GOOD COMPANY; Shark Fin With 40 Candles

FEW New Yorkers brag about turning 40, but in China it is a reason to celebrate. Simpson Wong was the honored guest on a soft Wednesday night at his sister and brother-in-law's brownstone duplex in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. And as the birthday boy, he was not allowed to touch a pot, even though he is the chef and an owner of the sleek American fusion restaurant Jefferson in Greenwich Village. Instead he fiddled with the sunflowers on a table in the backyard. ''It's so sad,'' Mr. Wong said of one flower that was nodding toward the ground. ''I prefer this one. It's happier.''

At 7 p.m. paper lanterns were beckoning smokers to the far side of the yard. On the parlor floor, Mr. Wong's sister, Ann Wu, and her husband, Daniel Wu, were stirring shark fin soup (boiling since 7 a.m.) and keeping the lobster sauce bubbling for the extra-long ''longevity'' egg noodles. Their sons, Roger and Nelson, circled the table, eyeing the abalone already dished up.

Nearby, a platter held dozens of hard-boiled eggs, dyed red ''for good luck,'' Mr. Wu said.

''My mom always gave me a red egg on my birthday,'' Mr. Wong said. ''Everyone will take an egg home for breakfast tomorrow.''

Was the shark fin soup for good luck, too? ''No,'' Mr. Wu said. ''It's good for health, and very expensive. I had to buy the shark fin in Chinatown, at a Chinese medicine store.''

Ms. Wu heaped some mustard greens onto a serving platter while her husband opened the oven. ''This is the roast baby pig,'' he said, ''very special, very traditional. All marinated overnight and then cooked. Now I have to figure out how to cut.''

Out back, a guest in spindly heels was trying to avoid poking holes in the lawn. Xaviera Simmons, a photographer, was wearing sensible sneakers with her floral print robe.

Suddenly from inside the house came the sound of insane chopping: whack, whack, whackity whack whack whack. ''Ah,'' Ms. Simmons, a vegetarian, said. ''Daniel's slaughtering the pig.''

Irine Priscilla, an importer from Indonesia, was fresh from a fashion show and wearing a Carlos Miele dress, which was cut so daringly low in back that Philip Wu, an architect and her date, declared that he couldn't look. ''I was almost embarrassed,'' he said.

Ms. Priscilla noted that Mr. Miele, a Brazilian designer, ''really understands women's bodies.''

Guests gathered around a long buffet table and discussed the mulberries that had plagued the last party there, on July 4. (A huge tree, heavy with fruit, had rained purple berries down on people all night long. ''I had a white T-shirt on,'' Mr. Wong said. ''And the berries kept falling.'')

No such problem this night. Soo Kang, a Korean guest, attacked the platters on the table. ''The last time I had a feast this big, it was in Hong Kong,'' she said.

Once the food was out, the real fun began: arguing about condiments. Mr. Wu-the-chef served the shark fin soup with a drizzle of cognac. His wife was busy looking instead for the red vinegar.

''Try white wine vinegar,'' Ms. Kang said and then delicately helped herself to hacked-up suckling pig.

Mr. Wong was talking with Ms. Simmons, the photographer. ''She wants me to pose naked in the winter for her,'' he said.

Time for a birthday toast. Dr. Henry Wu, a cardiologist who is Philip Wu's brother and Mr. Wong's companion, lifted his Champagne. ''At 40, he looks the way he looked 10 years ago,'' he said. ''Happy 40th.''

Aw. It was dark and suddenly the Wu boys, age 9 and 5, were handing out sparklers. Judy M. Chen, an aspiring pastry chef from Manhattan, presented her contribution, two identical cakes frosted with vanilla butter cream and decorated with sugared mint and pomegranate seeds, figs, gold dust and gold leaf. Several guests who had been gloating that roast pig was on the Atkins diet immediately converted to eating carbohydrates.

In the end, the sparklers fizzled out, the cake was eaten, the red hard-boiled eggs were handed out to departing guests and -- perhaps the biggest gift of all -- Mr. Wong did not have to stay around to wash the numerous dirty dishes.

 

 

 

 

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