My grandma’s cousin’s 79th birthday 8-course banquet

Interesting taboo: Females celebrate their birthdays by the decade e.g. 70th, 80th while males do it one year beforehand since the numbers “sounds” better. 9 in Chinese has various positive associations, since it also sounds like “long”.

79 birthday

He’s probably older than that – they didn’t have documentation like birth certificates back then and birthdays are largely chosen and might be off by years. The birthday banquet was held at Sheraton. This was a very popular place back in the days – there were only a few “opulent” restaurants at the time, and Sheraton was one of them.

steamed peanuts

Deep Fried Boiled Eggs with Longevity Noodles

deep fried egg

This is a classic birthday dish in my hometown. It’s of Foochow origin, I believe. The boiled eggs are slightly coated with batter and then deep fried before being served with fried longevity noodles. It’s supposed to bring good luck, but this dish that’s becoming a little old-fashioned and I only see it during banquets thrown by the older generation now.

It’s good when done well and I ate 4 eggs myself since a lot of people at the table passed up on it.

4 Seasons Hot Platter

four seasons platter

This is supposed to be the first dish in every banquet but since it’s a birthday, the longevity noodles come out first. There’s fish maw, shrimp, mushrooms, chicken, sliced abalone and other goodies piled into sectors on the platter.

fish maw shrimp

There’s something for everybody and that’s why it’s a very popular dish in restaurants. It’s a little like poon choy in some ways, except this is the appetizer portion. smirk

Shark’s Fin Soup

You have to see this from the perspective of someone born in the old country (that’s China) and went through WWII with Japan and the resulting famine, uprooting and all that comes with war. They had little and food was important to them. “Luxury items” like shark’s fin isn’t something immoral (only first world countries and the newer generation of people now have that mentality – you can only afford to think about environmental issues when you are living in relative comfort).

sharks fin

It’s just another must-have (to them) on the menu coz old habits die hard and they don’t see the plight of the sharks and probably won’t care even if they did. This is the generation that was born into war, and any food is good food and “status items” like shark’s fin is just another dish to them.

I just wanted to stave off the debate about this coz it seems that everyone needs to have a disclaimer and a stance nowadays. Honestly, as a traveler, I am of course for conversation but then again I don’t believe it’s an issue about education, at least not with the older generation so naturally consumption will die off as the new environmentally conscious generation comes of age.

Deep Fried Breaded Cod

breaded cod

Sheraton is well known for it’s fish – you can get your empurau fish steamed here and they do a mean curry fish head as well. I thought this would be mediocre since I prefer my fish any other way except fried (which ruins most of the taste, IMHO).

fried cod

However, my cousin politely served me some so I had to politely eat some and I was amazed and went back for second helpings…except there was none left! This is easily the best dish I had in the banquet – the fish is battered and dropped into the deep fryer for only a few seconds, leaving a crisp exterior but and extremely moist interior with the cod flaking off with the natural juices still inside.

I’m getting hungry just thinking of this surprisingly well executed deep fried cod with the spicy dip. The plating is not much to look at, but trust me, it tastes spot on!

Paper Wrapped Chicken with Deep Fried Buns

paper wrapped chicken

This is one of my favorite dishes in Sheraton coz they do it so well. Paper wrapped chicken is a cooking technique that has the chicken and herbs wrapped in foil (and sometimes another layer of paper) so the entire bird’s juices is sealed inside, making it extremely tender and tasty.

fried bread

However, the coup de grace is the deep fried bun. It’s a large, round piece of bread that’s the size of an Arab bread but this is baked in-house with chicken flavors infused into the loaf, which is then deep fried and served warm. It’s the contrasting textures that makes this work so well – the crunchy exterior with the soft, warm flavored bread that goes well with the herbal chicken.

Sea Cucumber with Sliced Abalone on top of Enoki Mushrooms

abalone sea cucumber

This is another classic Chinese dish – the sliced abalone comes out of a can, and the sea cucumbers are re-hydrated so the starchy sauce has to carry everything. It’s often said that Chinese cuisine is more about contrasting textures vs the balanced flavors (base and acidity pairing) and plating of “classic cuisine” e.g. French cuisine and I have to agree.

The soft and juicy Enoki mushrooms contrasts well with the chewy abalone slices and the slightly crunchy sea cucumber.

Asian Surf and Turf

asian surf turf

I just made that up. Haha! There’s no seafood here, the two ingredients are pork and chicken done two ways. This is a very Taoist concept symbolizing yin and yang – the pork is good but the chicken is bad.

Geddit? ;)

ang pow wet tissue

The banquet finished up with the classic fruit platter and I even got an RM 10 ang pow since I wasn’t married and it’s still Chinese New Year (and will be until the 14th of February). I think it’s a great idea that people do their birthdays on CNY since everyone is back in town and it was good to sit down with my uncles and cousins and for a relatives birthday banquet.

birthday banquet

P/S – No, it’s not his actual birthday, I don’t think he even remembers the exact date – this wasn’t uncommon, my mom doesn’t either since my grandma didn’t register her birth until she was a few years old so we celebrate it on a fixed date every year that’s easy to remember.

