If you have attended a wedding banquet, then you know that it’s not only a time of celebrating love and catching up with family and friends – it’s also a time of great gastronomic experience. From the appetizers to the desserts, dish after delicious dish are brought out and served. But have you ever wondered why the courses in different restaurants share common elements, and what could be its significance?
Other than being a time of celebration, weddings are a time of reflection as well. Hotels and restaurants put in their utmost effort to come out with symbolic dishes. Here are some of the common dishes you will see at a hotel banquet dinner, and their meanings.
A staple in any Chinese household in Singapore, noodle dishes cooked in delicious sauces are standard fare on the banquet menu. The traditional meaning of noodles is to wish longevity to the couple, since noodles come in long strands. But remember not to rest your chopsticks inside the bowl at any point as many people believe that that resembles a tombstone!
Originating from the Chinese saying: Nian Nian You Yu (年年有鱼/余), fishes are a sign of abundance. Therefore, serving fish at a wedding meal symbolises that the couple wishes to live in yearly abundance. As the Chinese pronunciation of fish is similar to that of ‘money’ and ‘extras’, fish is an extremely suitable dish to be served, not to mention that fish is an easily consumable and digestible meat for the elderly, who may find it more difficult to consume harder meats such as pork.
Seafood is always a delight to the guests, as it is considered to be a more expensive dish. To the Chinese in Singapore, red is a year-round auspicious color. Serving a red dish symbolises the wish for happiness and joy for the couple in the years to come. Serving lobster whole with all its arms and legs intact adds an extra meaning of completeness for the couple.
A favourite amongst adults, especially the elderly, sea cucumber is a food with an interesting texture. Do not be confused by its name ‘cucumber’, it is far from hard like the original green cucumber we see so often. The insides of sea cucumbers are soft and easy to bite into. It is often cooked with many other ingredients that add a variety of flavours to the dish, although it could also be served plain with only a few other choice of ingredients. In Chinese, sea cucumbers sound like “good heart”, and we have taken this to mean that couple need to look past the differences they will have in their married years.
Desserts come in many forms and types, and the original favourite of red bean soup is no longer the norm in most hotels and restaurants. Instead, in its place, we have many others such as puddings and pastes. The essential meaning of desserts is to wish the couple sweetness in their marriage, and of course, act as a sweet finish to a long 8-course meal.
So now that you know the meanings behind the dishes, share them with your family and friends at the next dinner! It will definitely be a meaningful and interesting conversation, you may even uncover secrets behind the traditional Chinese wedding banquet habits from the elderly at your table.
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