Chinese New Year at the Mohegan Sun's BAMBOO FOREST
The Year of the Pig, 2007, means a year of prosperity and fortune to the Chinese people. To start a great year, Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, CT, planned a selection of events from February 18 thru February 25. The events included the Chinese Lion Dance, a concert by a popular Chinese performer and, of course, how could there be a celebration without food! In the only Chinese restaurant at Mohegan Sun, Bamboo Forest, an excellent and authentic Chinese New Year’s meal has been prepared by Chef Lee.
Chef Lee was born in Kwongtong Province, and later moved to Hong Kong where he worked as a chef for five years. Before coming to Mohegan Sun in 1996, Chef Lee was the Chief Chef for Chinese Fortune Kitchen at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casinos in Atlantic City, following an exciting and impressive culinary career.
There are 12 different dishes on the special New Year’s menu, all with very wonderful and lucky names. The ingredients are shipped daily from New York and Boston’s Chinatown, selected by Chef Lee. They are all guaranteed to be fresh and healthy.
The first course is “Wonderful”- a soup with clams and vegetables with bean curd. The clams are very fresh; the soup is light and refreshing.
The second course on the menu is the “Cold Holiday Platter”- jellyfish with pickled pork on the side. With a crunchy and chewy texture, jellyfish is something you don’t see used in other cuisines, but it is a popular course in a Chinese restaurant.
The third course is called “Good Fortune”- a dish of dried oysters, shiitake mushrooms and vegetables over a bed of lettuce.
“Triumph” is the fourth dish on the menu. It is a traditional New Year’s plate of pigs feet and Chinese broccoli. The meat has been carefully cooked; it is not dry, and the fat does not feel greasy.
The fifth course on the menu is “Spirited”- lobster plated over a bed of Chow Fun flat noodles.
The sixth dish on the list is “Spectacular.” The name accurately implies that the dish is delectable. It includes whole abalone, dried oysters, fish mai, dried scallops, sea cucumber, shiitake mushrooms and vegetables. Fish mai tastes soft, reminiscent of tofu, and the sea cucumber is slightly chewy, like biting into a piece of pork skin.
Next on the list is “Crispy Chicken”- half of a chicken nicely fried, with crispy skin and tender meat.
The eighth course is “Catch of the Day.” It is traditional for a Chinese family to always have fish during the New Year. Fish in Chinese is pronounced “Yu”, and it has the same articulation as “to have extras.” In Chinese culture it means to always have prosperity year after year.
Next is “Buddhist Delight”- a mixture of mushrooms, vermicelli, bean curd and bamboo pith. The bamboo pith comes from the inside of a bamboo, and is both crunchy and soft and rarely seen on menus in America.
Tenth on the list is “Marvelous”- stir-fried clams with stuffed fried tofu. The tofu was stuffed with shrimp and fried to seal in the stuffing.
Next on the menu is “Seasonal Greeting”- dried scallops and bamboo pith with pea leaves. The pea leaves were very tender, and the bamboo pith was well seasoned with the dried scallops.
Last but not least on the menu is “Happiness”- fried rice with baby corn, scallions, carrots, lettuce, chives, shrimp and Chinese sausage. During the Chinese New Year it is traditional for families to have dried meat, so the sausage is an important addition to the meal. In ancient China, without refrigeration it was important to preserve food and the practice has been passed on for generations.
From the menu one can feel the passion Chef Lee puts into his career. His dishes are carefully thought out, hoping to bring good luck for the people who come to Mohegan Sun.
The prices for these dishes also have very deep meanings. In Cantonese, the number “2” is pronounced “I,” the same pronunciation with “easy,” so $22 means to have a very easy year. The number “8” is pronounced “Fa,” the same pronunciation as “to make a lot of money,” so $28 means “to make a lot of money easily.” The number “6” is pronounced “lou,” the same as “road,” and when you put 6 and 2 together you get “the road in the future will be very easy for you.” It is in his careful attention to detail where one can see the chef truly loves his job, and is thankful for every opportunity. He wants the best for the people who come to taste his food, and wishes them well in the next year.
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