It’s that time of year where Chinese restaurants are packed like sardine cans, fireworks exploding beautifully in the night sky and endless family reunion dinners to attend to. Yes, you are right! Chinese New Year is just a few days away. Although this year’s celebration seems somber than the previous years but that doesn’t stop me from feeling festive.
This Chinese New Year will be a little different for me because this year, I’ll be saying goodbye to the comforts of childhood and entering the adult world. This can only mean, more ‘ka-ching’ coming out from my pocket and less ‘moolah’ coming in. Well, c’est la vie, I guess.
Leaving it Till the Last Hour
However, as a single millennial, I took my time to get things done especially the purchasing of food, decorations and getting the angpau money ready at the last minute because hey, 24 hours is more than enough time to get everything done before I loaded up the car and go back home for the holidays.
The dangerous thing about doing what I am doing is you will always, ALWAYS forget something and by the time you reach the safety and comforts of your childhood home, you will realize that you have left something out and you get to prepare yourself for the long, loud scolding directed towards you.
What? You’re celebrating Chinese New Year as the host? First of all congratulations and second of all, try your best not to forget something important for the New Year’s Eve Dinner or during the New Year Day itself, especially when you are celebrating alone and hosting dinner and lunch the next day, you better make sure you make a checklist first. We don’t want your first time hosting becomes a disaster, right?
So, what you have to do is simple. I have listed out some of the main, compulsory items that you need during Chinese New Year. If you forget the small items, it is still okay but if you leave these 6 items out, well, better luck next year.
According to Chinese tradition, it is said that fish is one of the essence of Chinese New year reunion dinners. Due to the fact that it is one of the luckiest foods in Chinese beliefs, Chinese restaurants and households have to stock up on fish meat weeks and months in advance in order to compensate the demands of fish meat during the festive season.
If you are not superstitious about these kitchen traditions , it is safe to believe that fish meat is one of the easiest meat to prepare for a large group of people, the health benefits of fish consumption is just an added bonus to it. One of the best marine markets near KL is actually an hour and a half drive away, a fishing village 100 KM away from the urban jungle, Sekinchan.
You may be wondering, why on earth would I go that far just to buy fish meat? Well , Sekinchan is not only famous for it’s beautiful golden paddy fields, but their village’s morning markets are also one of the most popular tourists sites. The produce caught that morning will be sold in the morning market and the quality is guaranteed.
It’s popularity has sky rocketed over the years and now the morning markets provide special boxes for patrons that wish to travel back to the city, they store the fresh meat in iceboxes and it is carefully wrapped so that the freshness will be preserved as you make your way back home.
If you wish to fully experience Sekinchan food wise, there are some notable seafood restaurants that serve scrumptious delicacies that feature fresh water seafood that arrives every morning as well. Hence , if you would like a change of pace when you buy fish for Chinese New Year, make your way to Sekinchan and indulge yourselves in all the fresh goodness in store for you.
2. Herbal Soup
Homemade boiled herbal soup is also key for any reunion Chinese New Year dinners, the essence of meat and herbs blend together in a giant pot shared by family is one the joy of the season. This tradition is actually carries through many generations of Chinese ancestry, it is a well celebrated dish to be enjoyed by loved ones.
Did you know that Bah Kut Teh is also considered a type of herbal soup? Fortunately, there is a certain Chinese restaurant that actually prepacked the ingredients for you. Ah Hua Bak Kut Teh is situated in Kelana Jaya, opposite Glad Tidings Church. The packing includes instructions that teaches oneself to cook 5 to 8 servings which isn’t as easy as it seems.
This little packer could save you the new year’s hassle and even aid you in times of need in the kitchen. The packaging itself is air tight and it could preserve the freshness of the herbs as well. It could save you the trouble of shopping for herbs and it is a house warming gift too. Ah Hua Bah Kut Teh will never disappoint you and you love ones this festive season as it brings you closer together through curated herbs and brewed meat.
3. Nian Gao
Have you heard of Nian Gao ? It is translated as year cake or Chinese New year’s Cake, made out of glutinous rice and often consumed with coconuts shavings.
