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How To Gain Weight: CNY Edition

Happy Chinese New Year!

This year’s festivities are much more subdued due to the pandemic, but I still had an enjoyable time bonding (and eating!) with the family over the weekend. To save on the hassle of preparing an elaborate meal for our reunion dinner night, we decided to have hotpot/barbecue out on the porch. We bought most of the ingredients in advance so we wouldn’t have to rush to the market on the few days leading up to CNY.

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Aside from the quintessential pork belly slices (you can get these from the local butcher nicely packed), our hotpot ‘buffet’ also had all the other essentials: chicken and fish slices, pork balls and fish balls, needle mushrooms, squid, seafood cheese tofu, fried beancurd sheets, and for carbs, udon noodles. Moomins opened a celebratory can of mini abalones – they’re especially cheap this year due to a dip in demand.

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We bought a 2-in-1 BBQ/hotpot stove from Lazada, just for this.

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The soup base we used was from Hai Di Lao. We bought the shrimp flavour thinking it would be mild, but it was actually quite spicy. It also had preserved vegetables, which gave it a sour tang. Personally, I prefer something milkier and sweeter, so I will probably go for another flavour the next time around.

I know processed foods aren’t the healthiest, but seafood cheese tofu and bursting pork balls (above) are my favourites whenever I have hotpot. Seafood cheese tofu is usually made from surimi, so the texture is bouncy, and it has bits of creamy cheese within; while bursting pork balls are so called because there is hot soup in the centre, so caution should be taken whenever you bite into them so the juices within don’t spill everywhere and burn your tongue.

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My parents weren’t keen on the pork belly slices, so my brother and I ate most of them. I can safely say that I ate my fill lol. I prefer mine cooked in the hotpot, because they tend to get crispy and hard on the grill (I like mine to be soft so you can taste the texture of the fat and lean meat). Dip them in some soy sauce and chilli, and voila! Magic. We rarely have hotpot at home, so this was a very satisfying experience.

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By the time we finished dinner and the washing up it was nearly 10pm. We had initially planned to have our yee sang right after, but everyone was too full, so we watched Bad Genius on Netflix and waited for midnight.

Instead of the usual salmon yee sang, we got a fruits version this year. My cousin and his girlfriend are doing it as a part-time business, so it was our way of showing support (I also sent two sets to friends). It was basically a fruit salad consisting of green and red grapes, strawberries, mandarin oranges, carrots, pomegranates and dragonfruit (we didn’t add this in because it was too soft and watery), plus toasted pumpkin and sesame seeds. In place of plum sauce was honey.

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All in all, good, albeit on the sour side despite the addition of honey.

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After all that feasting on reunion dinner night, our first day of CNY was tamer affair. Traditionally, many families will observe a vegetarian meal after the extravagance of the previous night – we had a simple meal of udon and mock meat with fried egg for lunch. Also spent the afternoon playing mahjong. Everyone was rusty, because we only do this once a year lol.

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I received a nice surprise on the morning of Day 2: my friend H sent me a CNY package!

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Went out in the afternoon with Pops to Moon Palace Restaurant, to pick up our order of poon choi. For my non-Chinese readers, it’s basically a Cantonese dish comprised of a pot filled with luxurious seafood and meat items, which are then poured over with a rich sauce. Due to the large portions, it is meant to be shared, and you’ll often see it at festive occasions like Chinese New Year and weddings. I’ve only had poon choi once or twice during food reviews, never with the fam, so it was a first for all of us.

Our poon choi came with abalone, dried oysters stuffed with fat choi (a type of cyanobacteria with the appearance of human hair – it sounds gross lol but tastes like seaweed), roast duck, poached chicken, brocolli, huge shiitake mushrooms, abalone mushrooms, prawns, yam, scallops and roast pork. The oyster sauce that was to be poured over coagulated slightly from the cold, but otherwise everything was excellent. I especially liked the abalone mushrooms: they were thick and juicy. It’s no wonder people use them in making imitation meat – the texture is very similar.

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And finally, to round up our 2nd day, another round of yee sang; this time vegetarian.

