Holiday meal: Dried Oyster and Black Moss

My informant E is from Hong Kong, China and there is a traditional dish that is eaten during Chinese New Year with dried oysters and black moss. E said that “Dried Oyster and Black Moss” is a Southern Chinese dish that is eaten on Chinese New Year because everyone wants to start the new year with health, prosperity, and wealth, which is what the dish translates to phonetically in Cantonese. They explained how “ho see” (dried oyster) sounds like the word for good deeds and “fat choy” (black moss) sounds very similar to the word for wealth and prosperity. As this dish relies heavily on the phonetics of Cantonese, E told me that it is not a very common dish outside of Cantonese homes.

Growing up in Eastern China, I had heard of this dish before, but I never had the pleasure of trying it. However, I have had dishes that have those ingredients in them as they are very popular and common vegetables in China. Dried oysters and black moss can be found in almost every Chinese market or grocery store and most families had them stored in their fridge or pantry. In Eastern Chinese culture, it is common to eat hotpot on Chinese New Year. “Hotpot” is a dish where you have an electric heating pot (hotpot) that you cook soup stock in and add in a variety of ingredients to cook like thinly sliced meats, vegetables, seafood, basically anything that cooks fast, in the stock and pull out when they are cooked and ready to eat.