Chinese New Years Banquet
While traveling through China I noticed how eager everyone was to prepare for the Chinese New Year holiday celebration. It seemed like everywhere I went, red and golden trinkets were sold in outdoor street markets, major department stores and even supermarkets. It’s obvious that these decorations will quickly erase any remnants of Christmas. Besides celebrating at my Daotist center, I usually gather, with friends and family for a traditional Chinese Banquet in Chinatown.
All of this has changed in recent years, thanks to my friend Kian Lam Kho. He loves to cook and his food is far superior to that of any place’s I’ve eaten in Chinatown in New York City. Instead of having his friends flying off to China, Kian invites a select group of his foodie friends, chefs, and restaurant folks to share a tasty meal in the intimate setting of his home.
Kian is from Singapore, he grew-up eating what he defines as authentic Chinese home cooking, with bold flavors that might be considered too harsh for the American palate. Hanging out with these foodies allows me an entry into the world of “tasting” at some of New York City’s major new restaurants. (I’m always fascinated by the way chefs and restaurant professionals easily critique a dish, the restaurant decor, the service, wine list and more, in one setting.) But this time we’re eating at the home of one the best Chinese Chef’s in New York City.
Kian Lan started his celebration by serving a 10 course authentic Chinese dinner with dishes that usher in good luck. Traditionally, a meal consists of steamed fish, lobster, dried scallops and oysters, sea cucumber, and steamed chicken, the preparation can varies depending on the region of China. He starts to prepare his meals several days in advance. This home-cooked meal can easily transport you to the private home kitchens of cities throughout China.
He was eager to get feedback from the friends who were chefs on the flavors. Some of them were brutally honest. They would tell him if the dishes were salty or sweet, or the flavors flat, or if the dish was greasy, or cold.
Last summer, he ventured into private dining, and reserved a restaurant for one evening and invited a group of friends who also brought other friends. He prepared a 8 course pre-fixed menu for a meager $50.00. The wine was extra, but it was well worth the cost. We were two lucky guest and we brought along one friend. Lew, a photographer from Berkeley who photographed each dish.
As every plate hits the table, everyone would peer at the dish and say, “Ahh.” The smells permeated the dining room, promoting conversations to heat up as the dishes were passed around the table. Soon you could hear a forks drop, or the clicking of chopsticks. If you listened carefully, you could also hear the sounds of satisfaction.