Whether I spent the day at school or enjoyed a lazy Sunday in, the highlight of my childhood days would always be dinner time. whenever I close my eyes, even now, I can clearly hear the constant sizzling of a wok and fragrance of the herbs being tossed around. Each day I would stand impatiently drooling by the door to the kitchen and sneaking a taste when no one was looking, the risk of being scolded always made the food that much more appealing.
I have grown some what addicted to rice, suffering from withdrawal when I miss a day or two (I'm not exagerating and I'm definitely not alone). What's our secret to tirelessly eat rice down-in-day-out ? well, in Chinese we have a saying that literally translates to "Three dishes, one soup" ( pronounced "samsung yut tong"), which describes the menu for supper.
Accompanying our bowls of rice would be an assortment of food, placed in the middle of a dining table for all to share; although it could become a free for all to win the coveted drumstick in a plate of chicken. Typically the three dishes will consist of: a meat, a vegetable, a fish; So the saying is an asian way of saying "meat and two veg". This is a lovely way to eat, not only do you get a range of nutrients but it's also quite exciting to have a combination of flavours in one meal. I would also make sure that my last mouthful would be the best.
The soups we had were different from what you might be used to; instead of blended up vegetables; we'll have a heart-warming broth made from brewing meat with Chinese herbs for hours. Some folk believe that there are healing properties to these soups, and some even go as far as conjuring up soups which are considered an aphrodisiac.
On special occasions the number of dishes increase, as more people join the dining table. These occasions are usually celebrations and being quite a superstitious race of people, we would tend to have prosperously named dishes. Most of the time the only reason people believe it will bring good fortune is down to the fact the ingredients rhymes with something positive. I mean who doesn't want to have a plate full of "make me filthy stinking rich".
I hope these dinner rituals will continues in the future. For me dinner time is not just to stuff myself, but a time to catch up with family. Its nice to have time of day where everyone converges. It's an extra bonus for me when I get to see others enjoy the food i've cooked for them, a happy cook always seems to give the best results.