Happy New Year of the Pig!

An animated gif of a chinese new year pig sucking up everlasting noodles.

Pigs have a reputation for gluttony but, apparently, this is undeserved as they only eat until they’re full. Being from a culture that greets each other with Have you had your rice yet? I don’t need much prompting to talk about food, so this seems like a good opportunity to mention some foods that are traditionally included in a Chinese New Year meal. Traditional foods are always symbolic, it’s all about bringing luck and fortune to those who consume it. But, from what I can tell, this association with good fortune is based on the tenuous rule of ‘looks like or sounds like’! (If you read last year’s post you’ll know how confusing the Chinese language can be, as it’s packed with similar sounding words with completely different meanings). So, here’s something to think about while you’re eating:

fish – Yu sounds a bit like the word for abundance or surplus. The fish should be served whole, with its head and tail intact. When placing the dish on the table, point the head toward your most honoured guest or respected elder. Don’t be tempted to eat it all, this symbolises surplus, remembr!

noodles – Noodles are symbolic of longevity because they’re … long. Obviously extra-long noodles are preferable and be careful not to cut them in the cooking process.

dumplings – Their shape resembles the ancient gold ingots which were used as currency. The more dumplings you eat, the wealthier you will be in the coming year. Any excuse!

fat choy – Unfortunately named, as far as I’m concerned, fat choy sounds like the Cantonese phrase meaning to have great prosperity, as in the New Year greeting Gung Hei Fat ChoyFat choy also translates as hair vegetable. It looks like black hair, is eaten as a vegetable but is in fact a type of photosynthetic bacteria found in the Gobi Desert (bet you weren’t expecting that!)

spring rolls – Fried. Looks like gold bars

satsumas, kumquats – Looks AND sounds like gold (gam)!

Year cake – Nian gao sounds like year high. This isn’t cake as you’d imagine it. It’s a thick paste of glutinous rice flour, brown sugar and Chinese red dates, set into a cake shape which is then sliced and fried. FRIED!

February 5th 2019 welcomes the Chinese New Year of the (earth) Pig. People born in the year of the Pig are thought to be responsible, determined, good-tempered and compassionate, though perhaps a little gullible. If you were born in 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971, 1959, etc., this is your year!

Gung Hei Fat Choy! Nian nian gao gao! (That’s Wishing you great prosperity with year on year success! not Wishing you black hair with year after year of cake! though that sounds pretty good too.)

Mo and Dave

Reaching Out in Vietnam

Those of you who know us will be aware that Dave and I have more than a penchant for eating and drinking! So, whilst not wanting to bore the pants off you with my holiday snaps, here are 3 places we visited in Hoi An which I thought deserved a special mention. They all serve great food and drink whilst serving another greater cause. Let me explain:

Reaching Out Teahouse and Handicraft Shop

Reaching Out Teahouse

The most exquisite hot beverage experience you could wish to happen upon! Reaching Out is a social business helping physically impaired craftspeople take responsibility for their own lives by focussing on their creative talents. The tea shop, at 131 Tran Phu, is just beautiful … and silent. All the serving staff are speech and hearing impaired, which seems to have a quietening effect on the customers too, resulting in a most tranquil place to sit, sip tea and taste the wonderful coffee-soaked coconut treats. What’s more, the beautiful tableware used in the teahouse is made at, and can be bought from, the Reaching Out handicraft shop at 103 Nguyen Thai Hoc St.

Streets Restaurant Café

Streets International is a global social enterprise initiative supporting street children by providing housing, food and training for them to work in the high-end culinary and hospitality industry. You can find the restaurant in Hoi An at 17 Le Loi St. Most uplifting, aside from the delicious food of course, was the delight on the face of our very young waitress (clearly a new recruit, being shadowed by a more experienced staff member) each time she accomplished something new.

Blue Dragon Restaurant

Also a big shout for the Blue Dragon Restaurant at 46 Bach Dang St. This restaurant serves fantastic, great value, local food, its profits going to the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation which helps underprivileged children in Vietnam.

So, for those of you travelling to Vietnam in the near future (you know who you are, I’ve spoken to so many of you!), if you’re in the vicinity, do look them up and support them. You won’t be disappointed … on many levels. Eat, learn and enjoy the silence!