a chinese dinner feast in honor of my dad’s 96th birthday

"Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter." ~ Mark Twain


James and Margaret, the spiffy WAC who caught his eye.

One of my favorite traditions here at alphabet soup is celebrating my Dad’s birthday every year.

Is there a more loyal blog reader? Anyone who appreciates food more than he does? Anyone else his age, who’s on the internet every day enthusiastically emailing, posting on forums, keeping up with the news, listening to music, playing games, doing research? I think not.

Besides, we’re all counting on him to be the first in our family to reach 100 years old! Please help us cheer him on!

In past years, I’ve conducted mini interviews with James; it’s always good to keep tabs on him, make sure he’s behaving himself. This year, I asked him to share a favorite childhood food-related memory:

My family was very poor when I was a tot, and my mother couldn’t afford meat dishes. We usually had only vegetable dishes along with rice and shoyu. I remember this one time when we were invited to dinner by my father’s old friend who was well-to-do. The main dish was fried pork chops. It was something I never tasted before and it was so delicious! I didn’t even know that such a dish existed.

When my mother was pregnant and craved mangoes, I knew of a place where there would be lots of them. It was at the Nuuanu Cemetery. There were quite a number of mango trees (of different varieties) planted there and ripe mangoes would fall to the grassy lawn beneath them overnight. My younger sister and I would get up early in the morning and go to the cemetery to pick up fallen mangoes before we went to school. To this day, I oft times think how lucky we were not to get caught for trespassing.  

These stories remind me how lucky we were growing up, since my brother and I never wanted for anything. Now, I’m happy to report that for as long as I’ve known him, James has more than made up for any childhood deprivation by eating a substantial meal once every 3 hours, with a good variety of snacks in between. (I also like the story about him being able to purchase a big bowl of wonton mein for only 5 cents.)

Chinese food is James’s supreme favorite, and we frequented lots of different Chinese restaurants over the years, from the tiny Central Chop Suey of my childhood in Wahiawa, where James always ordered the pot roast pork; to Waimalu Chop Suey, where he liked the rice soup; to Hee Hing in Kapahulu, where he still likes everything; to the Golden Dragon in Waikiki, where he chose to celebrate his 90th birthday with a 7-course dinner.

His current favorite is a small, friendly neighborhood restaurant, Asia Manoa, located not too far from the Wai’oli Tea Room (which I blogged about here). This is where he’ll be celebrating his birthday tonight. We’re sorry we can’t be there in person, but we can certainly serve up a virtual feast right here, featuring the dishes we enjoyed when we dined at Asia Manoa last month. Okay, everyone, put on your bibs and get your chopsticks ready for some delicious Cantonese cuisine!

* SEVEN COURSE DINNER AT ASIA MANOA *

Peking Duck is probably one of James’s top three fave dishes, ever.

The steamed buns were SO good — soft heavenly pillows caressing moist, flavorful meat.

And then, everyone’s favorite, Honey Walnut Shrimp.

You can’t tell from the photo, but there’s a thin layer of crisp, tempura-like batter encasing the shrimp, which produces a surprising crunch when you bite into it (eyes roll back). A must-order if you ever visit this restaurant.

How about some String Beans with Minced Pork? A little kick, but not too spicy.

My nephew Jared had seconds (I rarely see him covet veggies).

On to Cold Ginger Chicken,

a reliable standby — refreshing and satisfying.

OMG, Sea Bass Filet with Ginger Onion Sauce!

Best fish dish ever — buttery soft, flaky and mild — the sauce complements the fish perfectly, enhancing its natural flavor.

Chicken with Vegetables:

Nicely rounds out any meal, another wonderful, perfectly seasoned sauce.

Finally, Abalone with Black Mushroom:

While James likes it, it was my least favorite. Only so many black mushrooms you can eat, plus I’m not big on abalone (chewy chewy chewy).

For dessert, a wiggly bowl of almond float.

There now, did you enjoy that feast? Please feel free to have seconds.

And now, it’s time for birthday cake! We’ll forgo lighting 96 candles, so we can focus instead on the amazing artistry of these beautiful fish cakes:


This one is hand painted.


And this one even has an edible knife.

Finally, to top off this celebration, let’s all have a piece of Mango Passion Cake (more about it here):


Nom nom (musicpb/flickr).

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JAMES! ENJOY YOUR SPECIAL DAY!

♥ This post is brought to you by Father, Feast, and Fish.

"Everyone is the age of their heart." ~ Guatemalan proverb

*Hand Painted Snook Cake by sandrascakes (trying to catch up!)/flickr.

**Fish Cake with Knife by barron/flickr. 

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.