Chinese New Year 2015: Homemade Bak Kwa, Butter Cereal Prawns, Samsui Chicken and more Heritage Dishes!

Happy Chinese New Year (CNY)! (Or Happy Lunar New Year if you are Korean, Vietnamese or Mongolian and celebrating your own version of it.)

I know I’m a bit tardy in my CNY greeting though technically, I’m still in time since we celebrate the first 15 days of the New Year. Happy 初 十, everyone!

Here’s a food-mad post on some of the goodies I ate this CNY. But first, the obligatory 全家福 family portrait shot.

全家福 #wearetheleos #aydenscottleo #cny2015

And some pics of our favourite new CNY decor this year. I picked up the Lion Dance and Big Head Doll at Chinatown Street Market on the eve of CNY.

Our #ootd for CNY, fresh from the Chinatown street market. Dong dong dong QIANG!!! #cny2015 #dongdongdongqiang #wearetheleos #aydenscottleo
Our #ootd for CNY, fresh from the Chinatown street market. Dong dong dong QIANG!!! #cny2015 #dongdongdongqiang #wearetheleos #aydenscottleo
I braved Chinatown -- alone! -- cos I was in the 'hood. Crazy crowded! Guess what I bought? #chinatown #cny2015 #dongdongdongqiang
I braved Chinatown — alone! — cos I was in the ‘hood. Crazy crowded! Guess what I bought? #chinatown #cny2015 #dongdongdongqiang

Aren’t they the cutest Lion Dance Troupe you’ve ever seen?

Meet the kiddie lion dance troupe: Milly the Big Head Doll, Ayden the Lion Head and Ally the Lion Tail. Taking bookings now. (We accept cash, all good credit cards and Toys R Us vouchers.) #childlabour #cny2015 #liondance
Meet the kiddie lion dance troupe: Milly the Big Head Doll, Ayden the Lion Head and Ally the Lion Tail. Taking bookings now. (We accept cash, all good credit cards and Toys R Us vouchers.) #childlabour #cny2015 #liondance
Ayden gor gor and his 2 precious mei mei, Milly (left) and Ally aka our Kiddie Lion Dance Troupe. #aydenscottleo #cousins #liondance
Ayden gor gor and his 2 precious mei mei, Milly (left) and Ally aka our Kiddie Lion Dance Troupe. #aydenscottleo #cousins #liondance

And let the feasting begin!

Pre-CNY feast at Kim San Leng kopitiam at Verdun House

I actually started on 10 February, when I joined the Singapura Best Makan Facebook group for a pre-CNY feast at Kim San Leng kopitiam at Verdun House. Here’s what we ate:

The must-have: Yusheng! To toss up good fortune and prosperity for the new year.
The must-have: Yusheng! To toss up good fortune and prosperity for the new year.

 

Sharks fin soup. Quite tasty, with small chunks if fin. Photo borrowed from fellow Singapura Makan kaki, http://www.asingaporeantalkbox.blogspot.sg/
Sharks fin soup. Quite tasty, with small chunks if fin. Photo borrowed from fellow Singapura Makan kaki, http://www.asingaporeantalkbox.blogspot.sg/

 

Cold dish. I've never eaten a version with siew mai doused in a thick gravy (yellow globes at bottom). Not bad. The pork chop marinated in fermented beancurd (right corner) is my favourite item here.
Cold dish. I’ve never eaten a version with siew mai doused in a thick gravy (yellow globes at bottom). Not bad. The pork chop marinated in fermented beancurd (right corner) is my favourite item here.
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Steamed Soon Hock, Hong Kong style. All a fresh fish needs is a light drizzle of hot oil and soya sauce, topped with plenty of coriander and fried ginger strips.

 

Stir-fried scallops on a bed of broccoli topped with rrispy toasted hae bee and dried scallops. I LOVE this dish! Crunch veggies, crispy toppings... we finished every bit.
Stir-fried scallops on a bed of broccoli topped with rrispy toasted hae bee and dried scallops. I LOVE this dish! Crunch veggies, crispy toppings… we finished every bit.

 

Dry Curry Wild Boar
Dry Curry Wild Boar. Never had this before. Thick, gelatinous wild boar skin cut into strips, fried with the meat chunks and other ingredients commonly found in fishhead curry, such as onions, tomato, long beans and ladies’ fingers, in a piquant curry paste. It was… interesting. I liked the veggies more than the chewy skin, but certainly an experience.
Sea Cucumber Duck, covered in a thick mushroomy sauce, topped with veggies and mushrooms.
Sea Cucumber Duck, covered in a thick mushroomy sauce, topped with veggies and mushrooms.
Drunken Prawns. Lightly steamed prawn with a nice bite.
Drunken Prawns. Lightly steamed prawn with a nice bite.
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Jia Xiang Bee Hoon. Their uber popular dish features an omelette with bee hoo, prawns and veggies, flattened into a beehoon pancake. Yums. Will be trying my own version at home.

