Celebrating the Spring Festival at the Resort
Dr. Nestor Alonso ll (The Freeman) - March 9, 2018 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Another destination in the culinary itinerary for Spring Festival to usher in the Chinese Lunar Year was the Shangri-La’s Mactan Island Resort & Spa. Festivities began at 10:18 a.m., with Consul General Shi Yong of the People’s Republic of China, Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza and Shangri-La’s GM Rene Egle performing the Hoi Gong ceremony with the dotting of the eye of the Chinese lion to awaken its spirit. Red ribbons were tied around the lions’ horns, supposedly to stimulate its power and life force.

The lions started to dance, followed by the dragons; and then the fireworks and the beating of the drums. The loud noises were believed to drive out evil spirits and unfriendly ghosts. Then, select guests participated in the Yee Shang Tossing Ceremony. These were rituals of the People of the Middle Kingdom which their descendants have faithfully followed for the last 4,000 thousand years.

A Chinese Banquet followed. I joined media colleagues for lunch at the Tea of Spring. The five-course lunch consisted of Appetizers, Dim Sum Menu, Soup, Main Courses and Dessert. A four-course meal would be taboo because the number four is considered unlucky in Chinese culture.

We had fun with the Yee Shang Salad, tossing the ingredients as high as possible, though limited by the low hanging lights of the table.

Appetizer was a superb selection of dim sum dishes: Shrimp Dumpling, Onion Cake with Chicken, Bean Curd Rolls, Pork Loin and Cabbage with Prawn, Pork and Shrimp with Abalone. Soup came next, the Pork and Black Fungus Dumpling with Crabmeat. Years back, I wondered how this soup was prepared until I read how soup stock for dried abalone was made. Ingredients like chicken, pork bones and ham required gentle coaxing (over low fire) for three hours to surrender its precious essence. Quite painstaking, excuse me, but my cooking improved geometrically.

Three Main dishes were next served in quick succession: Steamed Live Lapu-Lapu Fillet with Tobiko and Truffle Oil, Stir-fried Prawns with Shimeji Mushrooms, and Deep-Fried Chicken Skin with Tanigue Paste with Almond Flakes with Mixed Vegetables.

Tobiko is the egg or roe of the flying fish that imparts a nice crunchy texture, while minute quantities of truffle oil are added because its earthly flavors are quite strong. The fish skeleton with its head and tail are deep fried whole to give the illusion of wholeness, representing family unity. Prawns and mushrooms complement each other, while the use of Tanigue Paste is uncommon to flavor chicken skin.

Two more dishes followed: Braised Top Shell & Sea Asparagus with Broccoli & Black Sea Moss, and Baby Abalone & XO Fried Rice with Scallops.

Black Sea Moss or Fat Choy has the appearance of black hair and is used because it sounds like the New Year greeting, “Gong Xi Fa Chai.” XO or spicy seafood sauce gives rice a pleasant aroma.

Dessert was the Traditional Nian Gao and Chilled Mango Puree with Pomelo & Sago.

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