I'm very much a Hokkien. On the eighth day of the Lunar calendar, we do offerings in the middle of the night to celebrate someone's birthday. His name is Thnee Kong (Hokkien), Tin Kong (Cantonese), Tian Gong (Mandarin) or Jade Emperor (plain old English). Some called him Heavenly God too. The fact is, Heavenly God is a closer resemblance of Thnee Kong if you translate it word for word from Chinese to English. Thnee Kong's Birthday falls on the ninth day of the Lunar CNY. I would like to think of this day as the Hokkien's Thanksgiving Day.
Thnee Kong Seh (Seh = Birthday in Hokkien) is traditionally only celebrated by the Hokkien community, However, over years, non-Hokkiens have took upon this Hokkien tradition and celebrate it too. The more the merrier, everyone pray for a better year ahead. This occurred due to the fact that some of them have noticed a steady growth in business rate and improvement in things for that particular year where they make offerings to Thnee Kong.
We bought most of the offering because everyone is so busy and occupied that we have no time to prepare things from scratch. And they don't come by cheap either. But being Hokkien and strong believer of worshiping God, my family is more than willing to splurge for this day in guarantee of good business, health and wealth blessings from Thnee Kong for the rest of the year.
Let's start off by talking about sugarcane. A pair of sugarcane is a must when celebrating Thnee Kong Seh. It will be propped up or leaned against the gate of your house. Some place it right next to the altar too. A typical version of the story from my mum and aunt, Hokkiens hide in sugarcane plantation when they were refugees, running away from bad armies. They manage to regain freedom on Thnee Kong's Birthday. Hence, they felt it was with Thnee Kong's help and protection from above that they manage to be free and safe. Thus, this explains why sugarcane plays a significant role on Thnee Kong Seh. The sugar cane head is burnt along when you burn the gold paper (Kim Jua in Hokkien) and the Thnee Kong house.
Kim Jua are very much like Origami foldings. I see gold ingots and many many interesting shape and the shapes all help promote a better burning. My dad says the Kim Jua has to be fully burnt in order from Thnee Kong to fully receive everything. My sister suggested why not burnt a long string as well. So Thnee Kong can collect all the 'money' and bundle them up easily, hehe.
The above is our series of vegan. From clockwise on starting with raw groundnuts, dried Shiitake mushrooms, raw Mee Sua bundled in red thread, rock or lump sugar, red dates or Ang Zho in Hokkien and dried beancurd sheet. The centre one is dried lily bulbs or Kim Chiam in Hokkien. It translate to Golden Needle in English.
Hard boiled red eggs and Mee Sua noodles are must have items as they are traditionally served during birthday. Grandma says Mee Sua signifies longevity and red eggs symbolizes prosperity and is auspicious looking.
The above is Thnee Kong kuih. It's actually fluffy cakes shaped in the shape of peach. We always buy half a dozen, I don't know if there's a reason for it.
Mum reached wet market at 5:30am and grab two largest pineapples she could get. It's the above. And did I mention all offerings must be placed in bowls that aren't chipped or cracked. Even the vegan series have their own bowl and are strictly used to hold vegan stuffs. It surprises mum how pineapples and a lot of other stuffs could cost during CNY. I'm not surprised though, it is CNY period that they manage to perk up their price like that.
Our tower of fruits. Bottom layer, Fuji Apple followed by large perfect sweet peaches and a bunch of grapes tops it all. It is finished off with a red ribbon to give it the auspicious look and just for colour contrast.
Our proud tower of Angkoo Kuih. Multiple colours, many shapes and varieties of filling ranging from peanut, mung bean and red bean filling. Mum always buy them this way, 10 yellow pineapple mung bean Angkoos, 10 pink red bean Angkoos, 10 orange peanut filling Angkoos and 2 orange peanut filling 'edible gold bars'.
