Buongiorno, bonjour and “g’day”! (don't you like how they're all the same thing? ~ who knew Australian vernacular was so cosmopolitan???).

Also, "a good day to you, sir/maam" for our American pals, "Ni Hao" to China, and "Здравствуй" to our Russian comrades, "etcetera etcetera and so forth"... (for Yul Brynner).

It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

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Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Chinese New Year 2015 – Year of the Sheep

Hello (or should I say “ni hao”?)!

It occurs to me that Chinese New Year’s day is supposed to be next Thursday 19th Feb (opinions vary, and Crown Casino stretches the Lunar New Year out for a month… they know their ”lucky” key demographic, after all).

But don’t you think we should make next Wednesday a Chinese New Year’s eve dinner, and make it totally 70's style? (there's a picture of me here on the way to such a dinner...)

I do; I firmly believe in celebrating everybody’s holidays. You may as well – you get more fun that way, not to mention inter-cultural awareness.

This article looks at some Chinese New Year customs you can indulge in, and recommends a return to traditional (1970's) values.  Now read on!...

The year coming is the year of the sheep; I’ve also heard it called year of the goat… I suspect the Chinese use the same word for both animals (obviously, be wary of ordering either meat from Chinese menus).

I am a rat, for those interested – though you probably already suspected as much – and this year will be the first sign on the crawl back from the nadir of my oriental (as opposed to occidental) star sign’s wheel – heading back to home base.

Also, never order rat from the menu, incidentally.

Let me state categorically that I am not of Chinese ancestry… to my knowledge; though you never know, since half of my relatives come from Bendigo, and we all know what went on in the Gold Fields, and sometimes with members of the opposite sex!! (Hello, incidentally, to Sun Loong… the longest Chinese Dragon in the world; and if you're going to have a Sun, it may as well be a loooong one).

I have, however, an empathy for Chinese culture and cuisine. I’ve been, at least, to Hong Kong a couple of times, visited the new territories and have watched a swathe of Chinese action and fantasy movies (last one watched 14 Blades which you can watch here, in the mould of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, tip top).

Oh yeah, and in my incarnation as an advertising copy writer, I once had to write an article about the Chinese New Year for a Kan Tong advertising four page spread in Women’s Weekly, where I learnt some great Chinese New Year tips, to wit:
  • Clean out bad luck from your house. Sweep up cobwebs, and open all the windows and doors, banging pot lids or letting off firecrackers on New Year’s eve to drive away the bad luck, and leaving your portals all open to let in the new year and good luck (luck figures prominently in Chinese culture).
  • Give children money – often in “lucky envelopes” (these are red and gold in colour): since kids represent the new year, giving them money will make you extra lucky.
  • Lucky dish to eat for the New Year celebrations? Anything with pork in it (or maybe duck)! I like their thinking!!
My first memories of eating at Chinese restaurants is that they were the ONLY restaurants, besides Italian pizza joints (if you can count Pizza Hut) that you could go to in 70’s Eastern suburbs Melbourne (hello East Doncaster! – you have GOT to watch this video, hilarious!).

Thoughts of parents coming home with saucepans filled with that night's dinner as take away also come to mind, pre-dating plastic take away containers (not necessarily my own memories, but I really am that old; we even used to get milk delivered by horse and cart in glass bottles in 1970’s East Donnie). You can still visit the shrine of my childhood home at 21 St Clems Rd, East Doncaster, incidentally. I believe they’ve installed one of those little blue and white plaques.

My sister Ange (or somebody very like her) has complained that Chinese food is a bit too deep fried and jammy, but “if memory serves me correctly” there is a wide variety of provincial Chinese cooking, from hot as hades Szechuan style, to simple rural dishes, to extravagant big city feasts.

And not all of them have fish balls.

Wednesday night should be Chinese New Year’s Eve, when actual Chinese people celebrate – many a time I’ve tried to go out on New Year’s day for some Peking Duck only to find all of the traders shut since they’d taken the day off to nurse their hangovers.

And, as is usual, Wednesday night is the night I catch up with my wife’s family in suburban Vermont, or Vermicelli, and so I have seeded the plans for a 1970’s suburban Chinese restaurant revival. Perhaps you might like to join the craze?

I can just see it now; suburban Chinese restaurants, sweet and sour pork, #27 with black bean sauce, prawn crackers, fortune cookies, lucky envelopes, and the traditional banging of saucepan lids later to drive away bad spirits.

Clean your houses everyone, sweep away the cobwebs, and let’s get to it! Here’s just three gems I’ve sourced in Melbourne’s “far East” (you’re welcome):

Emperor Court
370 Mitcham Road Mitcham 3132
(though I don’t think Derrik J will be playing, but you can see him at the site above…)

or maybe:

Formosa House
86 Springvale Road

or possibly even:

Mei Jing
703 Boronia Road
Wantirna VIC

Have a Prosperous New Year!!

p.s. Have you ever seen this bookshop in Vermont, directly across from Hollyrood Drive? I found it during my researches on Google Maps, and can’t believe I’ve never been there!!


Kit Fennessy said...

Hey, check out this thing that explains the confusion between goats and sheep in Chinese writing!: