Chinese NY dishes in Petaling Jaya

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Nicely shot by Japhia Wong

Celebrating Chinese New Year in Petaling Jaya (Malaysia) is always a special experience. It is a return to my roots. Each time my uncle (my father's younger brother, Pak Leong) visits, I find out a bit more about my past.  

My second paternal Uncle: he has many
fascinating stories to tell
Apparently, our group of Hakkas came from the north ("Holam"), the very same one that Sun Yat Sen hailed from. They migrated to Guangdong. Some moved on to Hong Kong during the 1911 Revolution. Some, because of the ease of travel in the British empire, migrated to Malaysia.

We have relatives in London, Canada, USA and even some in Surinam. Hakkas indeed have migration in their blood. Always in search for a better life. I suppose I continued the trend when I became a Singaporean this year.

I found out that my father studied till Form 3 before he started working as a book-keeper. He was a good writer (in Chinese) and was a regular columnist in some local papers. He was also very interested in cooking. At one point, he was cooking by day and counting by night.

In those days, if you are the 'studying type', you end up being a teacher with a measly fixed salary. To make money, you do business. And writing in Chinese gets you no where. But if you can write in English, a whole world opens up. My Dad only read and wrote well in Chinese. This explained why my Dad switched to selling vegetables and fruits when the opportunity arose.

My mother started cooking very early. She learned a lot of good recipes from her stepmother. Many of her popular recipes like Kuih Bang Kuek, Kuih Kapek (Love letters) and Nonya ones came from here. The same stepmother gave birth to a daughter which became the darling of the family. They used to rear some hens and it laid a few eggs from time to time. The youngest daughter naturally had priority to eat them.  My Mum will feed her soft-boiled ones, while longingly wished she could have some. This probably explain why my Mum had such a love for soft-boiled eggs.

I can go on and on. These tales will bore you.

And by the way, have I told you how noisy it was on CNY eve? Fire crackers were going off everywhere. And there were even sky fireworks sent up there by residents. This can only happen in Malaysia!

Eh..Sky Fireworks in a residential area? Malaysia Boleh!
I move on to some CNY dishes. There was a lot of cooking for not just the Reunion Dinners but the meals throughout the first few days of CNY. I list out some of what we came up with.

Clams with Celery in OX Sauce
Do you have cans of Pacific or Razor Clams in your cupboard or hamper? This shell meat is lovely to the bite and razor clams are my favorite. Pair them with a crunchy veg like celery. This dish is fast to make. Dice the celery. Add some oil to the wok. Chopped garlic goes in first for about a minute and then about 2-3 teaspoons of XO sauce. Add the celery. After a minute, the clams. You can also add a few drops of sesame oil, soy sauce and pepper to taste. After about 2 minutes of stir frying, add some Chinese wine. Then serve immediately.

Wok Fried Short Rib Beef with Basil Leaves
Well marbled
Short-rib beef
Beef is another easy dish to make. Flank beef needs only to be in the wok for 2-3 minutes. An even tastier cut is beef short ribs. Those which are well marbled are superb. Cut against the grain into smaller stir-fry pieces. You can use the usual oyster sauce - sesame oil - pepper combo if you like.

I did a Thai style for CNY, making good use of the unused coriander stems and roots. Pounded the coriander roots and white peppercorns together. Add to the heated oil in the wok. As I have some small Thai garlic which tasted great whole, I added them whole to the wok. Otherwise, you can pound them as well. I also added some diced lemon grass. Fry in the oil till fragrant. Add some cut chilli peppers. Add the beef. Then dashes of fish sauce for the saltiness. To taste. Lastly, add some basil leaves. Serve hot. A bunch of Thai basil leaves from the market is about 1 rgt! That is cheap.

Steamed Combination of Waxed Meat
This is another family favourite and common in many CNY tables. It is quick and easy to make. Steam them whole for about 20 minutes. Then slice and serve. The red sausage can be further fried if you like them with a crunch. The liver sausage is a favourite. I think this dish is best eaten with Teochew porridge.

Har Lok

Stir-Fried Fresh Water Prawns (Har Lok)
Another regular Wong favourite is "Har Lok." We only managed to get some average size farmed ones at about 35 rgt per kilo. The wildly caught ones are sweeter. In any case, this are nice as well. The recipe has been blogged here.

Assam Prawns

Fried Assam Prawns (Tamarind)
Another good prawn dish we love is Assam Prawns. The recipe is already blogged here. It keeps well and tastes better the next day. It can be eaten throughout the day as guests pop in. Very appetizing.

The treasures dish. Pic taken before the broth and dried scallops were poured.
Jinhua ham adds an intense
flavour to stocks
Abalone Treasures Dish
This seems to be a must-have though I think it is best eaten alone as the other dishes tend to overpowers it's delicate taste. Preparing the Superior broth can be done beforehand. Use lean cut of pork, a whole chicken, some Jinhua ham.Simmer for about 5-6 hours till the 6 litres of water is reduced into half. You can use the broth later to steam dried scallops for about 2 hours. Diced carrots can be added to further sweeten the broth. Perhaps I will write a separate post on stock-making. Good stocks elevates a dish to another level and is the secret behind many restaurant dishes.

I steamed the cooked abalone (they come in cans) for about 2 hours. Slice. I served the abalone some fresh bamboo and red radish. The fresh bamboo was no longer fresh by the time I transported it to PJ. It is best eaten immediately after it is prepared and boiled.

Duck: Stir fry with Sesame Sauce & Thai Red Curry Duck
Roast duck is another favourite but it is difficult to get it crispy on the table. It was bought a day before and it came already chopped. So, we could not refresh it with an oil bath to crisp the skin. So, we stir fry. We ate it twice and served it in two different ways.

As the duck came with its own sauce, I used it and added some sesame sauce (Peking). Heat up the sauce and then added the roasted duck. 10-15 minutes will do. 

Cooking leftover duck - Thai Red Curry with Pineapple and lychees
Roast Pork
As for Thai Red Curry duck, this is another superb way to use leftover duck. I have blogged the recipe here. This time round I used canned lychees for the sweet and pineapple for the sour.

Roast Pork (Siu Yok)

Everybody loved this, especially when dipped in some sesame sauce. We did not get a good photo of it and I used (right) a previous pic.

Chap Choy?
There is a huge fam favourite which we could not get on the table this time round - "Chap Choy." This normally appears on the 2nd or 3rd day and uses leftovers with preserved cabbage. This makes a lot of sense. I have not made it before and hope to blog the recipe some day. Ahh..I am dreaming of it even as I write this.

Anyway, a Happy New Year to all of you. And remember to do some extra workouts.

The customary photo with my sis-in-law Coreen after we cooked
the Reunion spread

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  1. these dishes look so yummy & easy to cook. (or rather you hv made it so user-friendly to cook it) I shall try the Wok fried short beef rib w basil leaves tonite!

  2. Amazing to get so many dishes on the table hot and ready to eat. Amazing.

  3. Looks yummy, i may try the assam prawns as a may not stop thinking about them if i don't!

  4. Steven - the dishes mentioned here were cooked for different meals. Keeping all of them warmed was difficult when they had to be served all at once.

  5. elyssa

    Wah! Your family is SO LUCKY! This is a lovely blog- one of the best in detailed content and I should know as I've been following international food blogs since 2006. Happy New Year to you and the family. I'm sure your mum will be very proud of you guys. Keep up the good work.Best wishes