Braised sea cucumber in superior sauce
When is a Chinese wedding banquet not a Chinese wedding banquet? Does the exclusion of shark fin soup and braised sea cucumber with abalone make it any less traditional? These exotic marine products cooked in various ways are as staple in Chinese wedding banquets as the copious amount of free-flowing brandy and shouts of yam seng punctuating the already jovial atmosphere.
Chinese banquets are all about “face” of the hosts. Therefore, the hosts will always attempt to go all out at serving dishes with ingredients that are exotic and expensive at banquets. Anything less and the hosts will lose face before their guests. As for me, I am more concerned about how the ingredients used are being harvested to extinction than losing face.
A while back, I watched on the Discovery channel how fins were hacked off and the sharks thrown back into the sea still alive to die a slow agonizing death. It was there and then that I decided that if I ever hold a wedding banquet, I will never serve shark fin soup. Likewise, abalones and sea cucumbers have become endangered species due to over-exploitation.
If not shark fin, sea cucumber and abalone then what? Changing times demand a change in traditions. Although I have grown up with the impression that these are must-haves at wedding banquets, I am sure the restaurants will be able to come out with alternative dishes for the menu. There are so many other commonly available ingredients to cook up delicious dishes with.
Tanjung City Marina at dusk.
Photo by Wuan.
Most of my relatives in Penang are not aware that I got married last year. If Mum was around, it would have been a grand reception as our extended family members number by the hundreds. Nonetheless, I like to officially introduce Wuan to them by holding a wedding reception in Penang some time next year. It has been a while since I met many of them. This will be a good opportunity to rekindle our kinship.
I have been looking around for restaurants that serve good Chinese wedding banquet dishes only to realise how out of touch I am with the happenings of the culinary scene in Penang. The only restaurants that I could think of were Haloman, Fortuna, Prosperous and Lee How Fook. All have closed shop since many years ago.
When Wuan and I were in Penang last year for the Forum on Public Transport for Disadvantaged Groups in May last year, we were treated to a sumptuous dinner at Hai Nan Town Nyonya and Hainanese Restaurant by the organiser. We loved the food they served. We really do not mind serving Nyonya and Hainanese dishes for the reception. Besides, the view of the Tanjung City Marina at dusk makes for a very romantic background. I wonder if they do wedding banquets.
One year ago today, Wuan and I officially sealed our love and commitment to each other with the Registrar of Marriage at Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur. That was after ten years of courtship – eight of those over long distances as I was in Penang and she in Kuala Lumpur then. I would fly down to Kuala Lumpur occasionally or she would go up north to see me whenever she could get leave from work.
When I began to spend more time in Kuala Lumpur in 2006, William and Cynthia encouraged me to move down to the city for good which I eventually did. When I decided to propose to Wuan, I got William to help me appraise a diamond for the ring. It had to be the best that I could get because that ring was to become the symbol of my everlasting love.
Wuan and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary yesterday as today is a working day. It was a simple dinner with our best friends William and Cynthia. They were our witnesses when we solemnised our marriage last year. What better way to spend this milestone with friends who have been there with us when Wuan and I first started our journey ten years ago.