My family got together for a Chinese New Year lunch at my parents’ home a couple of weekends ago.
We started the meal with yee sang, a Chinese raw fish salad (“yee” means “fish”, “sang” means “raw”). Many Malaysian Chinese families eat yee sang at Chinese New Year as it symbolises prosperity, abundance and good health. In previous years, Mum has purchased a yee sang kit that includes sachets of dressing, seasoning and all kinds of colourful garnishes, to which you add carrot, radish and raw fish. This year, Mum didn’t buy the yee sang kit – she made the dish herself from scratch. Like previous years, she used smoked salmon instead of raw fish.
The platter of yee sang sat on the table ready to be tossed, with chopsticks arranged all around. Jac showed almost two-year-old Zoe how to play the drums using chopsticks and soon Zoe was drumming away to her heart’s content. Then Mum called everyone to the table to toss the salad.
Everyone grabbed a pair of chopsticks and we all helped toss the salad together.
Every year when we toss the salad, my mum urges us all to toss it higher, higher and HIGHER! Being good, obedient children, we always do our best. :)
As you can see, it gets quite messy!
Zoe was fascinated and joined in too.
And so, the yee sang was served! We used our chopsticks to fill our plates.
My nieces both love yee sang. Ruby (aged almost 3-and-a-half) now tends to be very curious about what she is eating. She examined everything on her plate very closely before putting anything in her mouth. She especially loved the crispy fried pieces of wantan.
Zoe is a big fan of smoked salmon and devoured the yee sang enthusiastically! And when she had finished everything on her plate, she asked: “More?”
With the yee sang demolished, the table was given a much needed wipe-down, ready for the rest of the meal.
My eldest sister CW had bought a whole ocean trout to steam, but it was too large to fit in the wok/steamer. Even after she had chopped off its head and tail, it was still an impressively big piece of fish. She placed the steamed trout in its serving dish with soy sauce and sesame oil, garnished with spring onion and topped with chopped fresh garlic and ginger. For the finishing touch, my younger sister Juji poured popping hot oil evenly over the fish.
CW added handfuls of fresh coriander on top, and the fish was ready to be served. For those who know about my dislike for coriander – yes, I picked the coriander out before eating my share of the fish.
It looked absolutely mouthwatering and I couldn’t wait to dig in.
Mum made a delicious lamb curry. The recipe came from her friend Kamala back in Malaysia – we’ve always known this dish as Kamala’s curry.
Jac and I cooked marinated chicken wingettes. It was a team effort: she chopped the chicken wings into three, discarding the wing tips. I made the marinade with soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce, honey, fresh garlic, sesame oil and white and black pepper. I marinated the wingettes for over 24 hours, turning them in the marinade a few times. A couple of hours before cooking, I squeezed the juice from one orange all over the chicken. Jac cooked them in the oven on wire racks. We basted them well so they were shiny and saucy.
Mum cooked another must-have dish at Chinese New Year – chap chye. It’s a vegetable dish with braised cabbage, Chinese mushrooms, bean curd skin, vermicelli, young bamboo shoots and different kinds of fungus which symbolise success and wealth. We Chinese like food that symbolises prosperity!
Another dish cooked by Mum – braised chicken, Chinese mushrooms and abalone, served in a bowl on a bed of lettuce.
The steamed ocean trout was beautifully moist and tasted as good as it looke. We finished one side, flipped it over and started again!
Here’s my plate with a bit of everything.
I couldn’t stop eating the fish – it was probably my favourite out of all the dishes. CW told us that the ocean trout at the fishmonger were all simply enormous – she had asked for the smallest one! Even after we had all eaten our fill, there was fish left over. We got to take some home and I ate steamed ocean trout again for my dinner that night.
Mum pressure-cooks her abalone, which results in perfect, tender abalone every time. The braised chicken was succulent and the big black Chinese mushrooms were meaty and juicy.
I’ve featured these before – this is a “bone container”. Mum learned how to make these from her friends back in Malaysia, using old junk mail catalogues. She always has a ready supply of them. Given how many chicken wingettes we got through, they were very handy.
Once all the dishes were cleared and leftovers boxed up in takeaway plastic containers, Juji brought out the dessert – pandan chiffon cake she had baked herself.
She sliced the pandan cake into cube-shaped pieces.
The cake was sweet and soft. It was difficult to stop at just one piece.
In the end, my brother grabbed the knife and sliced up the rest of the cake so we could have seconds and thirds. The cake was a lovely way to end a great feast. I just wish my sister and her hubby who live in Sydney could’ve joined us.
A few of you have been asking about my nephew Caleb, who was born on 27 December. He’s very well! Here he is, looking very serious.
And a second later, yawning.
The girls had a great time. They always do whenever there’s family and food! Not only do they enjoy the feast, they always make sure to get their willing grandparents, aunties and uncles to read stories to them before and after the meal. :)
This is what happens when you say, “Smile, Ruby!”
And this is what happens when you say, “Smile, Zoe!”
Smile, everyone! And Happy Chinese New Year in the Year of the Rabbit!
If you celebrate Chinese New Year I’d love to hear about yours!
Previous Chinese New Year family meals
Chinese New Year 2010 – family reunion dinner
Chinese New Year 2009 – visiting relatives
Chinese New Year 2009 – family reunion dinner
Belated Chinese New Year 2008 family dinner – includes a video of yee sang being assembled.