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Bonus: Air-dried clay Mandarin Oranges my brother made for fun.

While this CNY lacks the cheer and pomp of yesteryears, I think I actually enjoyed it more. The weekend was spent bonding with the fam, playing Divinity 2: Original Sin, embroidering (new hobby!), and just eating. Like a lot. I think between Pops, the brother and I, we finished five cans of snacks and a dozen canned drinks. Also, I got no exercise in at all, so it’s not surprising that I gained 2kg.

It’s back to the grind tomorrow, and I’ll be getting back into my workout routine as well.

Hope you all had a good celebration!

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This “App” Calls Out Auspicious Sayings For Chinese New Year – So You Don’t Have To

Chinese New Year is just around the corner (the first day falls on 12 February), but with the pandemic still raging in many parts of Southeast Asia, celebrations will definitely be more subdued. In Singapore, for example, gatherings will be limited to eight people, no CNY company dinners are allowed, and shouting during lo hei (the act of tossing yusheng, a ‘fish salad’ often served in Malaysia and Singapore during CNY) is also discouraged. Understandable, since no one wants Fourth Uncle’s spit flying all over the place (even before the pandemic, but I guess back then it was… tolerated). Here in Malaysia, the government has yet to announce an extension of our Movement Control Order, but it seems likely to be extended for another two weeks.

I wrote a piece recently about how certain traditions and practices might be observed differently this year, including e-hongbao and online shopping for clothes – and now we can add one more to the list: an app that calls out auspicious sayings like ‘HUAT AH’ (prosperity/good luck) and BU BU GAO XIN (steps to success). If you think about it, it’s actually quite a brilliant solution for lo hei – since saliva is more likely to fall into food what with all the shouting and yelling of auspicious phrases. Also, since many people won’t have the luxury of visiting their relatives, the app is a fun way to liven up the atmosphere – minus the worry of spreading COVID-19.

Created by a kind soul going by the pseudonym DJ Beng, the ‘app’ (they’re calling it an app but it’s really more of a web page, since it only works on Google Chrome) contains 15 auspicious sayings, which you can tap on for the desired phrase. Some of these include the customary “Nian Nian You Yu” (Luck every year) and Huat Ah. There’s also a separate tab for toasting, ie Yamseng. What I find really cute is that the longer you press the “yamm” button, the longer the audio plays: the effect is really reminiscent of actual toasting during Chinese gatherings, where everyone tries to shout yammmmm as long as possible. The audio even includes the typical ‘out-of-breath’ effect you get from people trying to sustain their shouts, so it sounds very realistic!

Best of all? There are both Mandarin and Cantonese options for the lohei. For Cantonese speakers like myself, this is a joy. Canto is being eroded these days in favour of Mandarin, and it’s always nice to see your own language being celebrated.

You can have a go for yourself at djbeng.com/lohei.html. Note: It only works on the Google Chrome browser on your phone.

*Cover image: Getty Images

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Easy 4-Step Bakkwa Puffs

Bakkwa (also known as rougan) is the Chinese version of jerky, consisting of flattened pieces of dried meat seasoned with sugar, salt and spices. It is very popular among the Chinese community in Malaysia and Singapore, and although you can get it all year round, it is most commonly eaten during the Lunar New Year. We also prepare it differently here; ie cooking the meat over charcoal so it gets imbued with a nice, smoky flavour.

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Photo: Alpha, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve never been much of a bakkwa fan. I don’t hate it – if I was visiting someone during the festive season and they offered me a slice, I wouldn’t say no – but I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to buy it. I’m sure many people would beg to differ though: apparently the line for the Lim Chee Guan brand of bak kwa in Singapore can stretch up to three hours!

Recently, my colleagues were tasked with making a video on ‘unique ways to prepare bakkwa’, and on my part, I had to come up with a recipe. All the good ones like pasta, fried rice and what not had already been taken. Not being much of a cook myself, I initially thought of just frying it as an omelet and calling it a day, but then my mom suggested I use it as filling for pastry, and bake it with cheese. Brilliant, Moomins!