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24 thoughts on “My grandma’s cousin’s 79th birthday 8-course banquet

  1. Its interesting to see serving of “hot platters” instead of the usual “cold platters” or “four seasons”, i like they submerged everything in a soup haha

    • Not soup, some thick gravy…. It’s something like your Poon Choy except that it does not come in a bowl and there are not so many things in the plate but I guess that depends on how much you’re willing to fork out.

      • Yeah, it reminded me of poon choy too! :)

        Hmm…I wonder how much a platter of this costs at a restaurant. I like poon choy coz the top ingredients are dry and thus it can be eaten first without all the rich gravy of pork and what not at the bottom part interfering with the taste – it’s a good idea too, making people eat the un-sauced meats and seafood first before digging down to the next layer, so the tastebuds doesn’t get ruined by eating the more intense bottom layer first.

    • Yeah, the hot platter seems to be very popular here now! :)

      I personally miss the old 4 seasons platter with cold *and* hot offerings, and prefer cold plates with shrimp and mayo but haven’t seen those for a long time over here.

      That’s the combined expression of the ham, shrimp etc – it’s a thick, starchy liquid that’s more translucent gravy than soup.

  2. My favourite restaurant in town!!!

    Same here – I’d end up eating all the eggs – much to the distress of my missus…and I often saw people eating the white, leaving the yolk. What a waste!!!! So health conscious, no need to eat lor. Leave them there for somebody to tapao home, someone who would appreciate good food and not simply throw away like that. Tsk! Tsk!

      • There’s not a lot of calories in an egg! :)

        I’ve seen it stated at 80 calories for a large egg. However, the US classification is different from ours – they have AA, A and sometimes B but the grades refers to the quality, not the size.

        We have Grade C eggs for sale and some places grade according to size, not quality, so it could be a 65 gram Jumbo sized egg but it really isn’t that good. I found out that poaching eggs require high quality eggs so there’s a few brands I stick to.

        Haha! You shouldn’t have to worry about cholesterol at such a young age since you’re neither sedentary or overweight, I don’t and I’m about 10 years older than you.

        Enjoy the eggs Constance! :D

    • Yeah, I remember eating their crab with the same fried bread with you last time! :)

      I know what you mean! A lot of people avoid the eggs coz they think it’s unhealthy – it seems like it has gone from superfood to cholesterol pariah in the last 2 decades or so. It was okay when I was a kid, and then studies came out and conflicting ones refuted and restaurants started serving “Heart Healthy” omelets and eggs (which are just eggs with the yolks removed).

      I love egg yolks, it tastes so good and since I ate a lot of eggs growing up (including a whole tray of soft boiled eggs with pepper and soy sauce when I was 13) I don’t really care about the cholesterol. My dad used to make fried egg sandwiches for us to bring to school when I was 7 years old too, and eggs weren’t considered “unhealthy” back then and I would eat 2 per day at least and I’m still alive.

      I love eggs more than anything else, it’s delicious and although there are people who avoid them, I guess that’s a good thing…

      It just means more eggs for you and me at the banquet tables mate. Haha! :D

    • That’s interesting! Perth is baiting and culling sharks coz they attack swimmers! I did not know that. :)

      I didn’t know what you were referring to so I Googled “shark baiting culling” and got a lot of news reports from Western Australia

      I wonder why they just kill the sharks instead of selling it for the meat. Shark meat actually tastes pretty good (the fresh ones, not hakarl) and it’ll at least help with the AUD 6,000 per day bill from hooking and killing the sharks.

      …but I guess that’ll just inflame Sea Shepard et al even more. Oh well, can’t please everyone and I’m really surprised Australia would put such measures into place (killing sharks caught on hooks that’s longer than 3 meters) but I guess extreme situations requires extreme measures – would be bad for surfers and swimmers to be come shark chow.

      Cheers for the information!

    • Yeah, it’s something that you can only get in Sibu! :)

      I’ve never seen the fried eggs with longevity noodles outside of Sibu, for example.

      It’s a classic Foochow banquet from a classic restaurant!

    • Thanks for the information! :)

      Haha! Yeah, I know, just been busy lately with my mom and other stuff, got sick with the flu too, so I was writing really quickly!

    • Yeah, it’s a Foochow dish! :)

      Indeed, you can hardly get stuff like these in KL. KL and Singapore is more Cantonese when it comes to cuisine.

  3. I share your dislike of fried fish HB. Too often restaurants just dump the fish into the fryer for ages. What comes out is a dry and tough fish – it’s like eating bark. But the fish in your photo looks really good and moist!

    • Yeah, especially when it comes to cooking in bulk! :)

      Banquets are hard to cook well in, especially with something as fragile as fish so I didn’t take it initially, until my cousin got some for me so I ate it and wanted more!

      They fried it just perfect – crispy outside, moist and flaky on the inside.

    • Haha! Yeah, you’re right! :)

      I don’t know many places that sells real shark’s fin right now since a lot of them are suspect e.g. just cartilage shaped to be like shark’s fin.

      Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your family too!

  4. Yup..I heard of that taboo before but not sure which one is which . Thanks for highlighting. Now I know odd number is for male and even is for female.

    • Thanks Kathy! :)

      I only heard it from my uncles and aunties and grandma who was there at the birthday. I was wondering why my grandma’s cousin would celebrate his 79th birthday instead of his 80th.

      It didn’t make any sense to me so they told me about the taboo.

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