Apologies for the late article, I was busy munching as many of the food & snacks that only appears during New Year. So much so that its impossible to game at the same time soo...I basically just watch shows while eating. But hey, its just the 6th day out of 15 days of the festival so you should be able to get some of these delicacies at Chinese markets. Just make sure to be early as the shops will close as early as 4pm (during these 15 days).
Please note that this is based on Malaysian Chinese cuisine so there might be some differences elsewhere.
Let’s start of with an auspicious dish, its an appetizer and you cannot eat this alone.
Yee Sang (Hokkien)/ Yusheng (Mandarin)/ Lo Hei (Cantonese)
...I know it doesn’t look good but that’s because its the cheap version. Expensive version would have actual salmon, noodles and freshly cut vegetables like carrots and ginger. The siok (cheap in Hokkien) version are preserved vegetables and no fish. Both versions include sesame seeds and grounded nuts with a sweet sauce. If you try ordering this dish at restaurants, the price would usually end up with 8s like 88.88 or 108 to make it more auspicious.
Let’s try making it better...
There, its better now, see? Added fried flour crisps and noodles (hard), sesame seeds and nuts.
Its not ready to be eaten, yet. After pouring a sweet sauce (usually plum), now everyone at the table must stir it (of course with chopsticks) to have good luck.
Now its all pretty!
Despite being the cheap version, its still tastes good. The sweetness is not overpowering because of the sesame and nuts while the ginger whets the appetite.
Sweet Sticky Rice Cake/ Year Cake
Ti Kuih (Hokkien)/ Nian Gao (Mandarin)
Made with brown sugar, glutinous rice flour and some water. The leaf you see here is banana leaf. It takes about half a day to make it (with brown sugar its faster) so people usually buy this.
According to its legend, the Kitchen God loves to spread gossip and rumors about human families so each family will offer this sweet goodness to him and he would be unable to move his mouth because of the stickiness. Other versions say that its to bribe the Kitchen God...
You’re supposed to freeze it in the fridge before cutting it but my mother and me forgot that. Its really hard to cut it as its soft in room temperatures.
You can boil it, dip it in egg and cook it or my mom’s version is batter it up and fry it as seen here.
Its less sticky than mochi and the batter made it easy to pick it up and eat it.
Unfortunately, I forgot to eat it on the same day as I was full and the next day...there were only scraps left...I couldn’t resist a certain meat dish...
5 Spice Meat Rolls
Lo Bak (not lobak aka carrot in Malay)
Okay, so not actually a CNY (Chinese New Year) dish so consider this as a bonus.
Its minced pork with green onions, sprinkled with 5 spice and then rolled with beancurd sheets and then fried. Restaurant version will have other vegetables like carrots and some other sauces but I like this simple version better as it brings out the pork more. Sauces in my (humble) opinion often kills this pork dish.
I could have shown what the inside looked like but I was busy eating it. (And I was still eating the last bits before writing this article).
Chinese Barbeque Meat
A sweet and savoury jerky cooked over charcoal. You can buy it in chicken or pork.
Pork is the best of the two. No buts.
I heard that Malaysian version is much sweeter compared to China...
Usually there are samples in the shops so you can take your time choosing which version as there are different sauces even including chili versions or more savoury sauces.
The slight rectangular and thin slice makes it perfect to eat it with bread slices. This stuff is also pretty expensive...1 pack around 40 ringgit (divide to 3.6 for USD) for 500 grams.
You can eat these jerkies all year around but the best tasting jerkies is usually sold at CNY.
Other versions would be a rolled up biscuit but I find rolled up biscuits to be...not cooked thoroughly as I like. Triangle version is also sweeter and has less mess to deal with. This biscuit is actually a Nyonya version of Love Letter and since I’m Nyonya...I might be bias on this.
Its a thin layer of eggs, sugar, flour, rice flour, and for some recipes, coconut milk or vanilla (fresh coconut milk is more authentic), poured on a decorative pan/mould, cooked over charcoal and expertly folded 4 times before its cooked thoroughly. A kind of dessert that you can keep eating it forever as its has a gentle sweetness and you can never be full from this. If you don’t know a good shop, you can’t get good Love Letters and it will be tasteless. You should ask a local for a good shop...
Lets wrap it up with the most basic sweet of CNY!
Okay, 2 basic sweets...The mandarin orange and the little one is tangerine.
(Before I eat any of these oranges, I usually washed it off with a specialized veggie & fruit cleaner)
The mandarin has some sourness and some sweetness. You should try to eat it within these 15 days (in the fridge) or it will be dried, chewy and tasteless...You can try to peel the fiber but its healthier not to which I often just peel as much I can without going crazy.
Decades ago on Chap Goh Mei (the 15th day of CNY), young women will write their names and address/contact number on the mandarin oranges and throw it into the river and young man will fish those oranges hoping to meet eligible ladies. Today, both men and women just throw it for fun but they inscribe good wishes (some do inscribe their contact details).
The tangerine orange is all sweet and for some...a kind of deep taste similiar to non-alcoholic red and white wine. Of the 2 oranges, this is (of course) the most expensive and its easier to peel off the skin and fiber.
I tried using both oranges into a smoothie (Malaysia is a hot and humid country)...it didn’t work well because of the fiber and orange skin (not the peel part). A juicer would be better. Making jam out of these oranges is also a good idea.
These oranges are a good gift to anyone during CNY for house visits. Other good gifts will be snacks, desserts, canned food and even chocolates!
That’s it for now as there is like a hundred more recipes associated with CNY so maybe next year (I am not made out of money)? I do have other snacks but I don’t think its CNY food as it does pop up in other festivals.
The next festival food I cover, would be Hari Raya which is around July. We’ll see if I manage to get enough food to cover a post without eating it 1st...
Think I have done a good or an okay job on this post? Think it needs more details? Think it would be a disaster on my next food post? Or maybe you just want to find out about a certain dish (that I can cover)? Comment it below!