Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ahma's Birthday at Rainflower

It's incredible to see the life of your grandma, who I call Ahma (Fukien for grandma), especially to see milestones such as turning another year older. Not the biggest celebration, but still a very special one. Please welcome her 86th year.

To the best ahma out there

July 16, 2015

I believe it was my uncle Johnny who decided on the restaurant, which is impressively big. Only been here once, and it has significantly changed since the last visit. Not sure if it's simply a Chinese tradition, but when it comes to Ahma's birthday, the favoured colour everyone wears is red... The only shirt I had available was a Spiderman shirt I made for last Halloween.

The event was family only, but even then that is one big party. To give you an idea, here's a snippet of the scene that we usually encounter for such family gatherings:

This is your typical family night

Yes, my family is big and diverse, but it's great to be close to each other, makes events much more exciting. It may be hard to catch up with one another but when we do, expect that we will be there for some time - it's a good thing that there's a lot of food going around.

If you've ever experienced dinner at a Chinese restaurant, you can expect dish after dish, never knowing when it could possibly end. This dinner was 10 courses, and all of it was excellent. So let's start with the appetizers:

Seafood and meat medley

A fan favourite would have to be the jellyfish, it's cold and stretchy, similar to the consistency of noodles, but much more slimy. No one can ever figure out the meat portions, but they are equally as well exceptional. It's good starter, but this one had to be my favourite:

Shrimp balls and fruit salad

Deep-fried goodness. Dip it in a little red vinegar, and you are good to go. My cousin Shellby was picking at the salad, hoping that the server would not take away the plate after all of the shrimp balls were gone. I don't know how they get the shrimp into a ball form, but I'm glad that someone figured it out and made it a staple in a course-set meal. After came the soup, which I still don't know what it was:

Shark fin? Chicken?

You think by now I would know what this was, but regardless of the meat, it's still the comfort that you've always ate at these dinners. There is the option of adding red vinegar, which creates a punch in your tastebuds if you find it to be lacking something (I don't usually add it myself, but this occasion, I had to). And what dinner would be complete without the essential seafood (or, seafoods):

Lobster/Crab duo

Is it wrong to say that they tasted the same? Lobster is easier to eat, but my uncles and aunts love to have crab, my mother will buy crab and eat that on its own - so I stuck with lobster. It's always fun to take it apart, especially with the cracker; let's say I'm making up for a picky-eater days. Now this is a dish that seldom gets touched, and I don't know why. It's just vegetables, yet it gets low attention for what's on top: 

Mushrooms on top of greens

I cannot identify the green vegetables, but I am guessing it's similar to bok choy. I like mushrooms, but the way this dish is prepared makes it a bit difficult to eat it down. Whether it's all of the sauce or its tenderness, it's always a dish that comes in the set that doesn't end up being finished. Not sure about the next dish, but I think it's good luck to have fish to wish a prosperous year. So here we have 'lucky fish:'

Ah, the luxury of being deboned

Nothing too special about it, simply cooked in some soy sauce and green onions, and that's all you really need. It's just one great dish that you can't get tired of eating (and that can be vouched by the amount of minutes it took for the fish to be consumed). Another fan favourite would be the topping of this dish, I remember fighting with my cousins over the top of this dish:

Shrimp chips and chicken

It's colourful and crispy, and always taken within a blink of an eye. The chicken's skin is just as crispy, and the meat is juicy, just the way it should be. If every chicken dish was like this, served with shrimp chips, I wouldn't mind one bit. Have you noticed anything missing from this meal? The one thing that appears at every Chinese restaurant? Well, here it is, towards the end of the meal:

Fried Rice

Not the biggest fried rice person, but this wasn't too bad. Just eggs, vegetables, and baby shrimps that complete this dish. It could have been presented earlier, but that's not important. In every birthday dinner, there always have to be noodles - but not just any kind. My family calls them long-life noodles, they're quite oily, but they are amazing:

Look at that beauty

I haven't seen these particular noodles cooked any other way, but then I think that's because there is only one way to enjoy them. You'll always find these noodles in every Chinese restaurant, and I think they all share the same recipe, because honestly, they are all the same to me (which is perfectly fine by me!)

That concluded the savoury dishes - now let's get on with the desserts. First off is ahma's cake, which was brilliantly violet to showcase the flavour, ube. I think my aunt Shirley bought the cake, and it looks familiar... But that doesn't take away from its beauty:

So grand and creamy

But before cake, how about a series of photos? There was a photo for every combination, including one with grandchildren - but I don't have a copy of that photo, unfortunately. So let's look at what I was able to capture:

Ahma standing there while my mother calls all of her siblings

Family portrait, full of smiles

My ahma's brother visited from Toronto for her birthday, which was lovely of them. Didn't see much of them other than this night, but ahma was happy to have them here. When it comes to taking photos, it's nearly impossible since there are about seven cameras taking the same picture at once - needless to say, eyes are never looking at the same one:

Family, with my grand-uncle and grand-aunt

Family portrait, in-laws edition

Ahma with her caretakers

Ahma is definitely feeling the love from them

Time to make a wish

Blow out the candles

Cut the cake

Everyone got a chance to walk around just before being served cake, and talk to the other people who were not sitting at our table. The cake had a coconut filling between the layers, and it tasted fresh. I wish there was more of it, but it was still great-tasting. While waiting for the next dish (yes, there was more), I took a photo with my cousins:

Isabelle, myself, and Mina (otherwise known as, the youngest siblings)

If there is one thing I always forget at dinner, it's these little bad boys. I think they are to represent peaches, but they do not taste like them:

Little buns of fun

Filled with lotus seed paste, it's irresistible to have just one. It's not for everyone, as Mina gave me hers after one bite, but it's rare to get these, as it's only available for the special people. To conclude dinner, there was one more dessert. I can't explain what it is other than having tapioca and a custard-like filling, but the top is all that matters:

I want to say it's a sort of pudding

Warm and soft, with a top that you can't stop eating, it's best way to end the meal. I hope ahma had a wonderful time celebrating her 86th year, much as I had eating all of this. I'm sure everyone had an equally smashing time, including these last set of photos:

Mary, Edit, Grace, and Shellby

And the most rare of them all, my cousin Katie. She's currently studying in Nebraska, and on a tight schedule with school and soccer (or what I prefer to call, football). When she comes around, it's always a delight to see what she's been up to, and all of the adventures she had so far away. Of course, only ahma can bring all of us together:

Shellby, Mina, and Katie

Old-time memory filter

Not said enough, but thank you ahma for blessing us with such a wonderful family, and hopefully we can do you proud. Can't wait to see what happens for the 87th :"D

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