Every single year, my family and I would fly back to Mum's tiny hometown of Tawau to spend Chinese New Year with the whole family. So many good memories... Like playing card games and firecracks with all my cousins non-stop since we were kids. Weird story, we also used to love digging up yam straight from the ground at the jungle of a backyard of my cousin's house and then roasting it with fire we had started with twigs from scratch. LEGIT STUFF. This was extremely fun for us. Love our modest childhood from simpler times. Now, THOSE were the days... One year, all the cousins and I also put on a special dance/drama performance prepared on our own as our parents and Late Grandma gathered around to watch in the living room. It really was quite hysterical...
*photos would be so embarrassing right about now*
My favourite memory would also be of my Late Grandma (or "PoPo", as I call her), pulling up a stool next to me, to spoon feed me plain rice in soup in the afternoons. She only did this (without me asking) because she knows that I was the perpetually hungry and peckish one of her grandchildren. It's so simple, yet delicious. But what I loved most is that she would gently blow each mouthful of rice before feeding it to me, till the temperature was just right. Sounds a bit like Goldilocks eh? I felt so loved from every spoonful. Then I would reply gleefully by saying, "Hao Sit, PoPo!" or "Delicious, Nana!". This happens every year I return, without fail.
It's memories like these that really make me miss my Late Grandma so, so dearly till this day....................... It's been 7 years ='/
Though, I must say that ever since my Late PoPo passed, CNY has been drastically different. We don't return to Tawau anymore for a number of reasons (but nothing bad, don't worry). Instead, we now have our own tradition here in Kota Kinabalu with glorious food prepared by my lovely mother.
They're just a treat. It's not the same, but just as special. One thing is for sure, we don't eat out. In fact, most of it are dishes that would only be served this time of year and every meal was SOOO delicious!!!
ANYHOO, here's a snapshot of the CNY dishes we ate this year. To all of you from a "non-Asian background", WELCOME to my humble Chinese family dining table and I hope you enjoy......... And Happy Belated Chinese New Year aka Year of the Dragon to you all!!!
1) Reunion Dinner, aka CNY Eve or "Tuan Yuan Fan"
Deep-Fried Tiger Prawn Fritters
Steamed Chinese Cabbage with Dried Scallops
Mum's signature: Chicken, Abalone and Ham "Sandwich" with superior Abalone Sauce
Note: Only top grade, corn fed (more fragrant skin), free range, bare neck (smoother meat) and aged chicken from a local farmer is used
YUMMY! Delicious mouthful of food from each layer
Braised chicken, chinese mushrooms and sea cucumber
Stewed all day, sauce was really unbelievably good
Shark's Fin Soup
(I'm sorry!!! These were bought many years ago, we've stopped buying them, I swear!)
2) 1st Day CNY Brunch
It is a tradition for our family to eat every single one of these vegetarian dishes for this meal each year. Recipe passed on to Mum from my Late Grandma. I have to make this for my vegetarian friends in Melbourne.
Stewed vegetables (beancurd skin, beancurd puffs, black moss fungus, carrots, mushrooms, dates, bamboo shoots and glass noodles) in fermented red tofu
White radish soup with dates, mushrooms and (the only "meat" allowed this meal,..) dried oysters
"Nian Gao" aka "Sticky Cake" (made with glutinous rice flour) Fried with Egg
Mum had her Sister (who barely comes over) and her family from Tawau too, glad to share the meal with them
3) Other meals here and there...
Mum's Twice Fried Duck with Plum Sauce
TO DIE FOR!!! One of my favourite childhood dishes ever!!
Every time I ask Mum how she makes this and my other favourite dishes, she just goes, "Very easy waaan...! Just do this, throw in that, dot dot dot... and DONE!". Not very convincing lol
HK Imported Cured Meats and Pickled Shallots
One of my favourite things to eat!!
HK Kailan Vegetable with Oyster Sauce
Hakka "Kiu Nyuk", a Pork and Yam dish in fermented tofu sauce
My dad's prolly the biggest fan of mum's roast chook lol
Mum's signature Duck in Plum Sauce again... MMM!
Chicken Soup with Sea Cucumber, Mushrooms and Quail Eggs
A traditional dish containing preserved vegetables, rice crisps and raw fish topped with sour plum sauce. Each element representing something symbolic for the Lunar New Year
Tossed with chopsticks by every one at the table. The higher you toss, "the more fortune you will receive"
Anyway, I'm glad to have shared MY family's CNY tradition with you. Tell me, what's CNY like in YOUR household? Any fond childhood memories that tugs your heart strings? Would love to hear about them! =)