It’s the Year of the Pig!
In the Chinese Zodiac, there is a twelve-year cycle that has an animal sign associated with each year. The cycle traditionally starts with the rat, then the ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The animals each have certain attributes that are supposed to represent how others perceive us. My birth year is 1994 which is the Year of the Dog. The personality traits for someone born in this year are: honest, reliable, and considerate. For people born in the Years of the Pig (1971, 1983, 1995, 2007), they are considered well-behaved and wealthy. That’s a super quick overview to get you up to speed if you are not familiar with the Chinese Zodiac!
In spirit of Lunar New Year on Feb 5th, we decided to have dim sum at Golden Court Restaurant in Richmond Hill (270 West Beaver Creek Road). I’m calling it Lunar New Year to recognize that many Asian cultures celebrate the first day of the first month in a moon-cycle based calendar. Personally, I celebrate Vietnamese New Year which is known as Tết, but there’s also Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, and Tibetan New Years. Lots of celebrations!
Golden Court was so nicely decorated for the occasion. There are lions statues that greet you when you walk in, which are always there but today they had a red cloth wrapped around them. There was a tree with clementines and red envelopes hanging on it which is symbolic for prosperity in the new year. It’s tradition that parents, grandparents and couples who are married give red envelopes to kids, teenagers, and young adults that are not married. For Vietnamese New Year, every year I would go to both my grandparents houses where the entire family would gather and have a feast. The parents of one family would sit on the couch and all the children would line up to give them greetings for the new year and receive their “lucky money”. The greetings are usually personalized, but they are along the lines of wishing somebody good health and good fortune. It doesn’t really matter how much money is inside, it’s more of a symbolic gesture. However, it’s common for the envelopes to contain $5 to $100+. I didn’t know this before, but I saw a few customers giving the manager of this restaurant red envelopes as they came in. I guess if you’re a regular customer and have that kind of relationship, it’s a really nice thing to do!
Let’s talk about the food! When you go to a dim sum restaurant, there is a paper menu and a pencil given to your table so that you can check off the items that you want. Then, the waitress crosses the items off on the menu as they come out. There is usually a regular menu as well for their lunches and dinner that you might have to request. Sometimes, there are ladies that push around carts that have dim sum foods on it. When the carts pass your table, you can ask to take an item and then they would note that on your menu. It’s not uncommon for people to get up and walk to a cart so that you don’t have to wait for it to come around, just don’t forget to bring your paper menu.
We started with salmon congee soup and Chinese donuts. I feel like I always have to start with congee. It warms me up for the rest of the meal. This portion was shared between me and my partner – it’s usually a meal to share! I love dipping the Chinese donuts in it. Note: the donuts are not like a traditional donut, they are eaten as an appetizer.
We ordered the classic hargow (shrimp dumplings), shrimp rice noodle roll, and pork buns among other things. We also had fried shrimp dumplings and shrimp rolls. There are plenty of shrimp-based items in a dim sum meal. The food here tastes so fresh and delicious! Finally, I’m finishing off my meal with mango pudding topped with condensed milk. This is a beautiful dessert, and it’s something I always get! I love that it’s a koi fish. I can’t have a complete dim sum meal without it. Sometimes I opt for this layered ginger tofu dessert, or a sweet red bean soup.
Halfway through our meal, these colourful red and yellow lions came into the restaurant! I’ve never seen anything like it. We just came here for a good meal, so this was completely a surprise to us. It was amazing to see the lion dancers, and it made everyone in the restaurant so happy. They danced through the tables and on the “stage” (an elevated part of the restaurant with more tables). They were dancing to drums, cymbals and a gong. At one point the lions were trying to reach this lettuce hanging from the ceiling (which was there our entire meal), and then when they finally did they ripped the lettuce apart and scattered it all across the floor. This is a strange thing to witness, but it’s a tradition that is supposed to symbolize the start of a new year and the spreading of good luck.
This lion got so close and personal to this table, that it started refilling their tea! The dancer made it look so real and effortless, but that looks like it takes a lot of skill. It’s a sweet memory for the kids, and a cute touch.
We’ll be sure to return next year for the Lunar New Year celebration! Thanks for the show Golden Court.