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Closest place to my house selling bak kwa is Oloiya in Bandar Puteri Puchong. Thankfully, Malaysians are a bit saner than Singaporeans (or maybe it’s coz COVID cases are in the four digits daily these days so people are kiasi?) , so there was no three hour queue.

Oloiya sells chicken and pork bakkwa in 100, 300 and 500 g portions. Unlike pre-pandemic times, they no longer display stacks of meat out in the open, probably for hygiene purposes. Instead, everything is vacuum packed and sealed. No tasters as well. It takes away from the traditional shopping experience, but hey – safety first.

I couldn’t visualise how much each portion was because everything was already packed into plastic, so I ordered the middle option (300g – RM35). It turned out to be quite a lot, as there were six pieces inside.

Aside from traditional chicken and pork, Oloiya has items like “Blooming Beauty Pork” (basically dried bacon strips), pork / chicken floss, and snack-sized bakkwa (called Bak-Off. I’m surprised this name got approved for the market lol). For those who are looking for gifts, Oloiya also offers nicely packed gift boxes with options for personalised engraving.

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Anyway enough promo: on to the bakkwa puffs.

Ingredients:

  • 3 pieces store-bought filo pastry (if you’re feeling hardworking, you can make your own – but I don’t have a recipe for that lol)
  • 1 piece bakkwa, cut into thin strips
  • 1 slice cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten (for eggwash)

Method:

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  • Fill half of the filo pastry with bakkwa and top with cheese. Make sure there is enough space at the edges to fold.
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  • Fold pastry into triangles and seal the edges with a fork.
  • Brush egg wash on top of pastry for colour.
  • Pre-heat oven. Set to 180C. Bake for 20 minutes. (PS: If it doesn’t look brown enough, either bake for another 10 minutes, or set the oven to a higher temperature.)
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And there you have it. A creative way to enjoy your bakkwa!

If you think about it, you’re basically making a sandwich of sorts. I mean, you can’t really go wrong with meat + cheese + pastry combo. The pastry gives it a nice and crispy exterior, and the bakkwa’s sweet and salty flavour goes great with cheese. The texture also softens a bit during the baking process, so you actually get meat that is more moist.

What are some of the creative ways you eat your bakkwa? Or do you enjoy it as it is? Let me know if you’re planning to try this recipe, and how it turned out for you! 🙂

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Celebrating Chinese New Year In The Middle Of A Pandemic

Chinese New Year, also called the Lunar New Year, is set to fall on 12 February this year. It marks the beginning of a new year according to the traditional lunar calendar, and heralds the arrival of spring. 

Here in Malaysia, Chinese New Year is a pretty big thing, since people of Chinese descent make up more than 20% of the population (about 6 million people). If this was any other year, CNY decor in malls would have already been up right after Christmas. There’d be cookie displays flooding bakery shelves; Padini/Uniqlo would be packed with shoppers buying new clothes on sale, and we’d all be subjected to the torture of loud, repetitive dong dong chiang music 24 hours a day, 7 days a week across all TV and radio channels. 

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Unfortunately, we are in the middle of a pandemic – and like all the other people who made sacrifices last year for Christmas, Deepavali and Hari Raya, it is now our turn to give up the freedom that we often take for granted: the ability to travel home to see our loved ones.

On 13 January 2021, the Malaysian government implemented a second targeted Movement Control Order (MCO), restricting travel to and from red zone states. Workers in non-essential services are required to work from home, travel is restricted to a 10 kilometre radius to buy groceries and essentials, and eateries are only allowed to run on a take-away/delivery basis. Of course, celebrations of any kind are no longer allowed, as are things like weddings and other events. (Adding to the whole hullabaloo is the national Emergency which was declared by our King because of political in-fighting, but that’s for another entry lol.) 

The last time we had an MCO was back in March 2020, and it lasted for two months. Although the current MCO has only been announced for the next two weeks, many people are foreseeing an extension, at least for a further two weeks. With thousands of cases daily in Malaysia (at the time of this writing, there have been over 100 deaths in the last two weeks), most (sane) people understand that this is necessary to break the infection chain and ensure public health and safety. 

