So, what are you cooking for this coming Chinese New Year? With the guests restrictions, the menu should be paired down, either in variety or quantity. Added to that, crossed-causeway family reunion is also not possible and that may change your plans.
Eating out will not be a practical option for larger families. Remembering these may help as we prepare our cooking. The reunion dinner is always about family favourites. Each family have their own “festive dishes” that everyone grew up with. These will be in line with your heritage; may it be Hakka; Nonya or Hokkien. In fact, when I ask a family what is usually tabled for their reunion dinners, I can guess the cultural background of the matriarch of the family.
Stir Fry River Prawns in Black Bean Sauce
I can hardly think of a Wong Reunion dinner without this dish. This is one early recipe which I have posted on my blog. In the earlier days, river prawns were wildly caught and it is sweeter compared to farmed ones. These days, we have to make do with the latter. Try to buy them as fresh as possible and put them into the freezer immediately once you reach home. NTUC do sell them too during this period along within some wet markets. If you can get river prawns, sea-farmed ones like crystal prawns or wild-caught Angka will worked well too. Or the large imported frozen ones.
Lo Han Chai or Chap Chye
This is a family favourite. There are different versions of this, depending whether you are Nonya, Hokkien or Cantonese. My mum like to use white fermented bean curd (Fu Yi) and wongbok instead of cabbage for this. Wongbok has a firm texture which holds well and won’t absorb the stock the way cabbage will do, which makes for a soggy dish when eaten the next day.
Rub into the whole chicken with some salt and steam for about 40 to 45 minutes. Then served it with fresh red chilli sauce and a beautiful ginger garlic sauce (recipe here). Get the best chicken you can lay your hands on. Anxin or another type of “Kampung chicken” will work. The fattier and meatier large chicken broiler will work too. If you have leftovers, fry it up with some garlic, soy sauce and thick black sauce. If there is still leftovers after this, add to your Chai Buay. 🙂 You can see why my Mum always make this for reunion.
Treasure Dish or Pencai
Prepare each ingredient beforehand. Then just before dinner, assemble and pour in the warmed sauce.
Jiu Hur Eng Chye (Braised turnip with dried cuttle fish)
This is another favourite reunion dish. It pairs very well with fresh iceberg lettuce and sambal belachan. It also keep very well for the next few days when fridged. I will be blogging the recipe soon.
Deep fried Hakka Pork (“Char yoke”)
This was another perennial favourite and is probably the only dish that reveals our secondary Hakka roots. For some reason, Hakka culture is normally eclipsed when it collides with Hokkien or Cantonese and it was certainly our experience of that living in West Malaysia. Check the recipe here.
Waxed Meat Platter
Cantonese waxed meat is easy to prepare, whether steamed or pan fried. It keeps well for nibbles in the next few days.
Chai Buay (lead photo)
No CNY is complete in our family without Chai Buay or Choi Keok. It is the essential “leftover dish” cooked with the Mustard Green veg which is rare and expensive come CNY. And so, please book your mustard greens early. It may be hard to find fresh ones given the difficulties of this season. An alternative is to used the salted mustard greens (“Ham Choy”). You need to soak them a few times to remove the salt.
Nonya Curry Chicken
Curries are also family favourites for the 1st and 2nd day of CNY. Curries keep well and cna be served all day.
|Photo from a previous CNY Reunion in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.|