First of all, I'd just like to wish everyone a very Happy Chinese New Year! In other words, Gong Xi Fa Chai!
Chinese New Year is seriously my favourite festive season of all. Just because most of my best memories growing up were spending time with my relatives in my Mum's tiny hometown of Tawau over this holiday. It was the best when my late Grandmother was alive. The entire family would be having a ball together all day, everyday. There are many Chinese traditions that are involved, which makes it quite special and memorable.
Everything from wearing a new+red shirt on the first day of CNY, to playing with fireworks and playful gambling sessions, watching the Lion Dance, etc etc. And not to mention... THE FOOOOOOOD. Out of the entire CNY period, I do think the most important meal would have to be the Eve of Chinese New Year aka "团圆饭", which would be a massive feast and typically involve a full day of cooking.
As for me, this year was actually the first time I have ever spent CNY away from my family. But thankfully, I'm fortunate enough to have those cousins that I grew up with from Tawau (and several other good friends) here with me in Melbourne. So, I took it upon myself to fulfil the daunting task of hosting the CNY Eve dinner on Saturday, (yikes!).
It was super hectic. I had gone out till 3am on Friday night, slept at 5am, found out that morning that more people were coming, went to the market at noon (when typically most people would have had most things prepared/marinaded etc the day before) and just cooked and cooked till guests arrived at 7:30pm. It was total mad house. Several slip ups here and there but at the end, everything turned out alright.
I tried to keep my dishes as simple as I could, as I was only doing most prep/cooking the day itself and needed to have enough food to feed everyone. Not easy, especially when you're doing everything on your own in a tiny kitchen. What I was most excited about was definitely making Mum's Sour Plum Duck (酸梅鸭) which I absolutely LOVEEE eating growing up for the very first time. I was most nervous about this dish but it actually turned out REALLY well and was the biggest hit of the night! Mum would be proud. I'm just happy I could re-create a dish that never fails to remind me of home and my Mum. You have to try this (and also the 8 Treasure Duck I shared previously)!!!
It turned out to be a great night. Everyone came over to share a meal together, before proceeding to catching the awesome display of fireworks from Crown and also playing some blackjack afterwards. It was great. Not a very conventional CNY being away from my hometown, but not a shabby one either. Not at all. For CNY, it's not where you are, but who you're with.
Anyway, glad to have gotten the chance to open up my space for my lovely friends and family. Here's a recap of the CNY dinner we had on Saturday night!
Fried Prawn Crackers with Sambal Belachan
Tradition for us to eat this during CNY. And makes for a great snack to serve your guests before/after dinner!
Steamed Chinese Preserved Sausage (腊肠) and Meat (腊肉)
There's many kinds of preserved meats out there but my family typically has at least one plate of it for CNY. So delicious with rice.
Steamed with a dash of soy sauce and Shao Xin wine at the end for extra fragrance.
Steamed Chinese Cabbage with Ham
Chinese BBQ Pork (叉烧)
It was a last minute addition to the menu and it turned out very juicy and delicious. I got the recipe (here) from Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse. Thanks Ai Ling!
Mum's Sour Plum Duck (酸梅鸭)
It was seriously delicious, if I do say so myself. Taste just like Mum's. Duck was fried till really fragrant but still juicy. Sauce was utterly lip smackingly good. You guys have to try!
Fried Snapper Topped with Fried Garlic and Shallots (drizzled with dark soy sauce and aromatic oil)
One of my favourite dishes of the night, actually! Simple, but lots of flavour. The tradition is to not finish the fish entirely (just leave a bit) to symbolise good luck and abundance for the coming year.
Cousin's Braised Pork and Mushrooms with Peanuts and Fermented Red Tofu
This was also seriously delicious, to say the least. YUM!
Cousin's Longan Pudding
How incredibly cute/festive! And let me tell you, they look as good as they taste!
Sour Plum Duck (酸梅鸭) Recipe
1 whole duck
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
oil for frying
2 bulbs of garlic
3 - 4 large French shallots (or 15 mini Asian shallots)
1 thumb size ginger
400g bottle of Lee Kum Kee's Plum Sauce
1 1/2 cups of water
Juice of 1 large lime (or to taste)
Coriander (to garnish)
1) Rub dark soy sauce all over and inside the cavity of the duck. Generously rub salt in the cavity of the duck. Leave to marinade for 2 hours or in the fridge overnight.
2) Heat up a large wok and fill almost half of it with oil. Once oil is very hot, place duck into the wok and deep fry for 15 minutes. Oil should cover half of the duck without being too full (to prevent overflowing from bubbles during frying process). Carefully turn the duck over and fry for another 15 minutes. Set aside the duck and drain the wok, leaving about 5 tbsp of oil.
3) Peel and mince ALL the garlic and shallots (yes, that's a LOT to prepare). You should have a big pile of it. Peel and slice the ginger to strips.
4) Heat up the wok again with remaining 5 tbsp of oil. Add the garlic, shallots, ginger and fry until very fragrant (about 3 minutes).
5) Add the Plum Sauce and water, mix until well combined.
6) Place the duck back into the wok. Put the lid on the wok and cook for 10 minutes on low to medium heat. Turn the duck and cook the duck covered on the other side for another 10 minutes. (Total cooking time for duck is 50 minutes)
7) Add in lime juice and stir. Taste to see if more lime juice is preferred.
8) Remove duck from wok. Once duck is cool enough, chop up to serve. You can heat up the sauce to drizzle over the duck when ready to eat. Garnish with chopped coriander and ENJOY! =)
Photo taken from my Instagram (@winceeee)
SO delicious and I do hope you give this recipe a go.... Gong Xi Fa Chai, everyone! =)