Feb. 18th, 2013

tevere: Jihae, solemn with hint of smile (Default)
Usually for Chinese New Year my extended family go out for a reunion dinner and call it a day, but now that I have a kid, and having experienced a truly beautiful Christmas at [personal profile] isilya's in December, I thought this year I'd have some family and friends over and try my hand at some traditional foods. So I researched a bunch of recipes, I called my mother, I called a friend from Guangdong who knows how to cook, I made forays to Asian supermarkets armed with a Chinese dictionary app (since my accent is so bad nobody ever knows what I'm saying), I made a couple of disastrous practice attempts and ate them all, I found more recipes, The Boy and I yelled at each other as we struggled to get multiple time-sensitive dishes cooked at the same time while the guests waited-- and after all that, it actually turned out really well! We had:

- Yee sang
- Pan-fried lor bak go (radish cake)
- Spicy hokkein noodles with tofu and snow peas
- Mushrooms and hair moss with smoked oysters
- San choy bau with a filling of fried tempeh, enoki mushroom and water chestnuts
- Tea eggs (contributed by someone else)
- Some kind of traditional Taiwanese mixed vegetables (contributed by someone else)
- Battered, pan-fried nian gao (sticky rice cake)
- Pandan hun kwee (mung bean) jelly
- Almond biscuits (from the store)
- Mango white tea

(Next year someone else is hosting, though.)

Rather typically, by the time I realised I hadn't any photos of all the finished dishes laid out on the table, it was far too late. The hordes had already descended! The only reasonable photo I have is, ironically, of the one dish that doesn't hold a particular emotional connection for me. I never ate yee sang growing up-- my sister thinks it caught on in our community after I'd already left home-- and I've had it only since going to reunion dinners as an adult. Yes, the version we made didn't have any fish (the key symbolic element). Yes, it didn't have the traditional 27 elements. Yes, we used packet fried noodles because we couldn't find the proper auspiciously-shaped crackers. It was still fucking delicious. I did tell people not to toss it too high, because I didn't want to be picking shredded vegetables out of the furniture, but we managed to toss it pretty thoroughly.

Yee sang
Red cabbage, zucchini, bean sprouts, pickled ginger, lime, pomelo, carrot, cucumber, fried noodles, peanuts, sesame seeds

The most tricky dish, and the one I was most keen on making, was my childhood favourite: lor bak go, a savoury, steamed cake made from rice flour and white radish. You can get it at yum cha, pan-fried to crisp deliciousness. When I called my mother to ask how to make it, she tsked at me and said, "Too difficult!" and "Vegetarian? Impossible!" My mother is prone to hysteria and exaggeration, but she was partially right: it was a gigantic pain in the ass, even if that was mostly the learning curve rather than the actual process. But after much experimentation, and a temporary relinquishing of my vegetarian principles, I'm pretty happy with the final result:

Lor bak go
We fried and ate the leftovers for breakfast. I know, those slices are way too thick.


Recipe with step-by-step photos )

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