Wedding Post #3: East Asian Wedding Food 101: Dishes and Their Meanings

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To prevent any confusion, I just wanted to note that I constantly use Chinese and East Asian terms/ methods interchangeably. Truth be told, many East Asian countries have either carried on or adopted Chinese traditions. Not to say that all Asian countries are alike, but nations like Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, etc. have many traditions that originated in China. Additionally, many non-Chinese countries were populated by immigrants of China at one point or another, dating back centuries or even millenniums ago! Which explains why multiple Asian countries have similar wedding traditions! Interesting, huh? So now that we’re done with that little history lesson, let’s move on shall we?

Alrighty, so in the previous wedding post , I mentioned that the traditional Chinese wedding consists of 8-12 courses. Yeah, I know, kill me now! Not only is this feast of kings full of complicated dishes, but the cost of having it catered will surely tear a hole through my bank account!

I know it may seem counter-intuitive of me to serve a full Chinese banquet knowing full well what a tight budget I’m working with, but this is an Asian tradition I’m just not willing to part with. Have you ever walked away from a wedding thinking the food was rather bland and you were still hungry? Well, you won’t have that problem with a Chinese Banquet! Every dish is super flavorful and with a minimum of 8 dishes, I hope to have our guests leave with full bellies and big grins!

To cut down costs, I’m attempting to concoct my own recipes, simplifying and adapting them from the traditional dishes. I’m opting for a buffet style service versus the traditional family style to minimize costs and hopefully I’ll be able to find some wonderful (and cheap) individuals to cook and serve for the wedding.

I found there seems to be an odd infatuation with homophones when it comes to certain parts of Chinese tradition. I discovered the reason behind having at least 8 courses is due to the fact that the number 8 sounds alot like “good luck” and the number 9 sounds like “long”, as in “longevity”. Why couldn’t the numbers 2 or 3 have sounded like something lucky! Anyway, enough b*tching. From doing a bit of research on the interwebs, I found out what significant meaning each dish represents. *Note: traditions vary from region to region, but here’s some generic information I gathered.

Shark Fin Soup: This dish represents wealth (because that s*** is expensive!)

Cold Cuts/Suckling Pig: The pig represents virginity (ahem…no uh, no comment)

Peking Duck: This represents fidelity and happiness(the color red is a celebratory color in

China; there’s a red hue that forms when the duck is cooked).

Chicken: The chicken represents the phoenix, whose better half is the dragon. You’ll often hear people refer to the bride and groom as the phoenix and dragon or yin and yang.

Lobster: This dish represents joy and celebration (again, the red thing is a big deal). Also, “lobster” literally translates to “dragon shrimp” (the dragon is the phoenix’s counterpart).

Honey Walnut Shrimp: I can’t seem to find the symbolism behind this one, I just know I’ve had it at every single Chinese wedding I’ve been to, and it’s one of my all time faves!

Fish: This dish represents abundance.

Noodles: This dish represents longevity due to it’s long strands.

Veggies and Sea Cucumber or Abalone: This dish represents selflessness because “sea cucumber” sounds like “good heart”. There’s that homophone thing again! It’s also said to represent harmony for the newlyweds.

Red Bean Soup: This dessert represents the sweetness of life and happiness (oh yeah, and it’s red!)

Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes!

I’m choosing to cross off shark fin soup from the menu. After doing some research, I found that the obtainment of the shark fin is quite cruel. Shark fishers will catch a shark, cut off 1 fin (or 2 fins) and throw the shark back into the ocean. Wounded, the shark then slowly dies as the lack of a fin(s) disables it from catching prey to survive. To read more about it, posted an intriguing article on the shark fin controversy.

Many animal activists are calling for a ban on shark fin hunting, and rightly so in my opinion. I pass no judgement on those who choose to eat the the delicacy, but I’ve chosen against it and I don’t like the idea of having such a controversial dish at my wedding.

Anyhoo, thanks for reading and until next time!

*If you have any tips for me concerning budget weddings, Asian traditions, catering, etc…please let me know and leave a comment! This bride needs all the advice she can get!

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One comment on “Wedding Post #3: East Asian Wedding Food 101: Dishes and Their Meanings

  1. If this is the kind of food that they had served at my wedding, I would have ignored everyone and stuffed my face at the buffet all night!

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