Cans and Packets

Chinese New Year

1/26/2009 06:14:00 PM

Yee Sang Family Toss

Happy New Year! I hope everyone's celebrations have been super-fun! In a super-lucky coincidence for us Aussies, Chinese New Year fell on Australia Day this year. You know what that means... long weekend! Wahoo!

We always have our family reunion dinner on Chinese New Year's eve, and it's very important that the whole family sits down together for this special dinner.

Chinese New Year is all about tradition, and you'll see that this year's menu was pretty much the same as 07, 06 and 05. I realise now that I didn't do a blog post for last year's dinner, but, well, the food was the same. Last year I did all the cooking myself, but this year I'm very happy to say we had the whole family at home to celebrate and do the preparations together.

Chinese New Year's Eve Reunion Dinner

Yee Sang - Chinese New Year salad containing jellyfish and raw veggies
Kiam Chye Th'ng - Soup with salted vegetables, duck and pork
Loh Bak - finely chopped belly pork, spiced, wrapped in soy-bean skin and deep-fried to crispy perfection
Chicken Curry Kapitan - coconut-milk based chicken curry

You can see that we have pretty typical Penang nyonya-type food. We don't normally do Yee Sang, but lots of my brother's Hong Kong friends eat it, and he thought it would be a nice idea for us to try it. Apparently Yee Sang is a pain in the arse to make, because you have to grate up all the vegetables into tiny tiny slivers. We got ours out of a packet. It feels very Chinese to be having this at new year's, but to be honest I'm not sure if most of the Chinese have Yee Sang, or if it's just certain groups.

At any rate, I find use of the term "the Chinese" to be a gross oversimplification - reductive and patronising. (Yes, that's right Kylie Kwong, BBC Good Food magazine article, I'm looking at you...). Over one billion individuals live in China itself, not to mention the estimated 40,000,000 overseas Chinese (a group to which I proudly belong). All I feel qualified to talk about the family's traditions of my family, that my parents inherited from their families in Malaysia. How on earth would you reduce the New Year traditions of such a massive and diverse group of people to a short, lite-reading article?

Ok, rant over, back to the Yee Sang.

Basically you place all the ingredients on a plate, then the family stands up and tosses the salad together with their chopsticks. Apparently the higher you toss, the higher your luck for the new year. It's good fun. I didn't really like the taste, and found the sauce a bit strong, but my brother's girlfriend loves it. I'm guessing it's an acquired taste.

Loh Bak! Yummm....

The Kiam Chye Th'ng...

And the chicken curry! It's a bit more yellow than normal, I think I went overboard with the turmeric, hehe.

We don't really do New Year's desserts, although there'll always be tee kuih (sweet sticky glutinous rice cake thingo, comes in a big fat disc with a red and gold lucky label on the top) and some kuih bahulu (sweet dry sponge cake biscuity things) around the house. We'd usually have yam cookies too, but we're trying not to go OTT with the unhealthy food, haha.

What we did have after dinner was a small sip of something special...

Always important to have a little gold, in the hope for prosperity in the year ahead.


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  1. "How on earth would you reduce the New Year traditions of such a massive and diverse group of people to a short, lite-reading article?" - Fair deuce! Anyway, family traditions are more interesting than watered-down sweeping generalisations.

    Happy new year! All that food looks amazing...except I can't deal with jellyfish in any form :)

  2. Anonymous6:50 PM

    Hey Bulu Ketiak. you got a problem with me loving yee sang? i'll give u yee sang...Neehhh!!

  3. Happy new year!

    I missed out on it myself...sigh.

    I want my Asian food.

  4. Looks like a great feast, makes me want to be chinese, just so I can enjoy the awesome food.

    Happy New Year!!

  5. Your Kiam Chye Ark Th'ng is well cooked and beautifully taken. Congrats!

    Am glad you have not lost your touch even being away from home.

    And you won my vote. Claim it form my site.


  6. Happy New Year!
    I like the icicle in the traditional NY Scotch.

  7. A very belated Happy New Year!



My email address is sarahcooks [at] hotmail [dot] com.