Happy New Year! Kong Hei Fatt Choy!
We get together for our family reunion lunch at my parents’ home on Chinese New Year eve.
We begin the meal with yee sang, a raw fish salad (in Chinese, “yee” means fish, “sang” means raw). Yee sang is eaten by many Chinese Malaysian families at new year as a symbol of the good things we wish for the year ahead: good health, abundance and prosperity.
Juji assembles the salad with the fresh ingredients Mum has already shredded and julienned. In the centre, handfuls of crispy fried wantan squares, then a sprinkling of chopped spring onion and crushed roasted peanuts.
Finally, just before serving, Juji arranges ribbons of smoked salmon around the centre and drizzles the plum sauce and sesame seed dressing over the salad.
Mum calls everyone to the table for the tossing of the salad. We each take up a pair of chopsticks and toss, toss, toss!
It gets quite messy, to the delight of the children and certain adults.
Both my nieces love yee sang, but almost-3-year-old Zoe is especially fond of smoked salmon. She enjoys tossing the salad, eating the salad, then playing the drums afterwards.
My one-year-old nephew Caleb eats yee sang too – a few crispy wantan squares, some of the salad and a little smoked salmon – with a few pieces of Rafferty’s Garden organic apple bar (one of his favourite snacks) thrown in.
When the yee sang’s all eaten, we clean up and get ready for the main course.
Juji uses mum’s cleaver to chop up her contribution to lunch: a beautiful piece of roasted pork belly, with crunchy bubbly crackling.
I don’t know how I manage to resist the urge to sneak a piece of roast pork while I’m standing there, ever so close.
The blackened “bark” bits may not look that good, but they are delicious and rich with the flavour of the marinade.
I posted Juji’s roast pork belly recipe a few years ago. Here it is again:
Roasted pork belly
Roast pork marinade
4 cloves garlic
3 star anise
1 stick cinnamon
1/4 cup gula melaka
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown malt vinegar
tbs oyster sauce
At least one night before you plan to eat the pork
Place all of the marinade ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
Place the mixture in a shallow baking dish large enough to hold the pork. Juji used a piece of pork belly that weighed around 2.5 kg.
Pierce the pork all over the flesh side with a small knife to allow the flavours to penetrate. Place pork flesh side down into marinade
Place paper towel on top of the skin, weigh it down(Juji used canned fruit in a baking tray on top), leave the pork in the fridge at least overnight.
The day of cooking and feasting
Remove the weights and paper towel, rub salt into the skin.
Allow the pork to come to closer to room temperature as you preheat the oven preheat to 250C.
Just before roasting, rub some vegetable oil onto the salted pork skin.
Place the pork on a rack in a baking tray, and cook it in the oven for approximately 40 minutes until the skin begins to crisp up.
It should start to bubble. If you feel you need more time to achieve better skin, go ahead. Different ovens may need more or less time.
Once you feel satisfied with crispness of the skin, turn the oven down to 160C and cook the pork 1/2 hr for every half kilo in addition to the time already spent crisping up the skin.
When the pork is done, rest it anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Slice it up and serve.
– END recipe –
My mum’s cooked peri peri chicken wings, a favourite of my brother, who will always be Chicken Boy to me.
Another tradition of the Chinese New Year family meal is chap chai, made with braised cabbage, vermicelli, young bamboo shoots, bean curd skin, Chinese mushrooms and different kinds of fungus, all of which symbolise wealth and success. We Chinese are big on symbolism in our food, and we love prosperity!
As part of the preparation of this dish, Mum painstakingly ties a knot in each of the bamboo shoots to give them a nice texture to bite.
While Juji is busy chopping up the roast pork, Jac is cooking prawns with ginger and garlic in mum’s wok. She serves the prawns with a garnish of chopped spring onions and sliced fresh red chillies from our garden.
My eldest sister CW and her hubby M have brought two tender roast ducks. TWO!
CW explains she decided to order two ducks so that everyone can eat without worrying if there will be enough to go around. Nothing will go to waste – any leftovers will go to good homes afterwards. *pats tummy*.
As we do almost every year, we laugh at the meatiness of our meal. And then we eat more meat.
When I ask the girls which is their favourite dish, they both say: “PRAWNS!” Rice with roast duck sauce is also a winner today!
When everyone has eaten their fill, we tidy up and distribute leftovers into takeaway containers (Mum always has plenty of those available). Then after a short break, it’s time for dessert.
Mum slices up watermelon.
Juji has made peanut biscuits, another favourite of Chinese New Year. See Juji’s blog post Peanut biscuits for Chinese New Year for the recipe.
My sister-in-law Angela has made two flavours of ice cream: vanilla and strawberry. To me, Angela’s homemade strawberry ice cream, made with fresh strawberries, will always be echidna ice cream! Remember the echidna ice cream cake at Ruby’s 4th birthday party?
I’ve brought along the jar of Eden Gate Blueberry Velvet that came in my Urban Locavore box to eat with the ice cream. It’s lovely, like a liquid blueberry jam. I go back for a second helping of ice cream with more blueberry velvet.
Kong Hei Fatt Choy and Happy Chinese New Year! Hope you kicked off the Year of the Dragon with delicious food and good company.
Previous Chinese New Year family meals
2011 – visiting relatives
2011 – family lunch
2010 – family reunion dinner
2009 – visiting relatives
2009 – family reunion dinner
2008 – belated family dinner – includes a video of yee sang being assembled.
Behind the scenes
This is what you get with two food bloggers in the family!