02 January 2013

A Meaningful 2013 New Year's Eve

My New Year's Eve was very much Filipino but plain and simple. The dinner table was too in comparison to other celebrations I had. The only important ingredient was that every dish on the table must mean something. Yes, we are superstitious but we don't care since the fun of believing happens only once in a year. 

Chopsuey is a stir-fry vegetable dish that I consider a national dish since almost every Filipino household knows how to cook this food. Its main ingredients are cauliflower, carrots, baby corn, snow peas and other common vegetables except squash. It can be mixed with either pork, chicken or seafood such as shrimps. Quail eggs are a plus. This food represents prosperity since the mix of various vegetables symbolizes good harvest.

Pancit Bihon is a stir-fry rice noodle with soy sauce, pork and some vegetables such as cabbage and carrots. In the local dialect, "pancit" means noodle and "bihon" is just referring to the local name of the specific type of rice noodle used. It is a very close relative of the Singaporean bee hoon. It is garnished with lime to add that oomph factor. The dish means long life because of the length of the noodle in its raw form. In fact, any other noodle dish can be served. Even spaghetti will do.

Sopas simply means soup but for some of our brothers from northern Philippines, it must have chicken and elbow macaroni in it. I am from the south so I am unfamiliar with this tradition. I have asked for meaning but so far the only answer I got is that it signifies comfort since people like to have soup during wee hours of a chilly morning or on a rainy night.

Palitaw is a dessert made of flattened balls of glutinous rice coated with grated coconut, sugar and toasted sesame seeds. The name comes from the word "litaw" which means float since the method of cooking is to drop the flattened rice balls in boiling water until it rises to the surface when it is cooked. This dessert possesses the basic requirement of being round which is a symbol of a coin or wealth. Secondary to it is its sweetness.

Leche Flan is a dessert that consists of egg, condensed and evaporated milk, and sugar. It is a very simple looking meal but is quite challenging for an amateur cook. It takes at least these basic steps - caramelizing the sugar and setting it evenly on the bottom of a round pan, mixing egg yolks and milk, and pouring them over the hardened sugar layer, then steaming it. Before I forget, it must be cooled in the fridge and then served upside down from the pan. I would say that it is a very sinful dessert but it takes like heaven. Leche flan is commonly known as creme caramel or creme custard. The origin can be traced back to time of the Spanish regime. The explanation is quite long but its meaning is very much the same as that of the Palitaw - round for wealth.

Round Fruits definitely are a must on  the table on New Year's Eve for being round. It seems a lot of Filipinos wish for wealth and prosperity on this one night every year. It is a good sign of a culture that has always been known for optimism despite the odds. I still consider myself an optimistic person so cheers and may you have a bountiful New Year!

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