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Typical Nyonya altar food


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That is a lot of food. . .! Beautiful food too. . .and obviously a lot of care and time went into preparing it.

Will there be a gathering of family to eat it? What is the protocol for eating it, if there is one?

You've taken some lovely photos. . .thank you for sharing with us. :smile:

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What a feast! I can just smell the food! Um..could you (very roughly) name the dishes?

Lemme see...I think I can identify

acar (pickled veg),

and that interesting layered block looks like some glutinous kuih,

and, of course, there's mangosteen, rambutan, langsat, pomelo and durian, thoughtfully peeled,

black ang koo??

What happens to the food after the rituals?

Edited by Tepee (log)

TPcal!

Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

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Row 1

chinese tea(you can't see it in the picture)

Row 2

rice wine(small clear glasses on saucers)

Row 3

rice (shaped like a cone)

Row 4

black soya sauce (in a saucer), pounded ginger, block of kaya to eat with the pulut tekan (it has to be thicker than the average kaya so that it can be cut into blocks), acar, spring onion soaked in warm water (for the ancestors to 'wash' their hands prior to eating)

Row 5

kuih kochi (next to the blue and white block), pulut tekan (in Malay ,pulut tatai/pulut teratai-- that's the blue and white block thing), wajit (brown glutinous rice flavoured with durian) and black kuih ku.

Row 6 (never orange or grapes etc, usually local fruits)

dokong, cempedak, durian and pomelo

Row 7

mangosteen , stewed pig (pork?) intestine, steamed pomfret, rambutan

Row 8

chicken soup, whole chicken in black sauce, pong teh, fishballs with shiitake mushrooms and oysters

Row 9

Sambal udang, pig trotters, some other kind of pong teh, fish lemak

Row 10

Roast duck(the lady broke the neck haha), boiled chicken and a piece of pork(must have ribs attached).

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There's no protocol to eating the food, but before we can take the food away from the altar, there're some rituals we have to go through. The head of the family takes the 'sopoi' (2 crescent- shaped wooden erm 'things' s :hmmm: ) and 'asks' the ancestors if they've eaten. He then throws it and if one faces up and the other down, it means yes, if both are facing up ,it means they're annoyed-so,that's a no;) 0 and if both face downwards; they're laughing so that's a no as well!).

After that, the head of the family will burn 'money' , after which the food can be taken away and consumed (only if you want to) . My aunts are mad and cook huge amounts so we end up eating the same thing for a week! and that's also the reason why I hate ,hate those dishes :laugh:

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we end up eating the same thing for a week! and that's also the reason why I hate ,hate those dishes  :laugh:

Gimme your address, PLEASE, and I'll do justice to the food...er...not particularly altar food but nyonya food. YES!

TPcal!

Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

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we end up eating the same thing for a week! and that's also the reason why I hate ,hate those dishes  :laugh:

Gimme your address, PLEASE, and I'll do justice to the food...er...not particularly altar food but nyonya food. YES!

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

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After that, the head of the family will burn 'money' , after which the food can be taken away and consumed (only if you want to) . My aunts are mad and cook huge amounts so we end up eating the same thing for a week! and that's also the reason why I hate ,hate those dishes  :laugh:

:biggrin: Sometimes we have the same situation on holidays. . .particularly when a large ham is cooked. It seems to last for eternity, the eating of the thing. . .as the week goes on and it gets made into ham sandwiches, ham spread, ham hash, quiches, soups. . .one might think that the act of eating these things would somehow connect them to Eternity in a philosophic sense. It is unfortunate that the whole thing becomes so boring and endless that any philosophic or higher thoughts about it are lost due to the inanity of it! :biggrin:

As someone with an interest in faiths or beliefs. . .or religions. . .and how they intersect with food, I am also curious as to whether this holiday and the attendant food rituals is something that is taken in a deeply serious way. . .with the belief in the rituals being deep and true. . .or whether it has become for most (in this day and age) something more like our "Christmas"?

(Christmas, for many people does not have a lot to do at all with the beliefs or religion originally attached to it but is more just about having a holiday of some sort. . .)

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Errr... interesting choice of words, Brewer.

yunnermeier, do you know the reason why only local fruits are offered? I am not absolutely certain, but I seem to remember seeing apples and oranges as altar food. (Could've been mandarin oranges). First time I've seen durian , but I like it. It must take a lot of willpower to open a durian and not eat it right away.

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As someone with an interest in faiths or beliefs. . .or religions. . .and how they intersect with food, I am also curious as to whether this holiday and the attendant food rituals is something that is taken in a deeply serious way. . .with the belief in the rituals being deep and true. . .or whether it has become for most (in this day and age) something more like our "Christmas"?

(Christmas, for many people does not have a lot to do at all with the beliefs or religion originally attached to it but is more just about having a holiday of some sort. . .)

The 7th moon festival here isn't a fun thing over here nor is it a big festival(as opposed to Chinese New Year). In my family, it's done because it's tradition but I think some people still truly believe in it.

