Mainly all of my posts are about sharing recipes with my readers. But I recently attended my cousin’s wedding and I thought that I would share this experience with you. In a way, this post still centres around food.
If you ever had the pleasure of attending a 10 course Chinese Wedding banquet then you will be familiar with the food that I will be discussing. If you haven’t then you have come to the right place and I will try and do my best to explain to you the different types of food that are served.
The reason behind this post came to me after I watched an episode of four weddings (UK version not US). Its a show that follows four brides as they plan their weddings and they get to attend each others’ nuptials. At the end, they must vote which wedding was the best one. The winner wins a dream honeymoon.
In one of the episode the other three soon to be brides attended a Chinese wedding banquet and were disgusted and appalled that they were not served chicken chow mien or sweet and sour pork so gave the bride poor marks. It was quite dishearten to see that they were not so enthusiastic about the food served. I accept that not everyone is going to enjoy the food on offer especially if you are vegetarian or vegan.
Before I start, I thought that I would first explain to you how the tables are arranged. You will always see two tables at the front of the banquet. One table is for the bride’s family (represented by the phoenix) and the other one is for the groom’s family (represented by the dragon). Quite similar to the western style wedding but the tables are separated.
Each table sits around 10 guests. In the picture below the groom’s family table is on the right and the bride’s family table is on the left. As you can see this is denoted by the models of the dragon and phoenix above the tables.
Family and friends invited to the wedding banquet will normally provide a cash gift in a red envelope (lai see). But you can also put the cash inside the wedding card. There is usually a person assigned to collect the red envelopes from the guests. Sometimes the money received is used later that evening to pay the final cost of the banquet.
Some couples do actually make money from their wedding. I think I broke even for my wedding lol!
Each food that is served at a Chinese wedding is served for a reason. Either to bring the newly wedded couple prosperity, good health or longevity.
Suckling pig (siu ju) is eaten as the first course as it represent the bride’s purity. The skin is roasted on a high temperature until the skin becomes crackling. The crackling is suppose to symbolise good fortune. It’s generally served with hoisin sauce and jelly fish (yum my favourite!).
This dish doesn’t always come with the pig’s head but it depends on what wedding menu you choose. You will only get the whole suckling pig if you go with the most expensive menu.
Crab Claws: This dish is probably the one I look forward to the most. It’s crab claws coated in a prawn/shrimp paste then it’s covered in breadcrumbs and deep fried. These crab claws are quite huge and very meaty. Compared to the frozen ones that you buy from the Asian supermarkets.
Crab claws are served because it represents the groom side which is the dragon.
Scallops with Asparagus are served because the word for scallops in Chinese sounds the same as having lots of children. Asparagus doesn’t mean anything, its cooked with scallops as it goes well together. The red basket symbolises luck.
Soup: Usually shark fin soup would be served but since it’s ban in the UK; the Chinese restaurant has replaced it with fish maw and crab meat soup. Thank goodness for that as I do not advocate the barbaric slaughtering of sharks just so you can eat their fins.
Shark fin soup has no meaning. It’s simply signifies that the couple getting married comes from a wealthy family.
Lobster! I don’t get to eat lobster that much at home or in a restaurant. So, I most certainly always make room for this dish. It’s stir fried with ginger and spring onions and garnished with coriander. The meat is so juicy and succulent. This particular dish was very good actually. There was one wedding I attended, where I just couldn’t eat the lobster because it was so salty (such a waste!).
Lobster brings good luck to the couple because it’s red in colour. It also means ‘dragon shrimp’ in Chinese and dragon is the counterpart to the phoenix.
Roasted pigeon. No! Not the ones you find in Trafalgar Square. These pigeons are raised on a farm so they are okay to eat. Pigeon symbolises peace. As they are served whole then it represents completeness.
I don’t generally eat pigeon as I find the meat quite tough to chew.
Abalone is a seashell. You can tell when you are eating from the most expensive Chinese Wedding Banquet menu that the restaurant has on offer. As you are served whole abalone not the slices of abalone. Unfortunately these abalones weren’t fresh as it was so tough and chewy.
Abalone is often served whole to wish the couple a long life.
Fish: I think you are starting to see a pattern here. Yep! Lots of seafood gets eaten at a Chinese wedding banquet. I love fish very much but it can’t be overcooked. This turbot was cooked to perfection, where the meat was so tender.
The word fish in Chinese is a homophone for prosperity. But also a fish served whole symbolises completeness and success. Essentially you are wishing the couple’s marriage will be a successful completion.
Rice: Loh Mei Fun (Glutinous rice) which is a popular dim sum dish. I do prefer this over special fried rice. This rice is packed full with different ingredients such as Chinese sausage, mushrooms, dried shrimp, scallops and spring onions.
Rice is a stable food in China. So a large dish of rice symbolises a plentiful supply of food throughout the couples life.
Vegetable noodles are served as it symbolises longevity. Wishing the newly wedded couple a long and successful marriage. I think the Chef was quite tired by this stage as the noodles was absolutely tasteless and the presentation was awful. I understand as it was already 10pm when the noodles came out of the kitchen.
The food was served late as a fight broke out earlier between the groom and the bride’s family. Honestly this never happens at a Chinese wedding. But sometimes I do have to excuse my auntie’s behaviour. She’s quite fiery and anything could just set her off. I had to run over and tell her to calm down and remind her that she does have high blood pressure. Poor Auntie!? Poor me! I was starving!
It’s dessert time. Any type of dessert can be served as long as it’s sweet. As it means that the couple’s relationship will not turn sour.
To be honest sometimes I feel that they could do more about the desserts since the food served before looks and tastes amazing and then you get cookies. What is that all about?
Chinese wedding cakes are covered in this nice sweet cream with a vanilla sponge filling. The cake looks quite lonely standing all on it’s own.
I have learnt quite a few things about my culture whilst writing this post. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
If you are still reading this then you are a very patient person so you deserve to pat yourself on the back. 🙂