A dozen years ago, when I lived up here, Hong Kong East Ocean Seafood Restaurant was my and my childhood friend's dim sum restaurant of choice. It was pretty decent dim sum and had the added benefit of us not having to cross over the Bay Bridge. (Can you believe the bridge toll is now $4?!) The restaurant is located at the very end of the Emeryville pier so we dined while looking at expansive views of the Bay Bridge, San Francisco, and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Expansive views. Those cranes are the port of Oakland in the distance, the Bay Bridge and San Francisco on the far right.
Lucky money envelopes and pretty plum blossoms for the Lunar New Year.
I had a nice spot with a view. At my table were a few other people from college, one of my friend's childhood friends whom I met a decade ago when my friend worked in SoCal for a summer, and several of her mom's friends.
There was a brief tea ceremony and the saying of the vows. Then cocktail hour until the banquet started.
The gloaming. I love the gloaming.
My high school friend asked if she could be my "date" since she wanted Chinese banquet food. My invite did say I get a +1, but she was still worried that it'd be crass if she came just for the food. :P
When my college friend was planning the menu and reception, she said she stumbled upon my old blog post about Vietnamese Chinese wedding traditions. Funny! Anyway, none of that information really applied to her case, and she ended up with elaborate descriptions of the significance of the dishes for the banquet. You know the Chinese kind of go crazy over symbolism -- names, numbers, appearance all play a role in determining luck.
So, according to my college friend, or what she found online, eight main courses are served since the Chinese word for eight (ba) sounds like the word for good fortune (fa chai). I thought eight in Cantonese was baht, which sounds like luck (fat)? Dessert makes nine courses because jiu sounds like the word for everlasting. But, but, Cantonese nine is gau.
And what if you spoke another dialect? Ha! I'm just being difficult. But really, Cantonese four sounds like death and is unlucky, but four in Trieu Chow sounds like happiness and is lucky. Aiyah!
First course was crispy shrimp puffs. No significance there, just crispy shrimp balls.
Crackling Peking duck with steamed buns and shrimp chips. According to my friend, ducks represent fidelity. Also, that food that is red, supposedly what the skin of the duck was supposed to be, is lucky because the color represents joy, celebration, and happiness.
The duck skin was crispy and juicy. Layered inside a steamed bun with a scallion and a drizzle of hoisin sauce. Mmm.
Garden vegetables with fresh crab meat. No significance to this dish either. The crab was really good, but I didn't think it went so well with steamed broccoli. I like broccoli, but it has a very strong flavor and the delicacy of the crab was overpowered.
The restaurant then brought out the rest of the duck that wasn't on the Peking duck platter. Juicy and flavorful.
Shark's fin soup with shredded chicken. Symbolizes wealth and prosperity. I know shark's fin soup is quite controversial, but it's popular at wedding banquets precisely to show off that wealth and prosperity. Too few ingredients. Not enough shark's fin or other ingredients so the soup was mainly liquid.
Braised Maine lobster. We took a table photo when this plate came out and I chatted with my friend for a bit so by the time I sat down, half of the lobster was already on other people's plates. My friend says lobster is called "dragon shrimp" in Chinese and the dragon and phoenix motif is popular at weddings because it symbolizes male and female harmony and a balanced relationship. The lobster was good, as lobster almost always is.
High school friend lamented that we sat at a table of eaters and almost every plate was picked clean. The table next to us of my college friend's other friends were too distracted caring for their babies and toddlers so they had plenty of leftovers. Leftover lobster even! Imagine that!
Roast chicken. Chicken represents the phoenix half of the dragon-phoenix motif and is often served in addition to lobster to symbolize a good marriage and the coming together of families. Crispy skin!
Steamed fresh fish. The Chinese word for fish (yu) sounds like the word that means "with enough left for later," so eating fish will bring abundance and enough left over for another day. Some day, I might show you the trick I learned from a Chinese waitress in London, of deboning the fish with just a spoon, removing the center bone, and leaving both fillets intact. It comes in handy not to have to bother with the bone when everyone's digging in.
Braised egg noodles because long strands of noodles represent long life. The noodles looked really simple, but were quite tasty.
The last course, the wedding cake.
Swedish Princess cake - white cake layers with raspberry and kirsch custard filling, whipped cream, and marzipan icing.
There was supposed to be a chocolate truffle torte layer too, but it hadn't been sliced by the time I left.
I was beat. I literally drove up half an hour before festivities were to begin. Good thing Asians never start on time! Also, if you're sensitive to MSG, there was quite a lot of MSG in the food. So much so that I had tummy problems all night. So just beware if that's a concern for you.
Wedding favors were chopsticks with the double happiness symbol on them and lucky money envelopes with lottery numbers inside. I checked. I didn't win. :(
Best wishes to my college friend and her new husband on a wonderful life together. She's banking on the double holiday of Valentine's Day and Lunar New Year to double her luck. :)
My other wedding banquet posts:
Capital Seafood Chinese Restaurant (Wedding Banquet) - Monterey Park
Empress Harbor Seafood Restaurant (Wedding Banquet) - Monterey Park
Pearl Chinese Cuisine (Wedding Banquet) - San Diego
Prince Seafood Restaurant (Wedding Banquet) - Cerritos
Regent West Restaurant (Wedding Banquet) - Santa Ana (Little Saigon)
1 year ago today, driving I-5 from LA to Portland with lil' sis.
2 years ago today, nectarine blossoms and musings on the grilled cheese sandwich.
3 years ago today, chocolate buffet at the Sofitel Plaza - Saigon - Vietnam.