How to Perform an Ancestor Worship
On the 15th of August perform an Ancestor Worship by offering for the dead.
It is believed that any offering returns sixfold to the offeror. Further, it
brings blessings to the one making it by virtue of the kindred help from beyond the grave, say a telepathic form of guidance from ancestral spirits. Especially in day to day decision making to make a life worth living and even surpass the achievements of say, a rich ancestor.
So what are the usual lucky foods offered?
First priority is the subject dead person's favorite food and of course, drink!
This is followed by symbolic prosperity foods as follows:
Any fish dish to signify cashflow progression and accumulation inasmuch as fish sounds like cash in Chinese. It is yu or cash.
The whole fish, fried or steamed should point to the picture of the dead subject being venerated either at the temple, cemetery, or at home.
Any pork or beef dish accompanies for completion the three core food dishes to signify abundance.
Then comes the appendages or side offerings.
First is either a set of three pineapple fruits or one pineapple only since the word for pineapple is ong lai in Chinese or welcoming prosperity. Three pineapples mean forever welcoming prosperity.
On the side are lucky dishes optionally picked for the desired offering:
For business luck and prosperity - any dish of seafoods along three choices or all: mussels, clams and oysters.
For family unity and harmony - whole chicken with its head and feet.
For rising prosperity: any symbolic round sweets that are from gelatinous rice to signify rising wealth and prosperity for the clan or family.
Thus, we have the array of tikoy or rice cakes, puto or rice pastries, along with hopia or mooncakes and even siomai or dumplings symbolize gold nuggets of old currencies in China.
What should not be served however are long life noodles! For obvious reasons, they are already dead.
But these are offerings. For the living descendants making the offering or venerating the dead in a special occasion say, All Saints Day or Ching Ming version of Chinese culture, the living may partake of long life noodles as event or party fare if only to cherish the symbolic blessings of good health and long life.
Here are two recipes for these celebrations, one for the dead and the other for the living or living dead! haha...
For the dead: offerings of lettuce salad symbolize blooming prosperity...but the most popular offerings are sweet dumplings. So, here is a simple sweet dumpling recipe:
SWEET DUMPLINGS by Billy Ty of Lucky Foods
Ingredients & Utensils: baking pan, saucepan, mixing bowl, measuring cups and spoons, string-cotton twine, wok or big pot with lid, steamer, tongs.
For the dumplings: 2 cups glutinous rice flour, half cup sugar, half cup boiling water, 2 tablespoons cold water, 1 teaspoon banana extract, 12 dried bamboo or cast iron leaves (available at Chinese groceries in neatly tied bundles), vegetable oil for brushing leaves.
For the sweet dumpling filling: 1 cup canned sweetened red bean paste or melon seed or lotus seed paste (all made from mashing).
Step by step preparation: Make sure a grown-up has looked over the recipe and can help at the stove.
1. Gather all the ingredients and tools. Soak leaves in a pan of warm water until soft say, an hour for cast iron, four hours for bamboo.
2. Put the rice flour in the mixing bowl. Bring to a boil in a saucepan: half cup sugar in half cup of water. Add extract to liquid. Pour into flour, add 2 tablespoons of cold water, and mix with a fork into a squeezable dough. Knead (knuckling and punching) until smooth. Put it on a lightly floured clean surface and using your hands, roll out into a sausage shape. Cut into 12 pieces and roll each into a ball.
3. Pat the leaves dry and brush with oil. Flatten the dough balls with your hands. Place a tablespoon of the paste into the center of the dough and wrap the dough around the filling, bringing up the edges to seal.
4. Place near the corner end of a leaf and wrap the leaf around it so that nothing falls out. A four-sided shape looks nice. Tie with a string.
5. Steam the dumplings in a covered steamer for 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully take them out with tongs. Unwrap and eat (not the leaves!). Serve hot or cold. (Makes 12 tasty treats).
Now for the living dead? haha...for a long happy life...remember life not that!
Long Life Noodle Recipe by Billy Ty of Lucky Foods
Ingredients & Utensils: cooking pot, strainer, bowl, knife and cutting board, wok or skillet, 1 pound thin fresh Chinese style thin egg noodles
For the sauce: 2 tablespoons peanut oil, 1 pound ground pork or turkey, 2 tablespoons brown bean sauce, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 bunch green onions-minced, 1 tablespoon ginger-minced, 3 to 4 drops sesame oil.
Step by step preparation: Make sure a grown-up has looked over the recipe and can help at the stove especially with the stir-frying!
1. Gather all ingredients and tools.
2. First, cook the noodles. Fill the cooking pot halfway with unsalted water and bring to a boil. Add the noodles. After the water returns to a boil, cook for 2 to 4 minutes. Carefully remove the pan from the stove and strain. Rinse noodles with cold water. Put in a bowl and set aside.
3. Wash the green onions and carefully chop onions and ginger into small pieces. Set aside.
4. Next, have the grown-up assist with heating oil in a wok or skillet and stir-frying the ground pork or turkey about 3 minutes until it just turns brown in color. Add the ginger followed by the bean sauce and stir-fry some more about 3 minutes. Then add the sugar and cook 2 more minutes. Top with the onions and shake a few drops of sesame oil over the whole mixture.
5. Place noodles in bowls and ladle meat sauce on top. (Serves four full portions).
Significance of alay or ritual food offerings for the dead simply beholds reverence and respect in sending good tidings to the subject dead in the afterlife, no different from saying prayers for the dead in catholic faith but in Feng Shui and Chinese ancestral worship it is materially expressed with lucky food offerings along with the subject's favorite food and drinks!
Serves 4 portions