Ah, Chinese New Year is approaching… I can’t wait to meet my relatives (those who are married lah, for obvious reasons). It’s that one time of the year that I wouldn’t mind meeting my annoying cousins and nephews (actually their parents lah, to be honest) because I have something to gain from them! *cue evil smile*
All jokes aside, Chinese New Year is a season of fellowship whereby family members and loved ones will reunite together. In Malaysia, when and where people gather, it automatically means that delicious CNY food will be involved! #nomakannofun
Apart from the customary reunion dinner that is held on Chinese New Year’s eve, there are also a variety of snacks and finger food to binge on. If you want to show off or impress your loved ones, here are some of the top CNY food choices to learn how to cook as we welcome the upcoming Year of the Dog.
CNY Food #1: Yee Sang (Prosperity Toss Salad)
How often are you able to play with your CNY food without the elders giving you the death glare? Well, Yee Sang is a way to do it this Chinese New Year and guess what? Even the most upright adult will probably join you!
A tasty salad that symbolizes abundance and vigour, the dish comprises of many ingredients including raw fish, daikon, carrots, toasted sesame seeds, plum sauce, sesame oil, and the list goes on, making for a sweet and tangy salad that stimulates the taste buds.
If you are unsure on how to eat it, well, the meaning of ‘Yee Sang’ in English practically tells you what you should do with it. It is believed that the higher and more vigorous the toss, the better the new year will be! So, when in doubt, just toss!
Oh, and don’t forget to shout out all the auspicious wishes that you can remember! Rather than buying ready-to-mix versions from stores and restaurants, make one yourself using this recipe.
CNY Food #2: Pineapple Tarts
The Chinese believe that the pineapple (pronounced as ong lai in Hokkien) attracts prosperity and good luck, two attributes that anyone would like to have in conjuction with the arrival of the new year.
This is the reason that makes pineapple tarts a much loved and adored snack during the festival. These delectable golden nuggets are not that hard to bake and its sweet yet citrus-like flavour will certainly bring a smile to your guest’s face if you make it right.
Warning: These snacks might lead to an unintentional pig-out session
Want to learn how to bake your own batch of this delicious cookie? Check out the recipes available here as they include the traditional method as well as the modern take to this classic treat.
CNY Food #3: Pen Cai aka Poon Choi
Another dish that is usually eaten during Chinese New Year is the Pen Cai (Mandarin) or Poon Choy (Cantonese). This auspicious dish is portioned to be a communal meal, usually consisting of generous amount of ingredients which includes pork, beef, fish maw, prawns, bean curd, various vegetables and mushrooms, and so on. It is also said that attentive layering of the ingredients contributes to the taste of the whole dish.
Instead of spending a fortune and purchasing a poon choi prepared from Chinese restaurants (they usually cost at least a few hundred ringgit), why not try your hands on making one of your own? This way, not only can you control the type of ingredients you want to add but you can also be the star during the reunion dinner too. However, keep in mind that there will be a lot of work involved but if you are up for the challenge, here is a damn jeng good recipe to follow.
CNY Food #4: Steamed Fish
Fish is one of the main meat dishes that is usually served on every reunion dinner table on CNY eve. In Mandarin, “fish” is pronounced as “yú” and the pronunciation is similar to the Mandarin word ‘surplus’. Hence, eating fish symbolises a surplus of wealth and resources to be attained at the end of the year.
Typically, any fish that can feed a large number of people omfortably should suffice. In terms of the cooking method, you can choose whichever that fancies you the most – be it boiling, steaming, braising, frying, etc. Usually, the healthier cooking methods such as steaming and boiling will be preferred as it is a (futile) effort for you to counter the high-calorie dishes you will be having during this festive season. Moreover, steamed fish should fit everyone’s palate, be it old or young.
Here is a simple steamed fish recipe that is easy to follow for you to serve this Chinese New Year.
CNY Food #5: Fried Spring Rolls
Another simple yet utterly satisfying snack for you to try out this CNY is spring rolls. Traditionally eaten during the Spring Festival, these rolls are usually filled with ingredients comprising of sliced vegetables, small chunks of meat which are then rolled in thin dough wrappers and then fried until turn into crispy golden brown heavenly bites.
Spring rolls are a popular dish during Chinese New Year as its golden-brown colour and elongated shape represents golden bars. Not to mention that they are delicious too.
Homemade spring rolls are easy to make; simply follow this recipe and you are good to go!
CNY Food #6: Peanut Brittle
Let’s end this list with a sweet note with some addictive CNY food – peanut brittle snack.
To the Chinese, peanuts signify longevity and multiplication of wealth and good fortune. Sweet, crunchy, and fragrant, what more can you ask for?
Usually eaten as a pre-meal snack or a post-meal dessert, they are usually sold in markets and stores especially during this festive period. But if you are feeling adventurous and want to try making them at home yourself, why not? With this simple recipe, your Chinese New Year this year is that much sweeter.
As we anticipate the coming of the Chinese New Year, show off your hidden culinary skills by trying out the recipes mentioned above. Enjoy your must-deserved CNY food and Gong Xi Fa Cai everyone!