Dessert was a platter of fruits. Dinner and drinks cost us about $40 plus each — cheap for the quality we got. And that’s why I love zi char stalls!  Thanks, SBM founder Pang Joo Lip, for organising this!

Home-made Bak Kwa

Bak Kwa is possibly my favourite CNY snack but the queues! Insane. I’ve never thought I can ever make my own Bak Kwa, until I read this ridiculously simple recipe from Mothership.com.

Here’s my first attempt. No colouring added, meat spread a tad too thin. Tasted like crispy Bak kwa, which I like too, so yay.

Bak kwa round 1: The healthy version. Organically brown hue (not huat enough) 'cos we didn't add any red colouring. And too dry 'cos we used lean minced pork.
Bak kwa round 1: The healthy version. Organically brown hue (not huat enough) ‘cos we didn’t add any red colouring. And too dry ‘cos we used lean minced pork.

Then we tried again. This time, we added minced fat and red food colouring to look more festive.

I brought Round 2 of our homemade bak kwa to work at Republic Poly to give my beloved RP colleagues a pre-CNY treat. Verdict from colleagues: Really quite yummy and it looks the part! (The extra fat that we added and red colouring helps) #homemade #bakkwa #lastdayatRP
I brought Round 2 of our homemade bak kwa to work at Republic Poly to give my beloved RP colleagues a pre-CNY treat. Verdict from colleagues: Really quite yummy and it looks the part! (The extra fat that we added and red colouring helps) #homemade #bakkwa #lastdayatRP

Juicier, and less sweet and fatty, compared to what you get from the shops. For Round 3, we asked the butcher for minced pork that was 70% meat, 30% pork. Ooh-er!

Home-made bak kwa batch 3. Nice grill lines cos we grilled them over a charcoal flame. But so thick, we had to eat it like a chinese burger! #homemade #bakkwa
Home-made bak kwa batch 3. Nice grill lines cos we grilled them over a charcoal flame. But so thick, we had to eat it like a chinese burger! #homemade #bakkwa

Definitely the most tender and juicy of the lot, with a lovely smoky flavour because we grilled it over a satay charcoal stove. Unfortunately, my maid made the meat so thick, it looked almost like a thin burger patty. So we hit upon a brainwave and invented a new dish.

Ladies and gentlemen, presenting our Bak Kwa Pau.

Check out our CNY creation -- Bak Kwa Pau, the result of a beautiful mistake. We accidentally made our Bak Kwa too thick so we decided to sandwich the BBQ meat with crisp lettuce in sweet lotus bun. Awesomely yummy. #homemade #bakkwa #pau
Check out our CNY creation — Bak Kwa Pau, the result of a beautiful mistake. We accidentally made our Bak Kwa too thick so we decided to sandwich the BBQ meat with crisp lettuce in sweet lotus bun. Awesomely yummy. #homemade #bakkwa #pau

Seriously good. I think I shoud start selling them. $2 per Bak Kwa Pau!

If you’re interested, here’s the bak kwa recipe.

Grandma’s Pinang Chicken

My late paternal grandma was an Indonesian-born nonya with an Indonesian mum and Chinese dad. She specialised in making nonya kueh (my aunt inherited her skills and makes a killer Kueh Lapis). She also taught my mum to make Pinang Chicken. Or is it Penang Chicken? I can’t tell ‘cos grandma spoke Hokkien with an Indonesian twang that she never managed to shake it off… shake it off! (Sorry, couldn’t resist a little Taylor Swift swag).

This is a beautifully sour, spicy dish with bite, which tastes better when you leave it overnight (or over many nights in the fridge) for the flavours to really seep into the chicken. We use yellow, blue and regular ginger, assam juice and chicken cut into big chunks so they stand up to repeated reheating.

