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Sunday February 7, 2010

Festive recipes for the lunar New Year

Be inspired to cook up a feast at home to share with the family with these delicious ideas from two restaurant chefs and a cookbook author.

HERALD the new spring in grand fashion with the Deluxe Treasure Platter, aka poon choy, from Gu Yu Tien restaurant’s Chef Frankie Woo. Brimming with goodies such as smoked duck, roast pork, stuffed gluten puffs with dried oysters and Chinese mushrooms, it is an offering that few can snub.

Poon choy is traditionally served in China during communal gatherings like weddings and festive celebrations. Each family member is tasked with cooking a dish that is subsequently stacked on top of one another in a large, deep bowl and served as a one-pot meal.

Chef Woo’s poon choy is not layered – individual dishes are placed in single layer on a bed of taro (yam) and cabbage, and steamed with a sauce. This gives each dish a distinct flavour, comparing more favourably to the traditional, mingled hotch-potch.

Noodles are always a good idea for feeding big families. Woo’s take on the popular hawker fare of Hainanese noodles using premium prawns gives it a wow factor. In his version, fat yellow noodles are served with a lightly pickled vegetable, chilli and pineapple topping to balance out the rich broth.

Fish is a must on the festive table of the traditionalist as yu represents “having enough to spare”. And you can insure your wealth in the coming year by not polishing off the whole fish so that there will definitely be leftovers.

The festive fish dish is often served whole as the use of knives and sharp objects at the dining table may cause the severing of ties and good fortune. This, however, makes it rather messy to eat the fish. Chef Wong Wing Yeuk at the J.W. Marriott Hotel’s Shanghai Restaurant has an interesting solution to this: he serves fish slices that are artfully arranged to resemble a whole fish. After all, it’s all about symbolism, right?

Each mouthful of Wong’s Steamed Bamboo Fish with Ham, Mushroom and Bamboo Shoot unveils a mixture of tastes – delicate fish mingling with the aromatic Chinese ham, earthy tasting mushrooms and fresh winter bamboo shoots.

Grand meaty dishes are fine for the New Year. For innovation in small bites, cookbook author and cuisine teacher Catherine Lau has some pretty tempting recipes that will give a new twist to your festivities. Her tangy and crunchy pickled lotus root salad with plum sauce dressing makes a great vegetarian starter for nibbling on. The dish is spot on for Chinese New Year as lotus root (lin ngau) is symbolic of having abundance year after year.

To end the meal on a sweet note, Lau suggests steamed orange custard served in a cup fashioned from the orange skin. Superstitions aside, recycling is always a good idea!

Pickled Lotus Root Salad with Plum Sauce Dressing

Pickling solution

200ml rice vinegar

100g sugar

200g lotus root, sliced thinly

80g young ginger, julienned

140g fresh lily bulb, petals separated

160g fresh peeled ginkgo

4 tablespoons sugar

Water to cover

Salad ingredients

20g dried snow fungus, soaked for 1 hour, blanched and cut into pieces

30g dried boxthorne seeds (kei chi), soaked for five minutes and drained

Plum sauce dressing (mixed together)

50g Thai or Chinese plum sauce

15ml rice vinegar

15ml lemon juice

To prepare pickling solution:

Place the vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Set aside to cool completely before using.

To pickle lotus root:

Cover lotus root slices with water and 1/2 tablespoon white vinegar for 10 minutes; drain. Boil in water with 2 tablespoons vinegar for six minutes and drain. Place in a bowl or jar and cover with the pickling solution. Set in the refrigerator overnight; drain before using.

To pickle ginger:

Boil ginger in water for two minutes. Drain and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place in a bowl or jar and cover with the pickling solution. Set in the refrigerator overnight; drain before using.

To pickle lily bulb:

Place lily bulbs in a bowl and cover with the pickling solution. Cling wrap and set overnight in the refrigerator; drain before using.

To prepare ginkgo:

Place ginkgo, sugar and water in a saucepan and boil for 20 minutes; leave to soak overnight in the refrigerator and drain before using.

To serve:

Toss all the salad ingredients together with the pickles and plum sauce dressing. – Catherine Lau

Deluxe Treasure Platter (10 servings

Perfect for a whole family to share, Gu Yue Tien’s braised poon choy is placed in one layer compared to the traditional way of stacking the ingredients, allowing you to taste each ingredient. The platter is also available in Gu Yue Tien’s Chinese New Year menu for RM230++. You can also takeaway the platter together with the metal pot for RM330++.

Stuffed gluten puffs (sang kang)

10 gluten puffs (meen kan)

10 dried oysters (hoe see), soaked in water for one hour and steamed for 30 minutes to soften

150g fish paste, made by blending mackerel (tenggiri) fillet with a little water until firm and gluey

Smoked duck

1 whole duck

Coarse salt

Smoking mix

1 tablespoon Chinese pu-erh (po lei) tea leaves

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons uncooked rice

Steamed chicken

500g chicken

2 tablespoons Shao Xing rice wine

Coarse salt to coat

Sauce

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 litre chicken stock

Dash of sesame oil

Dash of pepper

30g cornflour, mixed with a little water

200g taro (yam), cut into slices

300g Chinese cabbage, cut into pieces

50g dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked overnight and steamed for 3 hours to soften

100g fresh beancurd skin

200g roast pork, sliced

20g dried black sea moss (fatt choy), rinsed

To prepare stuffed gluten puffs:

Halve the gluten puffs. Stuff with fish paste and place a softened oyster in the middle. Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Deep fry the gluten puffs until golden brown. Remove and drain excess oil.