Since no events are allowed and travel is restricted, many of us will have to make do with a quiet celebration at home this year. While we won’t be able to observe certain traditions, I think that technology has allowed us to adapt (and innovate) in ways that would not have been possible 20 or 30 years ago – and we can use that to make CNY 2021 a memorable one. 

Reunion Dinner 

The reunion dinner on the eve of CNY is an integral part of CNY celebrations – some even consider it to be even more important than New Year’s Day.Traditionally, it’s when everyone gathers to feast and wish for a prosperous year ahead, whilst enjoying dishes with auspicious meanings (usually fish, pork, prawn and chicken – since back in the days meat was difficult to come by and would only be eaten on special occasions).

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Fam reunion dinner from 2018

The food for reunion dinners used to be prepared at home by the women folk. More than just preparing a meal, it was a way for people to bond. When my grandparents were still alive, the kitchen on CNY eve was a battlefield, and my grandma commandeered it like a general: slicing, dicing and supervising her helpers (my aunties). I kind of missed that after she passed away. In the last few years, eating out has become a trend, since nobody wants to go through the hassle of cooking and washing up for 20 people. Now that there are once again dine-in restrictions at restaurants, perhaps it’s time we went back to the drawing board and rediscover what it means to cook, and eat, together. 

For those who aren’t able to attend the reunion dinner night, I think it would be a good idea to set up some sort of Skype or Zoom call with family, so that you’d still be able to ‘eat’ together –  sort of like what I did with the hubs for our anniversary last year. It won’t replace being there in person, but in these unprecedented times, we have to make do with what we can – and it will hopefully stave off some of the loneliness that people who live away from home will undoubtedly feel during the festive season. 

Ang Pau Mali

Another tradition synonymous with CNY is the giving of red packets (ang pau) containing money to unmarried members of the family. As a kid, I was always super excited to receive ang paus (RM100 was a lot of money for a kid in the 90s). Funny thing though: at the end of each visit, the money would go to my mom, who’d keep it for ‘investment’…. And I’d never see it again lol. (Just kidding, I love you mom.) 

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Now that I’m married, I’ll no longer be on the receiving end, sadly. Under normal circumstances, it’s understandable not to give an angpau if you’re not visiting a particular relative. Unfortunately for married folk, the emergence of e-wallet apps and e-angpaus means that some of us won’t be able to wriggle out of it with the in absentia excuse: your nephews and nieces will probably say, “Aiya auntie, send it through e-angpau lah!” 

In With The New 

People usually buy new things for CNY (especially clothes), as it signifies a fresh start. Many clothing retailers are not able to open their brick and mortar shops, so more have gone online to provide for their customers. You can also find nice clothes on platforms like Shopee and Lazada for super cheap.

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There are pros and cons to shopping online. While it’s certainly more convenient and safer (no hour-long queue to get into the changing room, no fighting with another auntie for the same shirt you both have your eyes on at the sale rack), it can also be challenging for people with unusual body shapes/sizes, since they can’t see or feel the material/ cutting prior to their purchase. (Like yours truly. I have huge… shoulders. winkwink.) If you’re going to buy stuff online, best do it early to avoid disappointment, in case your item comes late in the mail. 

Chinese New Year foods in Malaysia

*Photo: evelynquek, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Buying gift hampers for associates, or cookies / treats for friends and family is another long standing CNY practice, and again, online shopping makes it convenient to have your items shipped directly to the doorstep of your recipient. As for treats for personal consumption, if you have the time, it might be a good idea to try your hand at baking/making your own. If you’re enterprising, you can even make a larger batch to sell and earn some extra money on the side. 

Cleaning / Decorating the House

People often underestimate the importance of decorating one’s personal space to elevate the mood. I believe it’s crucial; not to show off, but to re-centre yourself and your frame of mind. It’s one of the reasons why I wear office clothes even while working from home, because it kicks my mind into ‘work mode’. Lounging in pyjamas all day is comfy, but it also makes me more inclined to go roll around on the bed every 10 minutes. Similarly, just because no one is visiting for CNY doesn’t mean your house shouldn’t be clean and tidy.  