BTW during the 7th lunar moon, lots of girls with creepy long hair appear on the silver screen ;)

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Carrot Top...to elaborate...the chinese 7th month is the Hungry Ghost Festival, where the dear departed's souls are let loose to 'indulge'. My mom, being a vague Taoist, does offer food and incense from joss-sticks too, but wayyyyyyyy less than yunnermeier's. Basically, they do this outside the house gates, for wandering souls. When we were young, we were discouraged from going outdoors after 7pm just in case our luck was particularly low and we bump into one of them. Also, during the night offering, we were reminded not to answer to anyone calling our name, in case it was them calling/wooing us. Of course, instead of heeding mom's warning, we did a lot of 'Bali High' calls, until we came across some indeterminate calls...."Why did you call me for?"..."Call you? No, I didn't." :unsure: Halloween is carnival stuff and miles less creepy than going through the 7th moon those days. And, there are no treats. Maybe that's why we celebrate the Mooncake Festival after that. :rolleyes:

However, none of us (the 4 children) are traditional believers now...with Roman Catholic, Protestant and Bahai being our faiths.

...whether it has become for most (in this day and age) something more like our "Christmas"?

I do wish people would leave traditions alone, and not commercialize it. It's a struggle every year trying to tell non-believers the true meaning of Christmas. :sad:

p/s 7th month 14th day is not a holiday here.

and, Laksa, my mom offers oranges and apples too.

Edited by Tepee (log)

TPcal!

Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

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I must be really sleepy, because I think I see instant ramen next to the chicken.

I have not seen so many different dishes on one dining table before. Oh my God. The seventh moon isn't celebrated - at least not in my family. However, the mid-autumn festival is met with similar enthusiam as your huge feast (though maybe half as elaborate, if I'm lucky).

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I'm wondering it the Chinese 7th Moon festival is related to the Japanese O-Bon festival, when the ancestors return to earth for several days. I would think so, because the Japanese borrowed many traditions from China.

I'm not sure of food-related traditions in O-Bon because I'm not Japanese, but I know that food offerings like mochi rice cakes are placed in front of household alters. In Hawaii, most of the Buddhist temples mark the festival with evening O-Bon line dances (many of the participants wear yukata - summer kimono) and outdoor food booths. It's pretty festive as far as festivals for the dead go. Then lanterns are lit and floated out to sea to help send the souls of the deceased back to the other world.

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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It would be related, SuzySushi, because the obon festival used to be held in the 7th month, and is now in August because of the introduction of the western calendar.

What surprised me was seeing meat dishes - in Japan, altar food at obon is strictly vegetarian.

Is meat often served as altar food in other Chinese regions?

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It would be related, SuzySushi, because the obon festival used to be held in the 7th month, and is now in August because of the introduction of the western calendar.

What surprised me was seeing meat dishes - in Japan, altar food at obon is strictly vegetarian.

Is meat often served as altar food in other Chinese regions?

Here's what I know... but I'm hardly knowledgeable on this as I come from a non-observant background.

The daily altar offerings are generally fruits (heard recently that there are some fruits are a no-no but can't remember who mentioned it :hmmm: so got to check) but on festival days, poached/steamed chicken complete with the head and feet and siu-yook (crispy roast pork) are usually offered by southern Chinese. Some offer the favourite foods of the deceased ... one of my aunts includes bacon and eggs in her Qing Ming offerings for my grandfather as that was what he used to have for breakfast :raz:...though I'm not sure whether he receives it as he used to dismiss all this as mumbo-jumbo :shock::laugh: and didn't allow an altar in his house.

I also vaguely remember someone mentioning that if one offers vegetarian food to the deceased at the wake, the offerings thereafter have to be vegetarian.

Oh besides food, entertainment is also provided to the wandering souls during the Chinese 7th Moon Festival :cool: . Temporary stages are set up, usually around markets (my mum's explanation for having the stages at markets is that the wandering souls are attracted to markets as animals were slaughtered there ... but then again my mum is a banana :raz: so she might have it wrong) where Chinese opera or other singing performances are held - the first few rows of seats are 'reserved' for the wandering souls.

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It would be related, SuzySushi, because the obon festival used to be held in the 7th month, and is now in August because of the introduction of the western calendar.

Here, some temples hold the festival in mid-July while others hold it in mid-August. This year, the toro-nagashi was scheduled to coincide with the American Memorial Day holiday at the end of May, instead of being at the end of the O-Bon season! But we went to a Bon dance two weeks ago, and there's another coming up in our neighborhood next weekend.

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Laksa, I'm not really sure why non-local fruits aren't served. I'll ask my mum and get back to you later:D

The Chinese pray a lot simpler (like some posters mentioned earlier); just fruits and a few dishes usually, or just huat kueh (some pink steam cakes) and fruits but the Baba and Nyonya on the other hand.... You should see the Chinese New Year spread! And the 7th moon festival spread my relatives prepared this year was a lot simpler than when we 'prayed' back in Melaka :rolleyes: mad aunts;)

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7th moon festival at the moment and like always, mum and aunts prepared dishes for our dead ancestors (my paternal grandparents and paternal grandad's parents). Here's a typical Nyonya (straits born chinese spread)

I found these pictures very interesting.

Is it typical that you stack the cooked rice way up high on a bowl? Do you eat like that? Or is it just an altar food version? I have never seen rice scooped and stuffed so high that it shapes like a conehead.

What I used to see in Hong Kong for the 7th month and 14th day was the government set up temporary incinerators on the street for people to burn paper houses, paper cars, paper servants, paper gold bullion, and paper (fake) money for their late love ones and ancestors.

I could not link any food item that is used for the occassion. But I supposed one can offer whatever that was the favorite of the deceased.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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