My Top 5 Chinese New Year Dishes as a Malaysian Chinese

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2 years ago

Happy Chinese New Year (CNY) to everyone in the world! Since I'm from a multi-cultural country, many of my non-Chinese friends also celebrate Chinese New Year and some even practice a yearly tradition of inviting Chinese friends over for a mini gathering.

Unfortunately with the global pandemic going around since March last year, all of us are required to have a much scaled down celebration where we are only able to have our CNY reunion dinners with our closest family members and relatives who live within the same district. Nevertheless, with food being a huge driving force in life, I will be lying if I say food wasn't something great and exciting to look forward to despite the quieter festival this year.

With that being said, here are my top 5 favorite Chinese New Year dishes! Since I'm a born bred Chinese Hakka, and most of the dishes below are known as Hakka dishes, I would like to think that most of the dishes listed here are rather uncommon and not easily available in your typical Chinese Restaurants. So here we go!!

Number 1: Poon Choy (also known as the Prosperity Treasure Pot)

The concept behind Poon Choy is to have a one-pot dish with the best (and most 'prosperous') ingredients that are served in a giant (or just a really big) pot. The Poon Choy is traditionally served during special festivals such as Chinese New Year, and I don't ever recall having this dish even during Chinese wedding dinners, which I suppose is due to the higher cost required in making a pot of these. A Poon Choy typically consists of big tiger prawns (a lot, of prawns), abalone (oh my love), sometimes scallops or dried mussels/dried oysters, braised pork belly (when braised the right way just melts in your mouth and its oh so good!), sea cucumber, fish maw, sea moss or sometimes sea weed, my favorite giant mushrooms, duck or steamed chicken, and since those are typically what I pick to eat, that's all I remember lol. Granted you have uncommon ingredients like sea cucumber and fish maw, pick the right and freshest ingredients and this pot is a Chinese dream come true.

Number 2: Braised Pork & Black Fungus

After talking about the Poon Choy my stomach juices are officially running and I'm thinking about the next meaty dish, the Braised Pork & Black Fungus, which I love, love, love! I'm really lucky to have a mom to makes this from time to time, and not only during special occasions. The original hakka recipe comes with fermented bean as well, but as mom's cooking is always the best, it tastes just as great without the fermented beans. Mom always tells me the key of a good braised pork dish is in the freshness of the ingredients. Get really fresh pork belly (or whichever part of pork you fancy) from the butcher at the morning market, get fresh fungus instead of dried ones (which most people use for convenience), season it right, braise it for the right a good amount of time, and serve it the next day! Cause mom says it always taste better the next day somehow. The perfect dish to go with my favorite staple food, white rice. Just so, so good.

Number 3: Braised Fish Maw + Sea Cucumber + Mushrooms + Brocolli

Moving on from red meats, my appetite is ready for a generous serving of braised seafood and broccoli, because seafood is awesome and vegetables are perfect after the heavy red meats (and I love vegetables and am a fan of all vegetables). While fish maw may not sound or look as appetizing as it may be, again, picking good quality ones and pre-soaking them for a good amount of time will result it soft and tender fish maw which turns out to be a really refreshing bite. Sea cucumber is optional but mushrooms, mushrooms are the bomb! I can eat mushroom after mushroom during a Chinese wedding dinner and not feel apologetic about it. They may have a strong odd smell when they are dried and taken out of a packet, but once pre-soaked and cooked with a nice braise sauce, they taste a-ma-zing! Lastly I know that broccoli is not exactly popular among most people, but well, I do love broccoli together with my braised mushrooms. Yum, yum, yum!

Number 4: Hakka Red Fermented Vegan Vege Dish (also known as Zhai Choy or Zoi Choy depending on the Chinese dialect)
Can't believe I made it to food number 4, while I'm still having CNY food hungover from our annual family reunion dinner 2 nights ago. Safe to say I'm now having cravings again! I grew up eating a lot this dish, but I don't think its commonly served in Chinese households unless they are of Hakka descendants. This dish has a reddish appearance at first look due to the red fermented bean curd used in this dish, which basically gives the dish its unique and distinguished flavor. The dish usually consists of Chinese long cabbage, the fermented bean curd, glass noodles, black fungus, mushrooms and my aunt's favorite ingredient, gingko nuts (the Chinese version ones are yellowish and soften and I have no idea how they did it). I can gobble up serving after serving of this dish and never get bored of it.

Number 5: Classic Cantonese Style Steamed Fish

In every CNY dinner, we would never NOT have Steamed Fish, because fish is a symbol of prosperity and well, Chinese people just love eating steamed fish. While it looks really simple, and the name itself makes it sound simple, it does require good skill to steam a delicious fish (Trust me I tried thinking it was simple and turned out disastrous). Seasoning and marinating the fish is the easiest. Get the scales off, clean the insides, and then rub it with salt and white pepper. The tricky part is really knowing the timing and making sure the steam cooks the food thoroughly but not overcook it. Having a steamed fish cooked just right would result in a juicy, soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture and thats just something that can make you so happy after a meal. As the saying goes,Great Fish, Happy Chinese. Just kidding that doesn't even rhyme lol.

Well, I have officially completed my list and I'm really, really hungry right now and would probably have to scavenge my fridge for leftovers lol.

What about you? Have you ever had a traditional Chinese meal before? Of if you do celebrate Chinese New Year, what do you usually have for your reunion dinner? Let us know in the comments below :D

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Avatar for thehappinessequation
2 years ago