Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Gung Hey Fat Choy!

Posted by Bonita

A belated Gung Hey Fat Choy to everyone! May this year bring you all good fortune, good health and good wealth!

With the Chinese New Year (aka. Lunar New Year) celebrations well underway since last Thursday, I was lucky enough to head back home for the weekend to celebrate with my parents. It's been a good few years since I've actually been home during Chinese New Years, being away at school and all, but with a more flexible schedule to work with this year, I was able to take some time to train it back home, despite the onslaught of snow. And being home meant only one thing: enjoying mom's cooking!

I definitely ate far too much food this weekend (can I say salad for the next month!), but it was certainly worth it. My return home coincided with the first day of Chinese New Year celebrations, and on the first day, it's typical that we have a vegetarian dish, also known sometimes as Buddha's Delight. Our variation features napa cabbage, Chinese mushrooms (shiitake), and carrots, as well as fungus, "fat choy", hair-like algae, tofu and vermicelli noodles.

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Another typical dish we usually have is chicken. Typically, we have what would literally be translated as White-Cut Chicken, chicken that's been either steamed or poached, sliced and served with a delicious condiment made of minced ginger, green onions, sesame oil and lots of salt. However, my mom decided to try something different this year, but slicing the chicken and layering it with pickled ginger and century egg.

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Another very traditional dish that you would often see at the table during the New Year is pig trotters, which is braised until the meat falls off the bones. My mom typically braises the pig trotters with shiitake mushrooms, fat choy and dried oysters.

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Lastly, the meal was rounded off with a dish made from one of my favourite ingredients, tofu. Silken tofu was pulsed in the food processor with some shrimp, green onions and seasoning and then steamed until cooked through. Delicious!

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Besides all that food, we also had Chicken Feet Soup. Don't let the fact that it's chicken feet freak you out; it's really good, and chicken feet is a common ingredient seen in Chinese cuisine.

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On a separate day, my mom made another New Year's favourite of mine, "San Choy Bow", which literally translates into Lettuce Wraps. The filling is made from dried oysters, a type of preserved vegetable, barbeque pork and other diced vegetables, and is absolutely savoury and delicous wrapped in a crisp leaf of lettuce. A messy affair, granted, but the mess is so worth it! Seriously finger-lickin' good.

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And what New Year's morning is complete without the traditional fare of cakes? Rather, these cakes are more like a type of pudding, and there are both savoury and sweet cakes. My mom typically makes Turnip Cake and Taro Cake from scratch, and then panfries them again in the mornings. However, this year, my mom decided to make a steamed-version of the Turnip Cake, which uses less flour and thus is less dense then its traditional counterpart, which would usually be panfried after the initial steaming-process. As for the sweet cakes, my mom made Water Chestnut Cake, Nian Gao (年糕), and Ma Lai Gao, which is the most cake-like of all these cakes, despite being cooked using the steaming-process as well.

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So, as you can see, I've certainly ate a lot of food these past couple of days. Then again, Chinese New Year only rolls around once a year (just like Christmas), so if I don't eat now, when will I get the chance, right? Happy New Year everyone!

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