My freshman year of college, I met a dear friend named Katherine. Throughout college, we were buddies and went on many adventures together...to new restaurants, the movies, the theater. After graduation, our friendship continued with new monthly adventures: kayaking, alumni events, theater and brunch, to name a few. Fifteen years later - and our adventures are still going strong!
Earlier this spring, Katherine, married a wonderful man named Matthew and they planned a weekend of celebrations this month with friends and family. The weekend ended in the true spirit of our monthly adventures, with a traditional Chinese wedding dinner. I wasn't quite sure what to expect - I was just told to come hungry.
When we arrived at the restaurant, we were told that this would be a TEN course meal. No wonder I was told to come hungry! Our table had a giant lazy susan in the middle, and shortly after being seated, the first of many dishes arrived. For two hours, we were regaled with platter after platter of delicious seafood and meats and vegetables. I made sure to take pictures of every dish and take notes so that I could share with you all!
After the dinner, I did a little research and learned that many of the ten dishes have a symbolic meaning in the Chinese tradition. So keep reading for photos and descriptions of all ten of the dishes!
FIRST COURSE: Crabmeat and Asparagus Soup
This soup was a light first course - a thick soup filled with pieces of crabmeat and white asparagus and very flavorful! I have not always been big on seafood - but this was the first of many seafood dishes in this meal that I came to enjoy. In the Chinese tradition, the crab represents prosperity and success.
SECOND COURSE: Crispy Crab Claw
This course was delicious and one of my favorites. Each crab claw is cracked to reveal some flesh and then a shrimp paste mixture is molded into a ball around the claw then coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried.
THIRD COURSE: Shrimp and Scallops with Chinese Greens
This dish was quite tasty - the shrimp were enormous and reminded me of shrimp scampi, with strong garlic flavors. In the Chinese tradition, shrimp represent happiness and good fortune.
FOURTH COURSE: Yang Chou Fried Rice (with shrimp and pork)
The fourth course of our meal was probably the most familiar - fried rice. It had a combination of shrimp and pork and was quite tasty. Apparently, the fried rice dish is often served at the end of the wedding dinner, but our couple chose to move it up in the menu. I think that was a good idea, because I'm not sure if I would have had room for rice if it had been served last! In the Chinese tradition, rice represents fertility, luck, wealth and a connection between heaven and earth.
FIFTH COURSE: Crispy Skin Fried Chicken
This chicken was so delicious and flavorful and beautifully arranged on the platter. It was also served with these crispy pop-chip like crackers that added a nice crunch to the dish. The chicken is served with the whole head because it represents togetherness and completeness.
SIXTH COURSE: Pan Fried Sea Bass
The next dish was pan fried sea bass. It was prepared with the skin left on one side and the other side pan friend to get a crispy coating. It was served in a delicious glaze and topped with fresh parsley. You just had to be careful of the fish bones! LIke the crab, the sea bass also represents prosperity.
SEVENTH COURSE: Twin Lobsters with Ginger and Scallions
We're now more than half-way through the meal...do you still have room? Cause I wasn't sure I did when this platter of two lobsters was brought out. As I mentioned before, seafood isn't always my thing - and lobster in particular. I had avoided it in all forms: steamed lobster, lobster rolls, even lobster mac 'n cheese. But I decided I needed to try everything at this meal - so I took a small claw, picked out the meat and tasted it. And IT. WAS. AMAZING. So much so that I made that lazy susan spin right back around to me with the lobster and took a second (much larger) piece. Not sure if I'm ready to put on the lobster bib and crack one open - but I definitely won't be saying "no" to some lobster mac 'n cheese if it comes my way. In the Chinese tradition, the lobster represents the dragon, or the groom.
EIGHTH COURSE: Salty Shrimp, Scallops and Squid
The eighth course brought more seafood - this time with a combination of shrimp, scallops and squid fried with a salty tempura batter. This was a favorite dish at my table.
NINTH COURSE: Seafood Combination in Bird Nest
We're really in the home stretch now...only one more dish to go! This course was a beautifully arranged "basket" of seafood and vegetables in a bird nest made of fried taro surrounded by a crown of fresh broccoli. This was my opportunity to fill up on some green veggies before I truly had no room left!
TENTH COURSE: Beef with Mushrooms and Mustard Greens
The final course of the night was a giant bowl of slices of beef with mushrooms on a bed of mustard greens. At this point in the meal, I had room for but a bite or two of the beef - but it was a very satisfying final course. In the Chines tradition, vegetable greens represent close family ties.
BONUS COURSE: Peanut Cookies, Fortune Cookies and Strawberry & Coconut Jelly Squares
So no meal would be complete without dessert, for which one can always make room. We were treated to a light spread of cookies and jello-like squares of strawberry and coconut. What a sweet ending!
One of the more appropriate fortunes read at our table!
And here is what lay in the wake of our finished meal. What an incredible feast!
At our table, we also discussed what tips we would give others partaking in their first Chinese Wedding Dinner. We all agreed: come hungry! Seriously, skip lunch, skip your snack - this meal will have you waddling out the door like it's Thanksgiving. You should also come with an open mind and be willing to try new things. And, vegetarians need not apply - there is nothing but meat and seafood in this meal. But I imagine if you were invited to a dinner and were vegetarian or kept kosher, they would make accommodations for you. Everyone at my table enjoyed trying new dishes and being a part of the whole experience.
Many thanks to Katherine, Matthew and their parents for the honor of attending this celebration. Cheers to the happy couple!