Unfortunately, technology has not yet evolved to the point where I’m able to kick back with a nice cup of coffee and a book, while my robot assistant does everything for me. So, manual labour it is.

CNY in 2021 will certainly be different, but if you put it into perspective, it’s not all doom and gloom. Traditions are meant to be kept and preserved, but if that isn’t possible due to circumstances beyond our control, then perhaps it’s time to innovate some new traditions. 

That being said, McD’s Prosperity Burger is back on the menu. 

Some things just never change. 

If you enjoyed reading this post, consider giving me a figurative angpau. Contrary to popular belief, I do not make big moolah from writing – and this will go towards hosting fees and ensuring that I can continue to deliver authentic content for your reading pleasure. Thanks for stopping by!

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Chinese New Year Promotion @ Chin Swee Vegetarian Cuisine Restaurant, Genting Highlands

Celebrations almost never stop in multicultural Malaysia, where you have some sort of festival every other month. Now that the (Western) New Year has passed, it’s time to gear up for the next – Chinese New Year, which falls on January 25.

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Celebrate the reunion dinner differently this year with a vegan or vegetarian meal at the Chin Swee Vegetarian Cuisine Restaurant in Genting Highlands. Located within the Chin Swee Temple, mid-hill to Resorts World Genting, the restaurant offers scrumptious Chinese dishes, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and lush virgin tropical rainforest.

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For CNY, the restaurant has rolled out their Prosperous Golden Rat Year set menus, catered for two or more people. The couple set consists of herbal steamed soup, Chinese yam, brinjal and organic ladies’ fingers in ‘san bei’ sauce, prawn with crispy oatmeal, special pumpkin rice and luxurious Tieguanyin Chinese tea.

CNY2020_Yam Basket with 'Kong Poh' Hericium 佛钵飘香@21-1

Larger set meals begin with vegetarian yee sang and include the special pumpkin rice. The set for three to four persons (RM368 nett) features vegetarian sharks’ fin soup, stewed tofu, claypot lotus root with dried tofu, mixed vegetable curry, and homemade dessert, while the RM568 nett menu for five to six diners will have stir-fried black fungus with Chinese yam, stir-fried lily bulbs, broccoli and lotus root, sea cucumber and scallops with ‘san bei’ sauce, and fried knuckle with house sauce.

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The seven to nine-person menu, priced at RM738 nett, will serve up claypot chicken with herbs, steamed organic ladies’ fingers with pumpkin, sea cucumber and scallops, deep-fried wawa yu with XO sauce, mixed vegetable curry and Wuyi narcissus tea.

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The most exquisite of the set meals is the RM798 nett menu for ten to 12, featuring yam basket with kung poh hericium, stir-fried lily bulbs, broccoli and lotus roots, Chinese yam, brinjal, and organic ladies fingers with ‘san bei’ sauce, ‘cod fish’ with creamy sauce, ‘fried knuckle’ with house sauce, ‘claypot chicken’ with herbs, green tea pudding and Wuyi narcissus tea.

CNY2020_Fried Knuckle with House Sauce 横财猪手@9-1

Other items to look out for are the little dim sum and dessert sets, clay pot and hotplate selections, herbal soups, rice and noodles.

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Exuding Chinese tradition and elegance, the restaurant is situated on level 12 – the same floor as the Goh Tong Hall residence or the main lobby of the temple. Diners can opt for a tour around the temple followed by a meal, or vice versa.

Make it a weekend getaway with the extended family with a trip up to Resorts World Genting, as the temple is easily accessible by cable car and hourly shuttle bus. Alternatively, accommodation is available on the Chin Swee Temple grounds.

Full menu here: 

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Reservations: website or call +603-61011613.

Opening hours: 8.30AM – 8.30PM

*Photos courtesy of Resorts World Genting

Food Galore – Chinese New Year in Ipoh 2019

It’s a little worrying that at barely 30, I’m already having trouble remembering things, lol.