This CNY, I learned to cook Pinang Chicken, a sour-spicy, oh-so-aromatic dish that my mum learned from my Peranakan paternal grandma who hails from Indonesia. It's packed with yellow, blue and regular ginger and Assam juice. My absolute favourite CNY heritage dish. I've never seen it sold at any restaurant -- Peranakan, Indonesian, or otherwise. Has anyone tried this dish before? Where? Let me know in comments please! #homemade #pinangchicken #spicy #hotchick
This CNY, I learned to cook Pinang Chicken, a sour-spicy, oh-so-aromatic dish that my mum learned from my Peranakan paternal grandma who hails from Indonesia. It’s packed with yellow, blue and regular ginger and Assam juice. My absolute favourite CNY heritage dish. I’ve never seen it sold at any restaurant — Peranakan, Indonesian, or otherwise. Has anyone tried this dish before? Where? Let me know in comments please! #homemade #pinangchicken #spicy #hotchick

My Grandmother-in-law’s Stewed Mushroom with Roast Pork

I learned to make this dish from my late mum-in-law, who made it every CNY for our reunion dinner, without fail. She learned it from her mum, so I’m the 3rd generation making this. 10 hours in the slow cooker, and you’ll have this wonderfully aromatic dish. This pic is shot at the 6-hour mark — more photogenic ‘cos the mushrooms still hold their shape, but not as juicy and flavourful as the fully ‘ripe’ dish.

Today's #homemade dish -- Dried Mushrooms stewed with Roast Pork. My take on Hubby's family recipe, which his late mum would cook for us every CNY without fail. Our very own 'heritage dish'! #mushroom #roastpork #cny2015
Today’s homemade dish — Dried Mushrooms stewed with Roast Pork. My take on Hubby’s family recipe, which his late mum would cook for us every CNY without fail. Our very own ‘heritage dish’! #mushroom #roastpork #cny2015

My very own Samsui Chicken

I wanted to make a good broth for my steamboat so I poached two smallish 1kg chickens in a slow cooker for 3 hours, along with carrot chunks, dried scallops and ginger slices. We sliced up the deboned chicken and ate it with ginger sauce, wrapped in crisp lettuce. The gently cooked chicken is so tender and juicy, we relished every bite. I cheated by using Soup Restaurant’s famous Ginger Sauce, though it’s easy enough to make my own. Next time, next time.

My own version of Samsui Chicken, gently poached in a slow cooker for 3 hours, then plunged in cold water, resulting in uber tender meat. (I cheated by buying Soup Restaurant's ginger dip.) The Hubby declared this a success! #samsuichicken #cny2015 #wearetheleos
My own version of Samsui Chicken, gently poached in a slow cooker for 3 hours, then plunged in cold water, resulting in uber tender meat. (I cheated by buying Soup Restaurant’s ginger dip.) The Hubby declared this a success! #samsuichicken #cny2015 #wearetheleos

Steamboat Platter

The power stock was accompanied by this steamboat platter. As you can see, I totally go for good looks when it comes to choosing my ingredients.

Steamboat platter for CNY Day 2. I chose my ingredients based on how cute they look. Check out the ingot-shaped (top) and heart-shaped fish cakes! Everything goes into a pot of broth brewed for 5 hours with chicken, dried scallops, carrots and ginger slices. Bliss!  #steamboat #cny2015 #wearetheleos #mysticart
Steamboat platter for CNY Day 2. I chose my ingredients based on how cute they look. Check out the ingot-shaped (top) and heart-shaped fish cakes! Everything goes into a pot of broth brewed for 5 hours with chicken, dried scallops, carrots and ginger slices. Bliss! #steamboat #cny2015 #wearetheleos #mysticart

My own Butter Cereal Prawns

I was on a roll! Decided to use my frozen sea prawns to make Butter Cereal Prawns, a hot favourite at zi char stalls. My first attempt and it went down surprising well. Next round, I’ll try Salted Egg Prawns.

My first time making Butter Cereal Prawns! Super simple trial-and-error recipe that turned out really, really well. Plus I made an extra box (!) of crunchy cereal bits so we can sprinkle it on anything and everything we fancy. Will be awesome with bak kwa! #immazicharchef #cny2015 #wearetheleos
My first time making Butter Cereal Prawns! Super simple trial-and-error recipe that turned out really, really well. Plus I made an extra box (!) of crunchy cereal bits so we can sprinkle it on anything and everything we fancy. Will be awesome with bak kwa! #immazicharchef #cny2015 #wearetheleos

Heritage Dish Potluck Party hosted by BerryGerryBakes’ Geraldine Wang

My friend Geraldine is the founder of BerryGerryBakes and is an awesome baker. But I never knew she was a great cook too! She hosted a CNY lunch on Day 3. Here’s what we tucked into.

 

The spread of homemade goodies!
The spread of homemade goodies!

 

The cutest dumplings with crunchy waterchestnut and meat filling. It's a Hakka specialty, made using 'yan pi' that Geraldine bought from Chinatown shops.
The cutest dumplings with crunchy waterchestnut and meat filling. It’s a Hakka specialty, made using ‘yan pi’ that Geraldine bought from Chinatown shops.
Geraldine's Chup Chye. My staple at curry rice stalls and nonya restaurants.
Geraldine’s premium version of the humble Chup Chye, with pork belly and mushrooms added. My must-have at curry rice stalls and nonya restaurants.
Stir-fried prawns with a generous topping or coriander.
Stir-fried prawns with a generous topping or coriander.

