, February 4, 2005 (STAR) By Ching M. Alano  -  A cocky Rooster crows at the stroke of midnight on Feb. 9 to usher in what Hong Kong-based geomancer Joseph Chau declares as a "good year" for the Philippines.

"Itís a lucky year for the country," says master Chau. "The next six years are lucky for the Philippines, meaning from 2004 to 2009. But it will take time for Filipinos to feel that luck."

Good (make that great) food, good fortune, and good fun combine to make the Chinese New Year celebration at Mandarin Oriental, Manila something to crow about. All traffic-choked roads lead to the Mandarin Oriental, which kicks off the Year of the Rooster festivities with a prosperity motorcade traversing an auspicious route around Makatiís financial district starting at 11 p.m. on Feb. 8. The parade crawls its way back to the hotel, where a program awaits revelers: a Paai-Shan ceremony led by Chau, lion and dragon eye-dotting ceremonies, dragon and lion dances, and, yes, a colorful fireworks display and firecrackers to welcome the Year of the Yin Wooden Rooster literally with a bang. And after a heartwarming visual feast, itís time to fill the stomach with your first meal of the year.

For this yearís "first meal" (and certainly not the last), Mandarin Oriental spreads out a bountiful buffet: roasted crispy duck, winter melon soup with dried scallops, fried spring rolls (Cantonese style), lo hon vegetables with "fat choi," steamed grouper with bean crumb sauce, stir-fried scallops and Pacific clams with vegetables, steamed chicken feet with black beans, pan-fried tikoy, Chinese cookies, and deep-fried sesame balls with lotus cream (available at P1,288++, adult and P888++, child, inclusive of a complimentary copy of master Joseph Chauís Year of the Yin Wooden Rooster feng shui booklet and giveaways such as a lucky pack with burning paper and ang pao with gold coins). These dishes smack of good health, wealth and fortune, and family unity. For one, the ingredients mixed together in the winter melon soup symbolize being one or togetherness. For another, the spring rolls, when fried to a crisp golden yellow, represent gold. Fat choi is Chinese for sea moss and it means easy money. Then of course, thereís our favorite tikoy, made of sticky glutinous rice and is symbolic of the phrase "sticking together."

To sweeten up our fortune, it wonít hurt to grab some of those Chinese cookies (if youíre on a diet, declare a cheat day) and assorted sweet round stuff (that hopefully is not a premonition of how youíll look like at the end of the year).

At Tin Hau, easily everybodyís favorite Chinese resto in Makati, the chef recommends: sharkís fin soup with chicken and vegetables, steamed dried oyster with sea moss, stir-fried sliced pigeon with mango and asparagus, fried pork spareribs with red bean curd sauce, braised seafood and sea moss with chili sauce in hot pot, stir-fried scallops with black fungus and dried banana blossoms, marinated pork knuckles with sea moss, fried shrimp rolled with nori, stir-fried chicken with pineapple and ginger in honey pepper sauce, fried prawns stuffed with minced pork. The chef is preparing special a la carte and set menus, which will be served for lunch and dinner until Feb. 24. Now, howís that for an extended New Year feast?

As a special treat to local residents, Mandarin Oriental is also offering room packages for Chinese New Year. Overnight stay packages offered on the eve of New Year start at P6,588++ for a superior room and are inclusive of Chinese New Year midnight dinner buffet at the ballroom for two adults, Paseo Uno breakfast for two, and a complimentary copy of Joseph Chauís Forecast for the Year of the Yin Wooden Rooster. An additional nightís stay is at P4,200++.

Spread your wings and fly high in the Year of the Rooster as Cathay Pacific raffles off a trip to Hong Kong with a two-night stay at The Excelsior for those partaking of the midnight buffet.

And while youíre savoring your food, help yourself to master Joseph Chauís feng shui readings for the Year of the Yin Wooden Rooster, but donít forget to take everything with a grain of salt.

According to Chau, the Philippines will not be visited by major calamities this year. However, thereís a little volcanic activity in the south.

With the Roosterís strong earth (metal) and fire elements, the industries that will thrive this year include hotels and tourism, telecommunications, banking, restaurants, casino, entertainment, sales, jewelry, cosmetics, health food, car sales, transportation, trading, printing and publishing, electronics, construction, IT, furniture, garment and fashion.

