Why Chinese Wedding Dinners Are Always 8-Course
May 28, 2019 | in Ceremony & Reception
Have you ever wondered why Chinese wedding dinners always come in 8-course? Everything is symbolic in a Chinese traditional wedding, from the bride’s wedding dress, the perfect date to wed, to every morsel of food that is served at the wedding dinner.
Do you know what each of the food served in a traditional Chinese wedding dinner means?
Truth is, a traditional Chinese wedding dinner almost always has eight courses. Eight is an auspicious number for the Chinese as it rhymes with prosperity. Because of that, you’ll see the number eight being incorporated into a lot of things Chinese. The next time you get invited to a Chinese wedding, be observant and see how many times the number eight appears throughout the ceremony, from the gifts, amount of money in the ang pows and other items symbols on display in the bride and groom’s home.
In fact, the Chinese have a knack for weaving symbolism into everything, especially their food. That’s why you can find many creative names being given to the food in the menu of a Chinese restaurant, especially the high end ones.
More so in a wedding dinner where everything must emulate good wishes of luck, prosperity and wealth for the newlyweds and their families.
Course 1: The Cold Platter
The dinner will always start with some appetizer or “cold cuts” consisting of 5 types of bite sized items. There will be different variations, depending on which restaurant/hotels you have the dinner, but the usual items will be prawns, jellyfish, money bags, some sort of salad and a pork item. These items represent the dragon and phoenix, a marriage between two mythical beings. Both the dragon and phoenix have symbolism of prosperity and wealth to the Chinese community.
Course 2: Shark’s Fin Soup
In the olden days, shark’s fin soup was a delicacy that only the wealthy families can afford. Having this dish in a wedding banquet shows that the family is wealthy enough to be able to serve it to their guests. Other than shark’s fin, other ingredients in the soup usually include crab meat, fish maw and crab roe (representing gold because of its color). Of course these days, the more environmentally conscious couples are finding other alternatives to replace shark’s fin soup. Honestly, while we think it’s important to embrace and preserve tradition, you should opt for an imitate version of this dish.
Course 3: Fish
Fish is a must in any Chinese dinner. Fish represents abundance, so it is wishing that the couple have a plentiful life in marriage. The fish must be served whole symbolizing a completion of the union from beginning till end. When you have finished eating one side of the fish, never turn the fish over to eat the other side. It represents an upset or “overturn” in your life. Instead, lift up the bones and then eat the flesh underneath. To overcome this problem, a lot of restaurants serve the fish in the butterfly style, slicing open the belly and spreading both sides of the fish open on the plate.
Course 4: Poultry
Poultry, usually chicken or duck symbolizes peace and unity. This is a must-have in all Chinese wedding banquets because really, who doesn’t love meat?
Course 5: Prawns
The Cantonese word for prawns is “Ha” which is similar to the sound of laughter. Having prawns symbolize a lifetime of laughter for the couple and their family.
Course 6: Vegetables with Abalone, Sea Cucumber or Mushrooms
This dish represents a smooth life for the couple because if you look carefully you’ll notice, all the ingredients have a smooth silky texture. This dish normally comes with a thick sauce that gives it a glistening shine. If whole abalones are out of the budget, abalone mushrooms can be used as a substitute. Sometimes fatt choy, the stringy hair like algae is added. “Fatt Choy” means prosperity in Chinese.
Course 7: Sticky Rice Cooked in Lotus Leaf or Stir Fried Noodles
Rice is a staple food for the Chinese community. Serving a rice dish at a wedding symbolizes that the couple will never lack of food. Sticky rice means the couple will always “stick” together.
An alternative to the rice dish is a stir fried noodle dish. Noodles represent longevity because they are long. It is wishing the couple a long and happy marriage.
Course 8: Dessert
Ending the dinner with something sweet is a must. It keeps the guests’ mouths sweet so that they will never talk bad about the couple or their families. Traditionally, dessert is a red bean soup with lotus seeds. Lotus seeds represent fertility. There are other variations to the dessert dish, such as fruit punch or any type of sweet syrup with fruits. However, there will normally be common ingredients inside such as white fungus, lotus seeds and longan.
What’s your favorite dish in a traditional Chinese banquet?