There’s just an overload of information coming in on a daily basis that it’d be impossible to function without clearing up some ‘space’. Which is why it’s so important for me to keep blogging, no matter how busy I get. How else can I look back on what I’ve been doing at a particular point in time?

So here’s a bit of what I’ve been up to over the holidays 😀

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One of my favourite parts about the Chinese New Year celebrations is the food. There’s a reason why people call it ‘comfort’ food – because food is often associated with fond memories and feelings of safety and warmth. It’s such a good feeling to have awesome home cooked food to dig into the moment you step into the house. 😀

In this case, upon arriving in Ipoh, my cousin YS (who is a great cook) had made a big bunch of pork and century egg dumplings in a light, savoury broth. The thickness of the dumpling skin was just right, and the filling had the right balance of fat and lean for a tender, melt-in-the-mouth texture.

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Then my uncle came back from visiting friends with a big bag of these fried snacks called “Phoenix Balls”. Apparently they used to be served as appetisers at Chinese banquets, but you rarely find them these days.

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The inside was a mix of pork, shredded carrots and egg, enveloped in a chewy layer of pork fat taken from underneath the pig skin, then battered and deep fried. I really liked the textures, despite the ball’s oiliness – there’s the crisp from the shell, the chewiness from the pork fat, and the soft tenderness of the meat.

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Then the cous wanted to make charsiewbao (pork buns) so we helped out. It’s a lot of work, since everything was made from scratch, from the dough to the pork filling. Folding the buns into the proper shape was an art on its own.

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Presenting the ugliest charsiewbao in the world.

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Ready for the steamer!

Enough about food though – since it’s the Year of the Pig, here are some cute (and unique) porcine decorations around the house.

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Alcohol in a pig shaped glass container. The alcohol is poured out from the butt lol.

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Literal piggy bank

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These were friggin adorable – squishy pig dolls.

Hope you’re having a great CNY as well! 🙂 It’s back to work tomorrow. Sigh.

 

Review: Delight Seafood Restaurant, Kampung Jawa Ipoh

Happy Chinese New Year, folks!

Celebrations have been quiet ever since my grandmother passed away.

I read somewhere that matriarchs/patriarchs of a family act like glue, holding the fam together. Once they’re gone, it’s hard to get everyone together in the same place. Some cousins have migrated, while others are travelling with their own nuclear fams over the festive season. Traditions like cooking for reunion dinner night or praying to ancestors have been simplified, if not replaced.

Sometimes I envy my friends who are close to their extended families, because my cousins and I do not share the same bonds. Maybe it’s coz we only see each other once a year. I’m sure that after my parents’ generation, these bonds might be broken for good.

Enough depressing talk though : here’s what we had for CNY reunion dinner! Not wanting my aunt (who’s 70 now) to go through the hassle of cooking, we booked dinner at Delight Seafood Restaurant in Kampung Jawa, Ipoh.

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More and more families are doing away with cooking at home in favour of convenience. Restaurants do brisk business during this period, so much so that you have to book a ‘slot’ ie the resto divides diners into two sessions. Ours was at 6.30PM and we had to be out by 8PM to cater to the next round of customers.

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To start things off – the customary yee sang, a raw fish salad that is tossed and mixed while diners utter good wishes for the new year. The version here had jellyfish, pomelo, fish cake, crunchy condiments, peanuts and onions. Presentation was sloppy but the taste was pretty good.

Fun fact: Yeesang has roots in Malaysia/Singapore, not from China.

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Traditionally, Chinese banquet meals are served plate by plate, but since the resto was rushing for time, they decided to serve everything at once. Not a good strategy since there was barely any space left on the table. We were resigned to eating uncomfortably, bowls cramped to the left and right.

(Clockwise from top) Steamed fish, pork knuckle, soy sauce shrimp, stir fried vegetables and (centre) glutinous rice with waxed meats.

