Today is the sixth day of the Chinese New Year, according to traditional Chinese beliefs, it is a HORSE DAY. It had nothing to do with the year of Horse, every 6th day of the first month of Chinese Lunar year will be the horse day, the birthday of horses. Haha. On the contrary, the seventh day of Chinese New Year is the human day or “ren ri” (人日）。 It is believed that human beings were created by an ancient legendary lady god Nu Wo (女蜗）and therefore, the seventh day is every human being’s birthday. Whether this is true is up to individual. Since it is the thousand years beliefs passed down from our ancestors, I opt to adhere this simple tradition of having a seven vegetables dish.
If you are interested to know about Chinese culture, according to a book Questions and Answers on Rites and Customs (答問禮俗說) by Dong Xun in Jin Dynasty, the lady god when she created living creatures in the world, she created the creatures in this order. 1st day – chicken , 2nd day – dog, 3rd day – boar, 4th day – sheep, 5th day – cow, 6th day – horse and 7th day – human being. As from 8th day onwards, what she created is unknown… So on the 7th day, it is human beings’ birthday. So Let’s start celebrate our birthday together..
Special auspicious dishes were prepared on this day to mark the birthday of human being. Each region have some differences.. It is rather surprised that Singapore and Malaysian Chinese mostly celebrate this day with “Seven colour sliced fish “- a rather funny translation of 七彩鱼生。 It is actually something like sashimi (raw fish slices) and served with 7 types of colour vegetables or roots usually julienned into very thin pieces. Every diner in the feast will hold a pair of chopstick and mixed together signifying the arrival of good luck…
In other China provinces, seven vegetables porridge (七菜粥） or seven vegetables soups were prepared (七菜羹）。。Seven types of vegetables were prepared in soup form and all the vegetable have certain meanings attached to it.. I understand these can be prepared either in religion vegetarian form or non vegetarian form. However, pardon me as I can’t locate an exact recipe for this special soup. I enquired before from my wife’s god mother who hails from china and now in her eighties, apparently, she can vividly recall what it look like but she can’t recalled the exact ingredients. She did, however, prepared a dish for the seven vegetables every year on this day and that is how I get to know about the dish.. Instead of preparing in the soupy form, she stir fried and what she called it seven vegetables dish (七色菜or 七式菜）。
As the name suggest, there are seven vegetables and all the Chinese names of these vegetables have the same phonetic with other Chinese characters. The meaning attached to each vegetable are as follows:
1) Chinese Leek – (蒜 = 算）- Calculation – adequate wealth to calculate
2) Chinese celery – （芹 = 勤）- Hardworking and Diligence
3) Chinese coriander （园香菜 = 缘）- Good destiny
4) Napa cabbage （大白菜 = 清清白白）- clean character
5) Spring onion （葱 = 聪明）- Intelligence
6) Chinese chives （韭菜 = 长长久久）- Everlasting
7) A type of mustard green (春菜 – 青云直上）- Progression
Since spring onion and chives were used in the above vegetable combination, obviously it can’t be a vegetarian dish by religion, therefore, I have opt to prepare it together with some Chinese sausages or meat slices. Otherwise, alternatives will have to be located to replace Chinese leek and spring onion. (Note that leek and spring onion were considered as “meat” for religious purposes).
WHAT IS REQUIRED
Two to three leaves of each of the above vegetables cut into small pieces
Some meat slices or Chinese sausages (optional)
2 tablespoons of cooking oil
Seasonings to taste
STEPS OF PREPARATION
In a frying pan, put 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. Add Chinese leek and chives and celery and stir fry for a minutes or two. Add in all the other vegetable follow by 1/4 cup of water. Let it simmer for 2-3 minutes. The order of the putting the vegetables and meat are as follows: if you are using meat slices, after Chinese Leek, meat slices, celery, chives, white stem of napa cabbage and follow by all other green leafy vegetables. Those vegetables that took a longer time to cook have to be added first.
Add the Chinese sausage, stir fry for 2 minutes, add seasonings to taste (light soya sauce, sugar, salt, white pepper). Off the heat and put in the serving plate. Best served hot with white rice. (note that if you prefer, you can add in the Chinese sausage earlier. However, because it tends to get burnt, therefore, i have added it at this stage).
Is this a recipe? I do not know. What I want to share with readers are some traditions that were practised by some Chinese clans. Well, if it did not trouble you much, why not try preparing it. If you go to Singapore wet market on the 7th day of the Chinese New Year, some vegetable stalls already have a ready package mix all the vegetables for you. Don’t be shocked that they sell you only one leaf of napa cabbage instead of the whole napa cabbage. Ha-ha.
Hope you like the post today and hope that you enjoy your birthday tomorrow. Be in yusheng, seven vegetables soup, luicha (擂茶） or this dish, sincerely hope that you and your family are of good health in the coming year. Cheers.
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