 

A chicken and fungus dish spiced with sze chuan chilli, a contribution from Geraldine's friend Rudy.
A chicken and fungus dish spiced with sze chuan chilli, a contribution from Geraldine’s friend Rudy.

This is my contribution — Stewed Mushroom with Roast Pork. I’m happy to report that we finished almost everything!

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Um, McDonald’s at Bishan Park

This was on the first day of CNY and with so many eateries closed, McDonald’s was the safest bet. You don’t need to see fast food pics. Here’s one of us at Bishan Park.

McDonald's at Bishan Park, a haven for the hungry on CNY Day 1. Also good for CNY family portraits.
McDonald’s at Bishan Park, a haven for the hungry on CNY Day 1. Also good for CNY family portraits, except we look grouchy because it was darn hot.

 

Hosting my first CNY Open House party

Invited my sisters and their families over for some good ol’ CNY feating. Here’s a peak at some of the dishes I made.

My turn to host a CNY Open House. (From top:) Stewed Mushroom with Roast Pork, our #homemade Bak Kwa eaten with lotus buns and crisp lettuce, Stirfried Broccoli with Baby Scallops, Smoked Duck wrapped in Popiah skin with julienned cucumber and hoisin sauce, and mum's spicy-sour Pinang Chicken. #cny2015 #homemade ##bakkwa #mushroom #roastpork #pinangchicken
My turn to host a CNY Open House. (From top:) Stewed Mushroom with Roast Pork, our #homemade Bak Kwa eaten with lotus buns and crisp lettuce, Stirfried Broccoli with Baby Scallops, Smoked Duck wrapped in Popiah skin with julienned cucumber and hoisin sauce, and mum’s spicy-sour Pinang Chicken. #cny2015 #homemade ##bakkwa #mushroom #roastpork #pinangchicken

Finally, I’m ending with a little story of my family’s tradition. My mum prepares a set of this for each of her sons-in-law every CNY, so that we can ‘Kia Ngee’ during the CNY period.

What's your CNY food tradition? In my family, my mum will personally prepare and gift each of her sons-in-law with this 'good luck set'. Leeks ('suan na' in Hokkien) are hung up so that our households will have plenty to 'count' in the new year. A brown store-bought Huat Kueh atop a Nian Gao (sticky cake; hidden from view), is topped with a Chun Huay (paper 'spring flower') to symbolize a 'huat' (flourishing) year ahead. An extra Chun Huay on a pyramid of mandarin oranges. The yellow steamed Huat Kueh dotted with red is my mum's homemade goodie to double the 'huat' (and because it's much yummier than store-bought ones). The whole set-up (minus the yellow Huat Kueh, which is for our eating pleasure) is left to Kia Ngee ('stand' from CNY eve throughout the Chinese New Year period of 15 days) so that it can grow mould. The more mould, the more 'huat'! My mandarin oranges are growing mouldy already!  Here's wishing all my friends, business associates, colleagues and students a very blessed, healthy and prosperous Year of the Sheep! #cny2015 #huatah #homemade
What’s your CNY food tradition? In my family, my mum will personally prepare and gift each of her sons-in-law with this ‘good luck set’. Leeks (‘suan na’ in Hokkien) are hung up so that our households will have plenty to ‘count’ in the new year. A brown store-bought Huat Kueh atop a Nian Gao (sticky cake; hidden from view), is topped with a Chun Huay (paper ‘spring flower’) to symbolize a ‘huat’ (flourishing) year ahead. An extra Chun Huay on a pyramid of mandarin oranges. The yellow steamed Huat Kueh dotted with red is my mum’s homemade goodie to double the ‘huat’ (and because it’s much yummier than store-bought ones). The whole set-up (minus the yellow Huat Kueh, which is for our eating pleasure) is left to Kia Ngee (‘stand’ from CNY eve throughout the Chinese New Year period of 15 days) so that it can grow mould. The more mould, the more ‘huat’! My mandarin oranges are growing mouldy already!
Here’s wishing all my friends, business associates, colleagues and students a very blessed, healthy and prosperous Year of the Sheep! #cny2015 #huatah #homemade

The chinese leek are meant to be hung up, not eaten. One year, I displayed it for two days, then forgot about the tradition and stir-fried it with noodles. Mum was not amused.

Enjoy the rest of the Chinese New Year festivities! Huat ah, everyone!

Stella

 

 

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