Menu's modern look

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 February, 2012, 12:00am


While most people know what to expect at a Chinese wedding banquet, over the years some of the standard dishes have fallen out of fashion.

According to Vivien Fok, director of events at Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, in the past few years shark's fin soup is no longer an absolute requirement on the menu.

'Shark's fin soup used to be a must. It's considered a luxury, and everyone normally served it,' says Fok.

Now, due to conservation efforts and trends in consuming sustainable seafood, couples are choosing other options such as bird's nest, fish maw or double-boiled soup.

'Some parents [of the bride and groom] still insist on shark's fin soup, but for the new generation of young couples it doesn't matter,' says Fok.

The wedding banquet usually comprises eight or nine courses (the number eight in Chinese means prosperity, and nine means everlasting), beginning with a a cold-cut dish or whole roast suckling pig.

Nearly two decades ago, Fok says only the pig's skin was served, while the meat was given to guests to take home.

Now both are served at the banquet as 'guests are not eager to cook it at home and people are more health-conscious, they don't only want to eat the skin and the fat.'

Another recent change to the menu is the fish dish, which represents prosperity. As the Chinese word for fish sounds like the word for abundance or riches, two fish used to be taken to each table, instead of one large piece.

'About 15 years ago, two fish were normally served, symbolising a pair for the couple,' says Fok. 'But if you serve two fish today, guests will think it's a bit small and not very expensive.'

Joanne Cheng, director of sales, catering and conferences at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, agrees shark's fin soup is no longer mandatory.

'It has been popular in the past, but now some environmental conservation groups are [campaigning] that it's not good practice to serve it at weddings,' she says.

'It might be hard for the older generation to accept a different soup, but couples that are well-educated will try to persuade their parents to order a menu without shark's fin soup.'

For a sweet ending to the banquet, some couples are mixing up the standard fare of red bean soup and dumplings.

'More people are creative and want more variety,' explains Cheng.

Instead, the hotel offers desserts such as double-boiled red date tea with lotus seed and longan, and sweet walnut cream with bird's nest.

If meat isn't a priority, Cheng recalls a couple who opted for an entire vegetarian menu - as a gesture to show respect for one of the couple's vegetarian parents.