Stellar Communications Consultancy is the mouthpiece of Stella Thng, a veteran mass communication practitioner with over 20 years of experience. A former magazine editor with MediaCorp Pte Ltd, she now runs her own editorial, branding and public relations firm while shaping the next generation of communicators as a lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic and a former associate lecturer at Republic Polytechnic.
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.
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.
Aren’t they the cutest Lion Dance Troupe you’ve ever seen?
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:
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.
Then we tried again. This time, we added minced fat and red food colouring to look more festive.
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!
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.
Seriously good. I think I shoud start selling them. $2 per Bak Kwa Pau!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is my contribution — Stewed Mushroom with Roast Pork. I’m happy to report that we finished almost everything!
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.
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.
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.
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!