a spicy and curry sauce mixed with spices that she dried and swelled, then brought to a factory Indian mill to grind. Because her parents cooked many New Year’s dishes including pork, they also bought it rare beef for their Muslim friends.

For many Singaporeans today, cooking for two weeks in a row is just an overwhelming undertaking. It is increasingly common for modern families to gather at a hotel restaurant for a single party, or to prepare simple versions of sophisticated traditional dishes.

“I think it will be easier to cook vegetable dishes during the Lunar New Year,” said Darren Ho, 32, a chef and belly dance instructor in Singapore. While meat is a popular holiday choice, Ho’s accompanying meal is chap chee, a festive braised cabbage dish flavored with soy sauce. “Sometimes we get a little lazy and this is the easiest quick fix,” he says.

Ms. Chua, who now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Ms. Das, who lives in Seattle, will meet their friends in Singapore again this year to celebrate.

“Our food is Chinese, Malay, Peranakan, Indian, Indonesian and Filipino,” Ms. Das said. “We are one big family.”

Cooking recipe: Singapore style chicken curry | Nasi Biryani | Nian Gao (Sweet potato baked sticky rice cake) | Nonya Hokkien Fried Noodles | Sambal Belacan | Chap Chye (Braised Cabbage and Mushrooms)

The complex combination of spices and aromas in these Singaporean dishes can be difficult to pair with wine. My first dish is riesling, preferably a sweet light style from Germany like spätlese or kabinett. The wonderful balance between sugar and acidity in these wines makes them quite refreshing, low in alcohol, and overall they go well with a variety of spicy and complex Asian cuisines. \ from where and young, red succulent Loire. Delicious, dry cider will be surprisingly delicious. The same goes for sherry fino. ERIC ASIMOV

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/21/dining/singapore-lunar-new-year.html In Singapore, Chinese New Year is a multicultural holiday

Fry Electronics Team

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