Gallop into the Chinese Year of Horse!


Yes, this post does come a little late, but it is completely fine because the celebration does last for the first month of the Lunar calender 🙂

Basically, every family is always the busiest on the first two days of Lunar (Chinese) New Year. As in all the past years, we woke up early in the morning, got dressed and prepared a pot of steaming hot Chinese tea for the greetings before visiting grandparents with other relatives.

Parents exchanging Lai-see and blessings
This is a photo of my parents exchanging lai-see after wishing each other good fortune and serving tea. And before this I have to do the same, but kneel in front of them (we respect the Chinese tradition at these moments). It’s after that we went to our grandparents’ place. Father’s side always comes first, so it’s only on the second day we visited my other grandparents.

Four Seasons Pun Choi on first Lunar New Year day
We had this “Big Bowl Feast” as soon as everyone arrived. It was our first meal of the new year and this one from Four Seasons (not the hotel) came particularly in gigantic size because my cousin whose friend works there could maximize its volume whilst giving us a nice discount 😉 usually they are big, but not THIS big.

In it, you could easily find abalones, Chinese mushrooms, hair seaweed, prawns, dried oysters, squid, fish bladder, geese, chicken, barbecued pork, pork rind, taro, white radish and more.

On the second morning we devoured the same “Big Bowl Feast” again, with all my relatives from my mom’s side. In addition, my grandma has prepared as usual a huge casserole of soup with luxurious ingredients such as fish maw, shark fins, abalone and sea cucumber, and also Shrimp and Pork Wonton (Dumplings) to accommodate approximately 20 people.

Ed's family dinner at midnight
On the same night I visited Ed’s family at his grandmother’s place. I’ve had the third “Big Bowl Feast” at 8pm of which I did not take photograph of, and then this enormous meal at 12am that served some 20 pax from his family.

Were we full? ABSOLUTELY, AND WE WERE MORE THAN STUFFED but it didn’t stop us from visiting the “Kweilin Street Night Market” in Sham Shui Po on the third midnight. It was accessible only on the first four nights of Lunar New Year because it’s the time when Food & Environmental Hygiene Department staff got their days off, letting unlicensed hawkers to thrive.

We bought Indian Deep-Fried Bhature (HK$20), and spent near 45 minutes queuing up to get a Middle Eastern Pita Bread (HK$20) cooked in traditional brick oven and Barbecued Chicken Wing (HK$20). There were also local street food such as Fishballs, Cheung Fun (Rice Noodle Rolls) and literally Puppy Noodles, but the lines seemed endless that we had to give up on them. I guess the market must have gone on till like 3am or even later. Such a fun experience.

Coconut Milk Cake and Turnip Cake; Kweilin Street Night Market
Turnip Cake and Coconut Milk Cakes are the rest of the highlights to celebrate this festival. The company I work at has given each of us a list of choices from Wah Lai Yuen, the first to create Coconut Milk Cakes back in 1950.

From the left, it is Bird’s Nest & Red Dates Coconut Milk Cake, just perfect for ladies who concern about health and beauty (we feel less guilty even though we know that such tiny amount of bird’s nest won’t do anything). It is, similar to the Brown Sugar Coconut Milk Cake as in the simplest and most basic form, made mainly of glutinous rice flour, rice flour and coconut milk, while it is the type of sugar that determines the colour. As for Turnip Cake on the right, major ingredients include shredded white radish and rice flour while Chinese rose wine, preserved sausages, dried shrimps and scallops are mixed in for a distinctive aroma and texture.

You can either cook Turnip Cake by pan-frying or steaming, whereas for the Coconut Milk Cake, I’ve tried a NEW way of cooking it other than the traditional pan-frying method!

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Traditional method:
1. Cut coconut milk cake into thin pieces (about 1cm thick), let them sit in room temperature to soften
2. Preheat your non-stick pan with low to medium heat, drizzle some olive oil (not too much, because the cake itself will release oil when heated)
3. Dip each piece into a bowl of beaten egg to prevent them from gluing to each other
4. Serve when it has reached the ideal chewy consistency (poke with chopsticks to check)

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New (GUILT-FREE) method:
1. Cut coconut milk cake into thin slices, let them sit in room temperature to soften
2. Cut spring roll sheets into 4 quarters, tightly wrap it around each slice of cake and secure the ends with egg wash
3. Preheat your non-stick pan with low to medium heat, drizzle some olive oil; again, don’t put too much oil
4. Serve when the spring roll sheets get crispy and golden brown (by then the cake inside should be ready too, because they are very thin thus cook up quickly)

Healthy Matoon Tea from Thailand

Obviously I have eaten too much and to start detoxing, my most ideal way is to drink tea! My favourite tea has always been Robiff Oolong Tea from Japan (from that I recall how the two Japanese host families I lived with for a week back in 2003, both kept the large-sized bottles of the tea in their fridge to serve after dinner), and my recent love that is readily available in my kitchen is Matoom Tea from Thailand. Find out more about it in Cravings in Bangkok! (2) 🙂

Certain kinds of food are a MUST for Lunar New Year due to the resemblance between their Cantonese pronunciation of the food and words of blessings:
e.g. Hair Seaweed >> 髮菜 >> 發財 ( good fortune)
e.g. Dried Oyster >> 蠔豉 >> 好事 (good affairs) / 好市 (good market)
e.g. Shrimp >> 蝦 >> 哈 (“ha” as in laughter, meaning happiness)

– Judith


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