Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A sea of red...

I felt abit deprived after writing about Chinese New Year the other day. So I needed no encouragement when Wife suggested that we go down to Chinatown to stock up our larder. We were pleasantly suprised by the decorations put up by the Chinese community in London over at Gerrad Street. Frankly, I've never seen so many lanterns in my life... at least not on a single street that's barely 300m long. Perhaps I was just too busy running around to run last minute errands back home to notice.

Celebrating Chinese New Year is indeed a stressful thing; procuring the ingredients for the feast, the actual preparation, the washing up thereafter and not to mention the preparing of angbaos (red packets) for relatives visitation in the days to follow. It's like Christmas... only more stressful. Sometimes, I wonder why we go through this year after year.

Anyway, like many others, we popped into provision shops along the street and were dazzled by the choice of goodies on display. Much to our surprise, the cost is comparable to what we are paying back home. Each of those little red plastic tins (of tidbits) goes for 2-3 pounds. To top it up, it taste better than those back home; crunchier, more and fresher fillings.

The Chinese believe in having fishes for their reunion dinner. Fish, or 'yu' in Mandarin, has the same pronunciation as the English equivalent of 'in excess' in Mandarin. That's important as it just goes to show that a family will have 'in excess' of food, which will be 'carried forward' to the next year. I have always wondered what's the significance of that? Probably it comes from peasants' origins, for a bountiful harvest was important for survival.

We stopped by Far East Bakery for a cup of tea and some snacks. Nothing fanciful, just some cakes and puffs. We gave up going to Kowloon Restaurant after it didn't allow customers to consume the cakes within its premises (as doing do so would mean less seats for those going there for a full meal). Glad that we found another bakery along the same street. Far East offers a smaller variety of snacks but the warm service more than make up for it. It's an excellent chill out place and do check out its fried dough stripes ('youtiao') and soya bean curd ('douhua') if you happen to stop by. They're absolutely fantastic.

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TripTheLady said...

Thanks for dropping by my blog! I so wish we had shops here like you took pictures of!

C K said...

It's just one of those shops that you 'have' to take a picture of when you step in (if you know what I mean). Though it felt abit furgitive taking the pictures with my trusty Nokia.

kyh said...

You've got an absolutely interesting blog! An expat's story in a foreign land is always the best.

And that's really a lot of red lanterns! The crowd's pretty packed huh?

I've linked you if you don't mind. :)


C K said...

Hey thanks! Actually, it's not as crowded as I thought it might be. In fact, there're a number of tourists there taking photos (me included...).

Hopeful Spirit said...

I'm so glad you contributed this post to The Seventh Day blog carnival On the Horizon. It is a wonderful addition . . . a fascinating description of the celebration. Thanks for participating and hope you will join in again in the future!!

Stop by and check out the other wonderful entries included this week!

Hopeful Spirit
On the Horizon

Sandy Carlson said...

That's a lovely story. I am happy to learn the word for fish and its other meaning of "excess.' It's a good reminder that survival wasn't always something to take for granted--and still isn't.

I'm here from The Seventh Day.

C K said...

Hi Sandy, thanks for your comments. Yup, sometimes we just need to remind ourselves why we do the things that we do as a matter of habit. Perhaps it'll bring a new perspective.