This year, The Star is bringing the sights, smells and traditions of the Lunar New Year – all wrapped in good luck, naturally – under the one roof, via a series of specially curated menus by some of the country’s top chefs, and a thrilling, red-tinged roster of entertainment spanning Aqualume performances to roaming red dragons.
Food is at the centre of every Lunar New Year celebration; every dish is loaded with significance and is, ultimately, aimed at nudging Lady Luck in your favour.
For Victor Liong, co-executive chef at CHUUKA (he mans the pans there alongside Sokyo’s Chase Kojima), the best part of Lunar New Year celebrations is always, the food.
“Half the reason you like Christmas is because you get to eat everything,” Liong tells SBS Food. “You have the choice to gorge on whatever you want and unlike the rest of the year, gorging is encouraged. It’s the same with Lunar New Year.”
Born in Borneo and raised in Malaysia, Liong migrated to Sydney with his family at the age of 16. These days, his family lives in Melbourne, where he also runs lauded Chinese diner, Lee Ho Fook. The chef recalls a more traditional Lunar New Year spread as a child.
“My parents migrated here as just a nuclear family and we didn’t have too much-extended family, so catching up in a family setting to celebrate something cultural was very important, especially in the early years,” Liong says. “It kind of created traditions.”
Sticking to Lunar New Year food folklore meant there was always a whole fish on Liong’s table, alongside mounds of noodles, and an old Cantonese dish his mum would prepare, called ho see fat choy, or dried oysters with black seaweed moss.
“Chinese culture is very superstitious – everything has a little stigma or connotation built into it.”
A whole fish, for example, signifies togetherness, abundance and prosperity. “The good luck comes into the mouth of the fish, and you devour the whole fish so that your whole year is auspicious,” Liong explains.
Noodles, on the other hand, represent longevity, “because noodles are long, so basically, they’re symbolic of enjoying a life that is long.”
A large chunk of celebratory Asian dishes were built on auspicious word associations, or as Liong calls them, ‘punny food’.
“The ‘fat choy’ in the hair moss dish ‘ho see fat choy’, sounds like the same ‘fat choy’ that also means good fortune,” Liong explains.
Then there’s the golden-tinged fried wontons, another tasty vessel for good fortune, thanks to their rich dollar-like hue and ingot-style shape.
“Wontons look like big pieces of gold, and you are what you eat, so you get rich when you consume them. It’s great.”
Liong is spreading the good fortune and luck of his childhood banquets this Lunar New Year with a particularly propitious dish he’ll be serving up at CHUUKA: the loh sang, or prosperity toss.
CHUUKA’s version of the celebratory southeast Asian dish will see raw salmon plated with kingfish, Hokkaido scallops and strands of vegetables, which diners can toss with a zingy plum and yuzu dressing using their chopsticks, to seal their good fortune and fulfilment for the year ahead.
“We arrange it artistically on one large platter and then you guys just go for it. It’s very fun.”
Over at Flying Fish, executive chef Peter Robertson has curated an auspicious eight course menu, built on crowd favourites that have hit the high notes with diners over the years.
The seafood-centric good luck feast kicks off with prawn toast, a Flying Fish LNY menu staple, made the traditional way using Spencer prawns, ginger, garlic, spring onions, soy, sesame and sugar.
“We beat that all with eggwhites to make a paste and pipe that on top of the house-made steamed bread fingers, roll them in sesame, and deep-fry and serve them with an XO mayonnaise,” Robertson explains of the addictive one-handers.
Keeping to LNY tradition and Flying Fish’s greatest Asian menu hits, rock oysters and then a marinated tuna, enriched rice, sesame and aged soy dish ensues, followed by South Australian pipis in XO with coconut bread.
“Raw fish at Lunar New Year symbolises good luck and prosperity, but above everything else, it’s always quite well received.”
Next up is the always crowd-pleasing honey prawns, made with a glass-shattering tempura batter and caramelised local honey, and finished with a squeeze of lemon juice to cut through all the sweetness.
A charcoal-roasted Cape Grim beef fillet in a puddle of rich oxtail sauce follows (opulence is the name of the game, after all), with broccolini and salted chilli for some green respite.
Robertson finishes things on a sweet note, with a palm sugar macerated pineapple teamed with a coconut and pandan salad, offset with a light, nutty coconut sorbet.
Many believe pineapple carries good luck because the Hokkien word for pineapple is “ong-lai,” which translates to ‘prosperity has arrived’.
Sound like an abundant spread? There’s a reason for that.
“A full belly is symbolic of going into the year not hungry,” says Liong. “It’s a fun time. And then you get money, so you’re full and you’re rich – it’s great.”
Other venues at The Star offering deliciously fortuitous Lunar New Year-inspired banquets include:
Prosperity: Fa Fa Fa Salmon Yu Sheng salad
Wealth: Steamed silver pomfret in Teo Chew-style, aged pork ham, sour plum and salted mustard green
Fortune: Free range chicken wrapped in lotus leaf, conpoy, shiitake mushroom and dried oyster
Longevity: Wok-tossed somen noodle, jumbo prawn, scallop, shimeji mushroom and golden chives
Auspicious: Braised pork belly in claypot, Japanese tofu, sugar snap, shiitake mushroom, fragrant jasmine rice
“Fortune” - $38 Steamed Whole Grouper, ginger and shallot, Premium Soy Sauce
Longevity: Braised seafood with e-fu noodle, Chinese broccoli, XO sauce
Lunar New Year Super Seafood Buffet
- Enjoy a massive LNY inspired seafood buffet with a
glass of bubbles on arrival
- Enjoy dishes like lobsters, bugs, prawns and more!
- Every Wednesday dinner from 22 January – 26 February 2020
Special Lunar section:
- Enjoy a Lunar New Year inspired buffet
Dishes will include: roasted duck and crispy pork belly. Charcoal gua bun, Cloudy Bay clams with XO sauce, salt and pepper prawn, assorted dumplings, steamed Tasmanian salmon and sweet corn; egg drop soup with QLD spanner crab, scallops, ven baked Kingfish + loads more!
BLACK Bar & Grill
Auspicious: Black lip abalone, kombu butter
Treasures: Deep fried half snapper with nanbanzuke sauce, coriander salad
“Opulence” Sashimi platter with Lobster, caviar, Toro, Uni, scamooi plus more
Discover more at The Star