Singapore relishes its multiethnic feasts. All Lunar Year meals show off the diversity of the country's cuisine.

Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb-1 this year, is celebrated in Singapore primarily by members of the Chinese diaspora, who makes up three-quarters of the population.

They include those who are Hokkien, Cantonese and Teochew from southeastern China, Hainanese from the island province of Hainan, Hakka, a migrant group spread out all over China, and Peranakan, who have been in the region for over 400 years and also have mixed Malay and European ancestry.

Each ethnic group has its own set of traditions, but years of living close to one another, and close to other people like Malays and Indians, have created the island's colorful and distinctive culinary fabric.

Because Singapore is a port city where people from varied cultures mingled and shared food for centuries, sharing a multicultural holiday meal '' comes as naturally as breathing '' said Christopher Tan, 49, a food writer who wrote a cookbook about traditional Southasian pastries.

For the holiday, he makes nan gao, a stick rice cake that is a Chinese symbol of prosperity.

Desserts for the holiday used to be mostly made out of rice grown in the region. But British settlements and eventual colonization brought wheat flour and butter to Singapore, which are now also commonly used.

For about two decades, Shila Das has taken her chicken curry and nasi biryani to her best friend, Wendy Chua, for their Lunar New Year celebrations together in their native Singapore. They start the day with those dishes, then have hot pot.

The women, both 51, began spending the holiday together as teenagers, watching lion dance troupes perform on wide atrium of Ms.Chua's grandfather's house.

Nearly three decades ago the ethnically Chinese Chua family tasked Ms. Das, who is Indian and Vietnamese, with presiding over its household's New Year lo hei ceremony, a Singapoream tradition centered on yu sheng, one of the country's most popular New Year dishes.

Ms. Das has led the family in tossing the ingredients, flinging raw fish, crackers, slivered carrots and pick-led ginger into the air while shouting auspicious phrases in Chinese. [ Lo hei means '' tossing up good fortune '' in Cantonese. ]

''Just imagine : In this Chinese house, there's this Indian girl that stands on the stool and leads the lo hei every year,'' Ms. Das said.

So, when the chef Shermay Lee visits her nonagenarian aunt during the festivities, she is greeted by a platter of warm homemade pastries: elongated fine cookies, sweet pineapple tarts and paper-thin biscuits rolled into delicate cigars.

These family recipes were were passed down from Ms. Lee's grandmother Chua Jim Neo, a prominent Peranakan food personality and the mother of Lee Kuan Yew, a founding father and the first prime minister of Singapore

Ms. Lee said her grandmother also used to serve Lunar New Year dinner festive red and gold lacquered porcelain, with forks and knives instead of chopsticks - a typical Peranakan table stable.

''It's part of Singapore's colonial history,'' said Ms. Lee, who rewrote and updated her grandmother's cookbooks.

The 15-day feast that Sharon Wee, a Peranakan cookbook author based in New York Cuty, grew up eating took weeks of preparation. In advance of Lunar New Year's Eve, she'd watch her mother season bright yellow noodles with sambal belacan, a pungent hot sauce, and a curry blended from spices that she dried and bloomed and then took to an Indian miller for grinding.

Because her parents cooked many dishes that included pork, they also took beef rendang for their Muslim halal-abiding friends. 

The Publishing continues. The World Students Society thanks author Clarissa Wei.


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