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The food was okay, but the only real standout was the glutinous rice, which came with three different cuts of waxed meat – pork, liver and mixed. The pork knuckle was pretty good too, especially the part with the crisp, crackly skin and tender meat underneath layers of fat. Fish was not cooked thoroughly with flesh still sticking to the bone.

The experience could have been better imo, but then again it’s a very busy period for restos and you can’t expect top notch service.

DELIGHT SEAFOOD RESTAURANT 

26, 28, 30, Jalan Dass, Kampung Jawa, 30300 Ipoh, Negeri Perak

Open for lunch and dinner (daily)

CNY 2018 in Ipoh Day 1 – The Practice of Bai Nian (Visiting Relatives)

At the stroke of midnight on the first day of CNY, loud bangs and blasts were heard all over Ipoh: the sounds of fireworks being set off to usher in a new year and new beginnings.

Ten years ago I might have been among the revelers, but at 28? Tucked snugly into my mattress by 11PM. When the fireworks started, I was mildly annoyed and dimly aware of my uncle, auntie, cousin and mom talking in the living room. Then I went back to sleep lol.

Yep, middle-aged aunties and uncles have more stamina than me these days.

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The upside? Woke up early, in time to catch the beautiful view of the sunrise! Since the cousin’s place is an apartment and there are no tall buildings around, I had an uninhibited view of the surrounding limestone hills. Beautiful ❤

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The bro came out from the room and upon seeing this scene, we simultaneously started singing the theme from Lion King.

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Busy, busy day! Time to visit relatives, a practice known as Bai Nian. There were some years where we visited some relatives but not others due to time constraints / frail health (it’s complicated. Me mum’s always sick /depressed) but this year, we went the whole hog and visited every single one of my maternal relatives.

We picked up my second aunt (Ah Yee) from her house, while my uncle and his fam tagged along. We went to visit my Dai Yee (eldest aunt), who is my mum’s half-sister from my grandfather’s previous marriage. She’s very old now, can barely walk and has dementia. As with many dementia patients, she keeps forgetting recent things and places, but remembers old incidences clearly. She has also reverted to speaking Sei Wui, the mothertongue of my mom’s clan, which none of us of this generation are able to speak anymore.

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Dai Yee lives in a traditional wooden house, typical of Chinese villages built during the Malayan Emergency. The walls are mostly plank/wooden panels, with unpolished concrete floors and zinc roofing. Old pictures lined the walls, some of Dai Yee in her younger days, as well as other family members.

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OMG there was a mingming. Chinese families don’t usually keep cats so I was super psyched when I saw this handsome kitty sprawled out on the floor of the kitchen. Immediately sat down and gave it some chin scratches.

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Also some doggos on the outside. Old doggo (brown) was fierce and kept growling at us, while two smaller doggos sat around scratching themselves.

Sat on the verandah and munched on cookies and snacks while chatting.  Then it was off to Gopeng to visit my eldest blood-aunt (I call her Sam Yee which is technically ‘third’, but she’s the eldest among my mom’s blood siblings).

The visits were slightly depressing coz they were all talking about how much pain they were in. Mum has a bunch of ailments like arthritis, insomnia, gastric problems, osteoporosis, mild depression, my second aunt has the same, my third aunt has diabetes and rather severe depression, and my uncle has the usual joint pains and stuff that come with old age. A lot of the stuff is hereditary, so I’m guessing I’ll probably have them as I get older too. Sigh.

Anyway I fell asleep on the couch because there wasn’t much to do. The good thing is that with so many visitations, I got a lot of angpaus lol.

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Visiting my paternal family that night. One of my aunt’s had brought her ‘baby’ back – a mini schnauzer by the name of Pepper. The bro attempted to show off some magic tricks.

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What a sweetie!

And just like that, the first day of CNY passed by in the blink of an eye!

I think it’s important to spend some time visiting relatives, because who knows how many visits I’ll have left? Many of my aunts and uncles are getting old, as are my parents, and we aren’t close to our cousins, some of whom have migrated or are in the process of migrating. It’s kind of a sad thing. Festivals used to be so much more livelier when my grandparents were around.