A look into a Chinese Wedding Banquet at Rhodes Phoenix

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Chinese wedding banquets are big affairs. They are a quintessential part of the traditional Chinese wedding, and often whole restaurants will be booked out for the special occasion. Family and friends will gather after the wedding ceremony to share an impressive feast can consist of more than ten different courses.

Food served at these banquets is not what you would expect to find on a conventional Chinese restaurant menu. Many of the dishes are prepared using highly prized and expensive ingredients, such as abalone, shark's fin and lobster, to celebrate the grandeur of the wedding. And before you balk at the thought of eating over ten courses, you needn't worry; each serving is no bigger than a couple of mouthfuls, which is more than enough to keep you satisfied throughout the night. 

Guests are seated around large, round tables fitted with lazy susans. Each course arrives one at a time as a large dish to be shared, and waiters expertly divide each plate into smaller portions which are distributed around the table. There is a variety of condiments to complement each course, including soy, plum sauce, chilli sauce and vinegar. It's a very different way of eating compared to the classic two or three course meal commonly served at Western-style wedding receptions.

Earlier this year we were invited to a wedding banquet at Rhodes Phoenix. The restaurant is tucked away on the top floor of Rhodes Mirvac Shopping centre, and offers yum cha and a la carte during the day. Here, we were treated to a thirteen course wedding banquet which lasted over three hours. This is what we ate. 

Suckling pig with combination BBQ platter
Suckling pig is an important part of every wedding banquet. Here, it's served as part of a cold arrangement of assorted Chinese BBQ meats: char siu pork, roast duck, slices of braised beef and suckling pig. The platter comes with a pile of jellyfish noodles - thick, squiggly lengths of cooked jellyfish that have a lovely crunchy bite. 

The meats are sparingly divided and we get roughly one piece of each. My favourite out of all of them is the suckling pig, which is ultra juicy and has the thinnest skin. Chinese suckling pig skin is very different from Western-style roast pork cracking - rather than having a bubbly, airy texture, it is showered with lots of minuscule, tightly packed bubbles that lend a dense, shard-like crunch and deep red colour.

Stuffed scallop with mashed taro
This was one of my favourite courses of the night. It's a lightly battered scallop encased in a wispy, airy nest. The outside has a delicate, flaky crunch and just melts away in the mouth, while the scallop within is plump and juicy. 

Braised vegetables and mushrooms with dry scallop sauce
Dried scallops are a luxurious ingredient in Chinese cuisine. The dried proteins form thin, short strands which, when re-hydrated and cooked, become soft and noodle-like. In this dish, they're braised with whole button mushrooms and crunchy, vibrant sugar snap peas. 

Shark's fin and shredded chicken soup
Shark's fin is a bit of a controversial ingredient, but in the traditional banquet it's a revered delicacy that is reserved only for special occasions. 

This soup has a deep golden sheen and is crammed with slivers of chicken and long, thin strands of shark's fin. It's so thick that the texture is almost gloopy, with a flavour that is tasty but not overwhelmingly rich or heavy.

Braised lobster in supreme sauce
This dish embodies luxury and opulence. Each table is served a whole cooked lobster, which is chopped and cooked in a tasty 'supreme' sauce with lots of garlic and shallots. 

There is enough lobster for two to three pieces a person. The meat is juicy and flavoursome; it's a gloriously messy affair, but well worth getting your hands dirty for. There is a bowl of warm lemon water placed on the table for washing your hands afterwards. 

Braised abalone and sea cucumber with Chinese mushrooms
Abalone is valued as one of the more exquisite ingredients in Chinese cuisine. In this dish, the meat is braised in a sweet soy-based sauce with plump shiitake mushrooms, bright green florets of broccoli and sea cucumber.


The abalone is sliced simply into large, majestic rounds, and has a slightly rubbery, meaty bite. The opaque sea cucumber absorbs all of that deliciously thick sauce, and has a spongey, jelly-like texture that is quite enjoyable. 

Steamed coral trout with ginger and shallots
Steamed whole coral trout has the sweetest flesh and is bathed in a soy sauce. Fine strands of spring onion provide freshness to the soft meat. 

Crispy skin garlic chicken
Crispy skin chicken is chopped the Chinese way - into small, bite-sized pieces - and has a gorgeously caramelised, thin skin that just beckons to be bitten into. The meat is succulent and tender; dip it into the garlic vinegar sauce for the ultimate mouthful. 

Phoenix fried rice and Braised E-Fu Noodles
Once all of the main vegetable and protein courses come out, we're served with large plates of fried rice and noodles to finish off the savoury meal. The fried rice is pretty spot on, with long strands of Jasmine rice which are coated in an smooth gloss and dotted with fresh spring onion, small nubbles of omelette, whole baby prawns and sweet, bouncy scallop pieces. The e-fu noodles are the perfect way to end the banquet. They're braised with woody ear mushrooms, cabbage and spring onion, and have a soft, thick bite that is not too oily nor dry. 

Red bean sweet soup
I used to despise red bean soup growing up - partly because of the unusually dark, deep red colour - but it has since become a personal favourite. It's laden with lots of soft, pulpy red beans, which lend a comforting thickness to the sweet soup. Although it doesn't look particularly appetising, this is definitely one to try if you are a fan of red beans and desserts that aren't too rich or heavy. Many banquets typically end with a sweet course like this. 

Double happiness fancy cakes and Seasonal Fruit Platter
Desserts in Chinese cuisine are nowhere near as sweet as other Western desserts, and fruit platters are another common way to end the meal. Watermelon, orange and rockmelon are standard platter additions, and we're also served a plate of plain, bite-sized biscuits and cakes. 

These charming double happiness fancy cakes are filled with a dense lotus seed paste that is similar in taste and texture to the filling of a moon cake. They're encased in thin, short, flaky pastry, and are so moreish that I find myself going back for second and third helpings. 

By the end of the night, we are surprised to find that we're actually not as full as we had originally expected. Although there were many courses, eating each was akin to snacking periodically over a course of three hours. We'd had a chance to sample delicacies that are not so often seen in everyday Chinese cuisine, and it really was quite an experience to be treated to such an opulent feast. If you ever get a chance to attend a Chinese banquet, don't hesitate to jump right in - you won't be disappointed. 

Rhodes Phoenix Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

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