For Masterchef Australia alumni Sarah Tiong, Lunar New Year is all about gathering with friends and family around the dinner table to make memories. In partnership with The Star, we find out how she celebrates.
We’ve partnered with Broadsheet on a content series that follows some of Australia’s well-known faces as they sit down for a meal at our signature dining restaurants and share their family traditions during Lunar New Year. The below article speaks with Masterchef Australia alumni, Sarah Tiong over a meal at BLACK Bar & Grill, who shares stories about why Lunar New Year is all about gathering with friends and family around the dinner table to make memories.
Lunar New Year is hands-down Sarah Tiong’s favourite holiday. “It’s about everybody you love coming together. In Chinese culture, it’s the one time of the year that we get to celebrate everybody returning home,” says the multi-talented lawyer, Masterchef Australia finalist and cookbook author. A festive Lunar New Year shared with friends and family, she says, “sets us up for success and good energy for the rest of the year”.
Tiong’s forebears emigrated from China to Malaysia generations ago. “My parents and grandparents were all born and raised in Malaysia,” says Tiong, who was born in Australia. “That Chinese-Malaysian heritage plays a huge role in how I live my day-to-day, especially when it comes to food and interacting and socialising with my friends and my family.”
Like most children who celebrate Lunar New Year, Tiong loved receiving hongbao from far-away relatives as a child. The little red packets filled with money were said to promise long life and deliver good luck for the coming year. “It was exciting, like a Christmas gift,” she says.
Tiong says that as an adult, Lunar New Year is all “about the food, the drinking and having two full weeks of celebration with family and friends. We will do hotpots; we’ll go out to a Chinese restaurant and get lobster noodles and pipis and a bottle of Veuve”.
One of Tiong’s favourite festive dishes is yu sheng, a salad symbolising prosperity typically eaten at Lunar New Year. “Each item in the salad represents something auspicious or something that’s really good for your energy,” she says.
Orange and red ingredients such as carrots and salmon sashimi signify good luck. “There’s daikon, which looks a bit like jade, which protects you from bad energy and gives you a sense of security and wellbeing, and there’s usually fried wonton strips or something that looks like gold, which represents wealth and prosperity,” Tiong says. “You gather round and scream out your wishes for the year and toss the salad together, and it’s a lot of fun. Those memories carry me through the year.”
The highlight of Tiong’s Lunar New Year in 2022 was an “incredible” meal she shared with a big group of friends and family at BLACK Bar & Grill at The Star Sydney. “It was absolutely to die for,” she says enthusiastically. “They have this incredible Lunar New Year menu, which includes this giant tomahawk, marble score 7+ – it literally melts in your mouth – served with bone marrow and all these beautiful sides.”
The inclusion of premium Australian-raised Wagyu beef in a Lunar New Year menu reflects the breadth and depth of the country’s cultural diversity, says Tiong. “It was such a lovely dish to share… It really celebrates where we are, who we are as people and how we identify culturally now – especially my friends and me. We’re Australian-Chinese – first and foremost, Australia’s our home. To be able to celebrate our cultural traditions in such an open and diverse place with Australian food, it’s such a dream.”
Another menu highlight was the blacklip abalone served with canopy butter. Abalone is “a luxe ingredient” and “a real treat for Lunar New Year”, says Tiong. “If there’s any time to go hard and celebrate with luxury, it’s Chinese New Year.”
Tiong is delighted to see the Lunar New Year festival go mainstream in Australian society. “You’ve got lion dances on the street, and everyone gets excited and everybody becomes part of that energy. It spreads awareness of the different cultures that we celebrate here in Sydney and Australia, and that’s really important because … all of us are migrants from somewhere,” she says. “It’s honestly fantastic to see so many people embracing the traditions and the way we celebrate Lunar New Year.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with The Star. Limited edition Lunar New Year menu items at Sokyo, BLACK Bar & Grill and Flying Fish will be available to order at the respective venues from January 31 – February 15 for both lunch and dinner, during regular trading hours. Private dining rooms are also available for larger bookings.
You can find the original story here.