We’re feeling lucky. After all, it’s Chinese New Year and, with the rain obligingly staying at bay, this year’s Long Table Dinner at Salt Village looks like a winner!
Somehow Western society has missed out on many of the symbolic meanings of foods. Take away the bread and wine from communion, the ‘bad’ and ‘good’ connotations of particular dishes, and there’s little culinary symbolism left in our daily lives. By comparison, the East celebrates the centuries old tradition of Chinese New Year, sweeping away the ill fortune of time passed to make way for incoming good luck. Chinese love food, and during this 16-day festival, certain dishes carry symbolic meaning, sometimes from the sound of their names or their appearance.
With international guest Chef Shen Tan (Insta’s @madamtans) at the helm, we’re in good hands. Former Events Director from Forbes, restaurateur, hawker stall owner and hospitality consultant, Shen Tan is renowned for her Mod Sin (modern Singaporean) cuisine. However, tonight’s menu is traditionally based with modern twists on dishes which will bring us luck!
Set out under the big tent, the 140 seat long table is decked out with oriental place mats, fortune cookies, red packet envelopes and chopsticks beneath Chinese lanterns, coloured lights and heads of iceberg lettuce. (More on that later…)
With champagne in hand, we dine on canapés of Oyster with soy ginger vinaigrette for good fortune, Spring rolls and Jiaozi dumplings for wealth and togetherness.
250 dumplings have been made by hand, a mammoth effort from Chef Shen and the Kingscliff TAFE team. They’re cooked on site and plated up directly before service.
We’re entertained by the lion dance, mischievous creatures which cavort with the guests, moving around the edges then across the tables, playing at chomping on diners’ heads until they discover the heads of lettuce hanging around the tent’s edges, throwing lettuce across the onlookers. Engaging and interactive, it’s the play on words which gives this ritual meaning, ‘raw vegetables’ in Cantonese sounding like ‘creating wealth’, which the lions then share with us.
Two starters are served by the team at Season restaurant: a delicious Beef Bao for strength and wealth, and three types of Sang Choi Bao in an alternating drop.
Mains follow: Harmonious chicken, Fish freshly steamed in parchment for wealth and prosperity, Lucky long noodles for longevity and Lo Hei, mixed vegetable and prawn salad thrown as high as possible by all the diners to signify family harmony. White rice provides fertility and wealth, as well as a link between heaven and earth.
The grande finale of the evening is the fire dancing. With flaming batons twirling, bodies cross paths as the two dancers show agility, power and grace. It’s not just light in the darkness, but a powerful creative display inspiring awe and an outbreak of applause at its conclusion.
We drink the Lucky Buddha and toast the grace of our dancers, indulging in lucky Sweet potato Nian Gao doughnuts drizzled with gula melaka (palm sugar) salted coconut butterscotch sauce so that the Kitchen God can’t tell tales on us because his lips are stuck together with the palm sugar filling. Pieces of fresh seasonal fruit and sweets from the Trays of Togetherness (CNY biscuits, candied fruit and lotus root, nuts and seeds) promise us a prosperous New Year.
Gong xi fa cai!
So, we welcome in the New Year. There’s been depth to the food rituals and the entertainment which somehow gives extra meaning to the dining experience. Following tradition, to further welcome in the New Year all that’s left to do is to go home, sweep the house, gather with our family and give money to our kids. So, what’s different! We feel especially blessed.
ARIA’s Long Table Dinner is an annual event.
Salt Village, Bells Boulevard, South Kingscliff, NSW 2487
http://kingscliffevents.com.au/ or https://www.facebook.com/TasteTweed/
NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast were guests at AIA’s Long Table Dinner, sponsored by Australian Good Food & Travel Guide, Peppers Salt Resort & Spa
FlyScoot Scoot Airlines, Solo Resource Recovery and Kingscliff TAFE.