When I heard my cousin was getting married, I immediately began looking forward to the reception. His new wife is Chinese, and so I knew that I'd finally — after drooling over other people's stories of the food at Chinese wedding receptions — get to experience the deliciousness that is a multi-course banquet.
It took a while for the food to actually happen. The invitation said 6PM, and when I got there late at 7:30 (because, man, it takes forever to curl my hair, plus there was zero parking thanks to two receptions that were happening at the restaurant), there was still another hour wait before food was served. It was well worth the wait, though, because it was good. This wasn't your usual Americanized Chinese fare, like the take-out I'm eating at this very moment: chow mein, almond chicken, or sweet and sour pork. I hate when people use the word "authentic" to describe food (and I'm not even going to get into why that is), but this was what I think of when people talk about "authentic" Chinese food.
There was much discussion the day of the wedding about the exact number of courses that were going to be served. I heard the total was anywhere between seven and eleven. Here is the actual total:
• Cold barbecued meats, including char siu, duck, and chicken.
• Deep-fried crab and shrimp balls, with little crab claw "handles."
• Scallops and shrimp with snow peas and candied walnuts.
• Shark fin soup (which I did not eat because most shark fin comes from endangered sources).
• Lobster with a heavy butter sauce. (A very labor-intensive dish because we had to shell the lobster pieces ourselves.)
• Abalone and sea cucumber with shiitake mushrooms. (My brother commented that sea cucumber is like "the Jello of the sea." It does have a very, um, interesting texture, and I can only ever eat one bite when I have it.)
• Steamed fish with green onion.
• A very simple fried rice with bits of shrimp and crab.
• Taro root paste with sweet syrup and dried fruits.
Nine courses! Which left only enough room at the end to have two bites of the bright green wedding cake.