To prepare smoked duck:

Rub salt all over and inside duck. Leave to cure for 15 minutes; rinse duck and hang it up to dry. Line wok with aluminium foil to protect it. Place smoking mix on the foil in the wok. Place a wire rack over the mix and place duck on it. Cover wok and heat over high heat until it starts to smoke. Lower the heat and smoke the duck for one hour. Remove and cool before cutting the duck into pieces. You will need only 150g smoked duck pieces for this dish. Reserve the remaining for another dish.

To prepare steamed chicken:

Marinate chicken with rice wine and sprinkle coarse salt all over chicken. Set aside for 1 hour. Place chicken in a steamer. Steam until cooked. Remove and cool. Chop into pieces.

To prepare the sauce:

In a pot, mix all the ingredients together except corn flour. Bring the pot to a boil over medium high heat. Add cornflour mixture to thicken and bring back to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside.

To finish:

Arrange the taro slices and Chinese cabbage at the bottom of a low metal basin or platter. Top with the Chinese mushrooms, fresh beancurd skin, steamed chicken pieces, smoked duck pieces and roast pork arranged in a circle. Top with the stuffed gluten puffs and fatt choy. Pour sauce all over. Steam for 45 minutes. Remove and serve immediately. – Gu Yu Tien

Hainan Noodles with Freshwater Prawn (One serving)

Topping

20g cucumber, finely sliced

1 teaspoon finely sliced red chilli

2 teaspoons finely sliced onion

2 teaspoons finely sliced pineapple

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

1/2 egg, beaten

1 freshwater prawn, halved

400ml chicken stock

80g fresh yellow noodles

1 teaspoon cornflour, mixed with a little water

To prepare topping:

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients and set aside.

To fry egg:

Heat oil in a wok over medium heat. Pour in egg and pan-fry until golden brown. Slice finely; set aside.

To prepare noodles:

Heat wok and add a little oil. When oil is hot, add prawn and pan-fry until slightly browned; set aside. Add chicken stock to the wok and bring to boil. Add noodles and cook for two minutes. Add cornflour mixture, bring to boil and remove from heat.

To serve:

Place noodles in a bowl. Top with prawn, topping mix and egg. Serve immediately with black vinegar on the side. – Gu Yu Tien

Steamed Bamboo Fish with Ham, Mushroom & Bamboo shoot (8 servings)

12 slices bamboo fish (soon hock), de-boned with the fish head reserved

12 slices Chinese ham (kum wah)

12 slices dried shiitake mushrooms, steamed for 1 hour until softened

12 slices winter bamboo shoots

12 stalks bok choy, blanched

Sauce

100ml chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon salt

Sugar to taste

Ground white pepper to taste

1 teaspoon Shao Xing rice wine

1 teaspoon cornflour, mixed with a little water.

Garnishing

Spring onion julienne

Place the bamboo fish head on one end of a large plate. Arrange a slice each of the bamboo fish, Chinese ham, Chinese mushroom and winter bamboo shoot so that they overlap each other in single layer, to form the body of a fish. Place the bok choy around the fish slices to form the fins and tail. Place in a steamer. Steam for 4 minutes. Remove.

To prepare sauce:

Heat a wok over high heat, and add all ingredients except the cornflour. Bring to a boil. Add cornflour mixture to thicken the sauce. Bring to boil and remove from heat.

To serve:

Pour sauce over steamed fish. Garnish with spring onions if desired. Serve immediately. – Shanghai Restaurant, JW Marriott Hotel

Orange Custard Cups (4 servings)

4 oranges

150ml whole milk, to be added as needed

30g caster sugar

1 teaspoon custard powder

120g Grade A eggs, beaten

2 teaspoons orange

Juice concentrate

1 tablespoon orange liqueur (e.g. Grand Marnier)

Wash oranges and pat dry. Slice 1/3 off the top of the oranges, reserving the caps. Slice a thin layer off the bottom of the fruit so that the orange can sit squarely.

Remove the orange flesh, and squeeze to obtain juice. Strain the juice and combine with enough milk to obtain 280ml orange milk.

Grate zest from the caps.

Combine sugar, custard powder and eggs in a mixing bowl. Stir in the orange milk mixture with a whisk; strain. Stir in orange juice concentrate, liqueur and zest.

Fill the orange “cups” 3/4 full with the custard mixture. Steam in preheated steamer over low heat for 25 minutes, or until set. Serve hot or cold. – Catherine Lau

Gu Yu Tien restaurant is at B5-A, Chulan Square, 92, Jln Raja Chulan, KL, Tel: 03-2148 0808.

Shanghai is at JW Marriott Hotel, 183, Jln Bukit Bintang, KL, Tel: 03-2719 8288. Catherine Lau, the author of the cookbook, Cheesecake Seduction conducts baking and Chinese cooking classes at 13A, Jln Tiara 3, Tiara Square, Subang Jaya. Tel: 016-2215 718.

The recipes here are extracted from the Jan- Feb 2010 issue of Flavours magazine.

The restaurant dishes are also available at the respective restaurants. For more recipes to usher in the Lunar New Year by Chef Woo, Chef Wong, Catherine Lau and other talented cooks, get your copy of Flavours at newsstands and bookstores now at only RM10.80 per copy.

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