It is considered a tradition to eat it during Chinese New year to bring good luck in your family, because nian gao is a homonym for a ‘higher year’. According to different families, it is cooked differently.
In Cantonese cuisine, it is actually sweetened, usually with brown sugar. The paste is then poured into a pan and steamed once more, cooled until it solidifies and served in thick slices. The nian gao changes it’s texture and becomes extreme;y stick , that is why it is common to roll it up chopsticks and dip it in coconut shavings, to give it that cotton candy effect.
During Chinese New year, nian gao is preferred to be homemade and eaten by family or relatives, so that the luck and love amplifies in the household. To buy authentic nian gao that isn’t processed or fried is like finding a needle in a haystack in KL, but to make nian Gao is easy and fun to make at home. It is cost efficient and it could be enjoyed by many as well.
What is Chinese New Year without the famous Bakkwa meat ? If those who does not know what Bakkwa is , this strip of tiny heaven is actually Chinese salty-sweet dried meat product that is always sold out during Chinese New Year, it’s also similar to the Western version of jerky.
Bakkwa is actually made with meat preservation and preparation technique from China. It is traditionally made out of pork, beef or mutton. Malaysia and Singapore has taken the liberty to make their own take on Bakkwa, the meat is grilled over charcoal rather than air-dried, imparting a smokier flavor to the meat.
This version of Bakkwa are also sweeter than their mainland China. Bakkwa has been rising as the most popular treat among us Malaysians , and some companies has taken the step to producing Muslim friendly Bakkwa so that our Muslim friends could enjoy this festive season with us. In Malaysia , each company has it’s own take on Bakkwa and has it’s own special flavor that some people love. Loong Kee keeps the packaging and brand old school , Loong in Mandarin means dragon and Kee means lives up to it’s name with the dragon on the packaging.The texture of Loong Kee Bakkwa is perfect on the thickness and the brightly coloured Bakkwa is less oily which is less mess on the fingers. If you’re planning to indulge in Bakkwas’ this season , Loong Kee is the right brand to do so !
5. Yee Sang
Ever wondered why Yee Sang is the number one thing we eat during Chinese New Year? Yee Sang is dubbed and translated by Wikipedia as the ‘Prosperity Toss’ , or simply be regarded as raw fish salad. It usually consists of strips of raw fish or salmon, mixed with shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments, among other ingredients.
Yee sang is considered a symbol of abundance, prosperity and vigour due to the symbolic meaning of fish. I understand that Yee sang is sold everywhere around KL, it is not easy to find one that is worth eating after mixing it around and shouting wishes.
Well, the Prince Restaurant is a casual dining place where it welcomes all crowds, it’s stunning interior amplifies the feeling of luxury when you walk in. The Yee Sang is coupled with sea-bird’s nest , Bakkwa, salmon, yam, crushed peanuts, pomelo and various other essentials, to top if off is their savoury plum sauce. Beautifully crafted for love ones and scrumptious to start of the new year.
6. Mandarin Oranges
Mandarin oranges, is the small citrus delight for Chinese New Year and it is by far the most popular food during this season. The fruit itself come in all types of flavors depending on your preference. Mandarin oranges are usually eaten fresh and peeled , the fresh fruit is used in salads, desserts and main dishes. Fresh mandarin juice and frozen juice concentrate are commonly found in hypermarkets when they are in season.
The peel of the Mandarin Orange is used fresh or sun dried until it turns black, to be boiled and brewed with Chinese dessert soups.For an example , I know of a few of people that uses Mandarin orange’s peels that has been sun dried for several years in order to boil soups that emits pungent aromas. Jaya Grocer around the KL city actually sells quality Mandarin Oranges that is safe to consume and organic.
Other than that, along the streets of OUG where the Chinese cuisine reigns, there are Mandarin Orange stalls that display big red bulks to be sold, you can purchase one whole box of Mandarin Oranges to satisfy your Chinese New year cravings.
Keep Calm and Get Huat!
So, do you think this list will be able to help you out? Yes or no, you let me know in the comment section. If I have not listed any, let me know. We don’t want any luck and wealth slip away from our hands, right?
Anyways, have a happy beginning in the year of the rat! May we all be blessed, happy, wealthy and most importantly, healthy.