Above: 10 Hokkien Bak Chang or glutinous rice dumplings. It's glutinous rice with black bean, a large piece of fatty Bak or meat, salted duck yolk, chestnut and a large piece of black mushrooms, efficiently folded into a conical, pyramid shape. It's yummy and I love it. I'm weird though, I eat it dipped with castor sugar. What about you? It taste great plain though. It's well marinated with lotsa stuffs. I could taste strong 5-spice powder!
Ang Kuey Neng or Red hard boiled eggs. We're supposed to just offer 13 this year, we probably eta the rest. Why 13? I don't know, it changes every year and we watch TV shows to know. Funny?
Big large prawns, prefried to give it the golden red sheen. Prawns are so expensive during CNY that we always get Aaron to buy prawns back for us from Labuan. They are humongous and really juicy and succulent. Aaron's dad bought 5kg of it for us and trim them well, place them in plastic bags, deep freeze it and wrap them in layers of newspaper. When they arrive KL, they're still frozen. Yummy, love it!!!
What's CNY without beer??? Tonnes of Carlsberg and Guinness, and lotsa red wines and Martell for the night. They really seriously finish everything, can you imagine???
Chinese Steamed Cakes, made with lotsa eggs and flour. The one in pink is Huat Kueh. It's considered large for Huat Kueh as these Huat Kueh are usually made into muffin size and stacked in a group of five when offering for prayer.
A pyramid of mandarin oranges stacked for prayer.
Two whole yellow birds. Desexed chicken, very yellow skin and very tender meat. Don't ask me how they desex it because I don't know!
Pan-fried fish and yellow noodles. Fish, prawns and crabs are a must for prayers. The long strands of yellow noodles signifies longevity.
Crabs, they are steamed instead of being bathed with hot oil. If you bath them with hot oil, they don't taste so good when they are cold, though you can fry them again but we just prefer to use less oil.
Not in the picture, a can of longan and a can of lychee in syrup. Candies and sweet stuffs are a must to sweeten things up a little. The brown round thing is Nian Gao or sticky glutinous rice. Made with glutinous rice flour and gula melaka and steamed for a long long time to achieve such appearance. Two boxes of mee sua and a packet of candy completes it all.
These offerings are then arranged in a certain order on red tables facing the main gate and the main gate will usually be wide open to allow smooth flow of all the good things. And we have a whole roasted pig on the table for that night. Meet Mr. Porky below, he sacrificed himself for Thnee Kong and is 52kg in weight. We get the last round of roasted pig which finishes at 11pm. Then we have it delivered straight to our house and pray (not hastily though!) and have it chopped up and serve our guests. It's an open house, you can gate crash my house if you want. We used to serve mee sua with red hard boled eggs and the roasted pork. Over time, we've always take away more than a dozen of plain konloh wantan mee and serve them with pork. The particular store where we bough our wantan noodle taste pretty good.
Below is Thnee Kong house revealed. It's covered with a big piece of red paper until prayer time.
I admire the old man that makes our Thnee Kong house every year. The details are just so detailed. Even the fingers of the man holding the sword is complete. We love his workmanship and has been buying Thnee Kong house from him for the past twenty years and more. Prayer started and the candles and small and big joss sticks are lit. Each family members burn incense and say only good words and ask for Thnee Kong blessing for a better year ahead.
As midnight approached, things start to get burning. Its fire everywhere. We're among the not so civilized ones that meddled with fireworks and firecrackers. Here are a few shots of them just to test my point-and-shoot and my tripod in night mode. Add-on: Not in the picture, we have 6 small little red teacups; 3 cups are filled with Chinese tea and 3 cups are filled with rice wine vinegar.
I always have problem with fireworks and the wiring from lamp post to lamp post. They make the fireworks look horrible and those shown here are a few more decent ones.
See you all in Adelaide soon with more new posts. I hope you guys are not sick yet in hearing about me and my life and the people revolving about my life. I know I can get pretty self-centred sometimes. I felt I'm very much tweeting about my daily activities here but I did include food for drool and a short little history every now and then when I wrote this post. Recipes will be back soon, muaks! I'm off for more seafood and beers now, it's a duty-free island, yum!