Lucky locations are south, north, southwest Ė meaning Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Laoag, to name some areas that the government should develop to boost tourism in the country.

The lucky zodiac signs in the Year of the Yin Wooden Rooster are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Dragon, Horse, Monkey, Dog, and Pig. For instance, Dragons will not lose their fire this year and will be lucky in business. Pigs will have their days of swine and roses as they earn more money from abroad Ė thus, a good year for Pigs to look for jobs outside the country.

Not-so-lucky signs are Rooster (yes, Roosters will face numerous problems in business and in their daily lives), Rabbit (look before you hop as Rabbitsí health is quite vulnerable this year), Snake (you may greet the year with a hiss as you face a pretty rough year, businesswise and healthwise), and Goat (donít be sheepish now, despite many unexpected problems).

Lucky colors this year are brown, beige, yellow, gold, white, green, and black. Lucky stones/jewelry are amber, gold, white amethyst, green crystal power beads, moon stone power beads, among others.

Good food, good health, good fortune, and goodwill to all in the Year of the Rooster!

* * *

 For reservations and inquiries, call Mandarin Oriental at 750-8888 local 2401 (for program and midnight buffet tickets) and local 2304 (for room reservations).

Stir-Fried Scallops With Black Fungus And Dried Banana Blossoms

10 gms. dried banana blossom
250 gms. US scallops
10 gms. black fungus
200 gms. broccoli flower
10 gms. leeks
2 gms. salt
100 gms. corn oil
3 gms. chicken powder
1 gm. sugar
5 gms. cornstarch
3 ml. rice wine

Soak banana blossom and black fungus in hot water for 30 minutes, then wash. Cut the broccoli flower into 10 pcs. and blanch in boiling water, then remove. Put the broccoli all over the sides of the plate, then set aside. Blanch the scallops in boiling water and drain. Sautť the leeks, black fungus, banana blossom, and scallops in corn oil for at least one minute. Then add salt, sugar, chicken powder, rice wine, cornstarch and stir again. Lastly, put them in the middle of the broccoli and serve.

Stir-Fried Chicken With Pineapple And Ginger In Honey Pepper Sauce

1 whole pineapple
300 gms. chicken breast
10 gms. green bell pepper
10 gms. red bell pepper
10 gms. young ginger
10 gms. sugar
100 ml. corn oil
2 gms. salt
3 gms. chicken powder
20 ml. catsup
10 gms. vinegar

Cut at least 1-1/2 inch of the pineapple horizontally without removing the skin; remove the meat of the pineapple, cut into cubes and set aside. Slice the chicken breast into cubes and marinate with salt, chicken powder, and cornstarch for at least five minutes. Stir-fry the ginger, marinated chicken, pineapple, red and green bell pepper with corn oil for at least 30 seconds. Then add catsup, sugar, vinegar, chicken powder, and salt. Put the mixtures inside the pineapple and serve.

Braised Dried Oyster With Sea Moss

250 gms. dried oyster
20 gms. sea moss
10 pcs. whole garlic
30 gms. Japanese mushroom
50 gms. pork lechon
200 gms. Baguio lettuce
5 gms. onion leeks
5 gms. ginger
20 gms. rice wine
300 gms. soup stock
200 gms. oyster sauce
5 gms. salt
10 gms. chicken powder
10 gms. mushroom soy sauce
10 gms. sugar
100 gms. corn oil
20 gms. potato starch

Soak the dried oyster in water for five hours. After soaking, clean the dried oyster and steam with salt, ginger, onion leeks, and rice wine for 15 minutes. Fry the whole garlic until golden brown in color and slice the pork lechon into cubes. Soak the sea moss in hot water for 10 minutes and drain. Steam the dried oyster with the pork lechon, mushroom, and garlic. Add the soup stock and steam for 20 minutes. Blanch the lettuce for approximately 15 seconds and put it on the plate. Take the steamed mushroom, dried oyster, pork lechon, soup stock, and garlic; pour on top of the lettuce and drain with the sea moss. Get some soup stock and add the chicken powder, sugar, oyster sauce, mushroom soy sauce, and potato starch to thicken the sauce. Put it on top of the dried oyster and sea moss.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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