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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Review of Chinese New Year, food-wise.

As I mentioned in the last post, the last few days before Chinese New Year were marked by frantic baking, to produce jars of cookies for consumption during CNY. All cookies were baked using recipes from my mom's tried&tasted recipe book. I should take a photo of it one day, the pages are old and yellow, but it's bound in this green-spine, red and black leopard print-like hardcover. Really 1980s! 

I can proudly add that I made all the cookies all by myself!
Cornflake cookies

Open-faced pineapple tarts
Crispy Nestum Cookies

Cashew nut cookies (with cashew nut powder inside!)

I do believe that these cookies are truly Malaysian/Singaporean in the sense that no one outside Southeast Asia will have such cookies baked for any occasion, let alone a festive one like the Lunar New Year. And no Chinese New Year of mine will ever be complete with such traditional festive cookies. My favorite, of course, will always be pineapple tarts =)

Other goodies that my family was given when we went 拜年ing (which is essentially visiting the homes of relatives and friends during the New Year), were the following: (clockwise from top left) Modified Kuih Rose/Loyang (or Honeycomb cookie), Kuih Bahulu (remember my previous post on Malaysian madeleines?), deep-fried and shredded crab sticks (which are crazily delicious!) and deep-fried and rolled popiah skins (or wonton wrappers). The latter two items were gifts from my neighbour to my Mom after my Mom gave her some cookies and boy was it a good exchange! I'm definitely going to attempt to make these in the next CNY - they are really addictive, especially the shredded crab stick, as you can see from the emptiness of the jar >.< 

Ps: I made this collage using photovisi (as you can obviously see from the watermark), and it's not too bad, although photo quality is compromised quite a bit. I don't have photoshop so I'll just have to make do! 

Of course, no CNY celebration will be complete (especially in Singapore/Malaysia) without lo hei. Also known as Yusheng (鱼生), it is a raw fish salad consisting of salmon, mixed with shredded vegetables and other sauces. I especially like the crispy cracker-like things in the salad. The reason why Yusheng is tossed during CNY is because Yusheng sounds like "increase in abundance" literally, and we Chinese, being a superstitious lot, will do anything to increase our abundance and luck during an auspicious time. 

You can prepare your own, but most people just buy it pre-packaged from the supermarket - it costs about S$12 for a Yusheng for a small family. As for my family, we catered it as part of our reunion dinner, and as you can see in the pictures below - lo hei is a very messy affair - everyone will gather around the table (which in most traditional Chinese families are round anyway) with their chopsticks ready to dip into the salad and lift bits of the salad up into the air while saying auspicious wishes. People unfamiliar with the practice will think we are nuts, but it is all about the symbolism in Chinese tradition - you are basically lifting bits of abundance, and the higher you toss, the greater your growth in abundance! For more on the significance of the individual ingredients in Yusheng, this post is particularly informative!

Judging from the mess we made, I'm sure we'll all experience a phenomenal spurt of abundance this year =)

Another must-eat for me during CNY, is of course, the famous nyonya chendol in Melaka. As you can tell by now, my kampong is in Melaka, a small town about 1 hour away from the town centre, but every new year, my family never fails to load up a car full of kids and make the trip down to Jonker Street to join in the festivities and more importantly, to eat chendol! I can honestly proclaim that chendol from Melaka is the best I've ever eaten anywhere, and I have eaten quite a bit of chendol (in fact, I went on a chendol eating spree in Singapore some time back, trying all sorts of chendol). In my opinion, a good chendol must have thick, gooey gula melaka, finely shaved iced topped off with sweet coconut cream and the right amounts of chendol and kidney beans! (No tiny red beans for me I'm afraid!) Below is not a particularly appetizing photo, but trust me, the chendol is really good (although I believe standards have dropped a little and portions decreased a little after they've gained popularity over the years). I always have chendol from what I call "Jonker 88" - a shoplot with the address 88 Jonker Street. I find that it's the best so far - any detractors with better chendol elsewhere in Melaka, drop me a note!


Another final thing that I usually do would be to head to my maternal auntie's place to visit, and to sample the local delicacies that she makes. She makes these fantastic braided cookies dipped in sugar, which I have no idea what they are called. I didn't manage to get any photos of them, but here's one I got off the internet. Another thing we consume at her place would be the following - kuih dodol or what my mom's family calls kuih kacau (literally translated as 'snack that is continually disturbed'), which is an apt description of how it is made - the flour, coconut cream, palm sugar, water and other ingredients are mixed together over the charcoal fire and this mixture has to be continually stirred until the mixture thickens and becomes really sticky. My aunty makes a whole bunch of it for the family - which explains the huge ass wok and the shovel that is being used to stir the mixture. Yes, that is a shovel which you can use to shovel cement and other dirty stuff. Check out the steam just below the shovel in the picture!

Making of kuih dodol

And finally, something novel this CNY - the grandchildren (that is, myself and the other cousins in the family), decided on having a BBQ as part of our dinner for the second day of CNY, and it was a roaring success! We had so much food and were stuffed! Our parents who were initially very skeptical about the whole idea, were bought over - so much so that we've decided to have it again next year, just bigger and better!

Check out the shabu-shabu meat in the centre! YUM!

And that marks the end of a very wonderful week back in Melaka, where I ate, and slept, and ate, and slept, and oh of course, collected angpaos =)


Jeannie said...

Looks like you'd had a wonderful CNY celebration! Gong Xi Fa Cai:D

j3ss kitch3n said...

happy CNY janine! i'm so envious! you had a wonderful time! whereas i'm not haha!

Janine said...

@jess and jeannie: yes i had a great time :) gong xi fa cai to you both too!

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Loved the Nyonya Chendol - a refreshing change from all the heavy snacks from CNY!

mycookinghut said...

Happy Chinese New Year! I can see you had a feast!

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