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8 or 9 dishes
Most banquet menus consist of 8 or 9 dishes. The sound of 8 in Chinese is similar to the words "prosper", while 9 is similar to "long-lasting", whether in life or marriage.
The cold platter
The banquet usually starts off with a dish of cold cuts including jellyfish, bean curd, 5 spice beef shank, seaweed and pork slices (here in Singapore, we also often see baby octopus and ngoh hiang, too). Chicken or "phoenix" feet) as well as lobster ("dragon" shrimp) are also served to represent the yin and yang of a union.
The fish represents abundance - which also translates to a blessing for the couple to have offspring as plentiful as fish in the sea. The fish has to be served with the head and tail intact to symbolise a start and a finish, or completion.
Scallops are pronounced "dai zi" in Chinese, which can also refer to raising children, and are seen as a representation of fertility (we're starting to see a trend here).
Abalone & sea cucumber
You'll often find a dish of abalone and sea cucmber stir-fried together, with or without a vegetable. The abalone also symbolises abundance, while sea cucumber has the same pronounciation as "good heart" in Chinese - which serves as a reminder to have a happy, smooth-sailing and conflict-free relationship.
Roast suckling pig
Traditionally, in the olden days, a whole suckling pig points to a bride's purity or virginity. In this day and age, the meaning no longer holds as much importance but remains a popular and delicious wedding dish.
The fiery red hue of the lobster (the Chinese regard red as a lucky colour) is said to bring good luck to the couple and their marriage. As highlighted above, it's also referred to as "dragon shrimp" in Chinese, and the dragon is an auspicious symbol in Chinese culture.
For the Chinese, the duck is a symbol of fidelity. Served as a whole, it also represents peace and unity, and a lasting union. Like the lobster, the brown red colour of the duck's roasted skin is also an auspicious colour that's said to bring good luck.
The long strands are a symbol of longevity, which is why you'll often see this dish when it comes to birthday celebrations for the elderly. For a wedding, it's a sign of a long and happy marriage.
For tummy-filling carbs, an alternative to noodles is rice. Rice is a staple in China, which also signifies abundance, and a plentiful supply of food for the married couple.
The meal is ended with a sweet dessert. Some commonly seen options are yam pudding (most of us would know it as "orh nee", a customary yam paste dessert for Teochew banquets) and red bean soup .
Banquet menu aside, the couple will usually have sweet glutinous rice balls or tang yuan cooked in a sweet soup during the tea ceremony in the morning - to signify the sweetness of life.