03 February 2011

reunion dinner


Yesterday was Chinese New Year Eve, and every year I would organise a table at a chinese restaurant on new year's eve for a 12 course new year banquet. It was my way of keeping an important part of the new year tradition - the reunion dinner (any tradition food-related is worth keepng I reckon!). This dinner is normally held at the maternal home and all immediate family members would come home (from wherever you now live) for this get together. If you don't see each other through the year, this is meant to be the one time everyone catches up.

Living now in NZ, my table would normally be graced by close friends, my Aunty Irene and her partner. Through the years, the numbers at the table grew as friends found partners, had children and did family/couply things. It was starting to feel like herding cats!

So I thought instead of a dinner, lets do a daytime yum cha. Much more laid back and timing wasn't such a drama. Alas...except for my Aunty Irene and partner, no one. Not a single soul could make it even for the yum cha! Disappointment was an understatement. :-(

But hey. Where and when food is involved, there is no backing down. There is always an alternative.

So negotiations with my mate at the chinese restaurant began. Instead of a set 12-course banquet dinner for 10, could we do an 8-course dinner for 6? Take this dish away, minus the braised paua dish (yuck...pe! pe!), make these dishes half the size, etc...and we had A FEAST! And unlike other years, we made a good dent in the dishes with very little leftover.

Check out the shots of some of the dishes we had below - I say 'some' 'cos I got carried away when the dishes started coming out and the camera phone was a distant memory...


Roast Duck with Crispy skin and Spicy Plum Dipping Sauce

Steamed Chicken with Ginger and Spring Onions Dipping Sauce (like for Hainanese Chicken Rice) 

The duck was done fabulously - skin nice and crispy, the fat that sat under the skin melted in your mouth and the flesh was still moist. And that ginger and spring onion dip...I could have that as a condiment with ANYTHING.



Braised Oysters with Chinese Mushrooms and Fat Choy (an algae aka black moss or nostoc)

So I was the only one that did not have any of the braised oysters. Been there, tried it - twice. Can't say I liked it, can't say I'll ever eat one again. But it did impart the most earthy rich taste to the sauce - perhaps maybe because they were dried/smoked oysters as opposed to fresh ones.

And the 'fat choy' - every year I look forward to seeing people's faces when they're faced with fat choy. Even friends who have eaten it at my reunion dinners annually still have dubious (some - horrified) looks on their faces when this comes to the table. Nevermind that the sauce makes it all look like slimey, gloopy black hair. But if you have nerves of steel and can get past the not-so-appetizing look, the taste couldn't be further than the looks. Promise! ;-)



Prawns with Rock Salt

The simplest of dishes and yet, ohhhh so flavoursome. The chef must have fried the prawns with very very hot oil - 'cos the flesh was done just right and the head, tail and all the little bits were so crispy that I ate all of it. Yep. Head included. Chomp, chomp, crunch, chomp... And there were these small bits of crunchy rock salt that provided lovely bursts of saltiness to the naturally sweet prawns. And I can tell you, no one was shy about using their fingers. That was how good these were!



Far top right (you can just see it) - Kai Lan Vegetables and Scallops with Osyter Sauce
What is...or was the Steamed Blue Cod with Spring Onions, Ginger and Coriander

Ok. So remember how I said earlier that I got carried away? Well...the fish dish is prime example. We just about cleaned it from its bone before 'S' asked if I was getting a photo of it! I know - its a photo of a very messy, almost finished dish, litrally just skin and bones. But its evidence of how good it was. Remember...most westerners don't like eating fish that's not filleted (i.e. boneless, skinless and tasteless). To have polished this off says something about this dish, don't you think??!



'S' and his piece of fish cheek

I have taught my 'ang mo' (i.e. pakeha/white man/westerner) boyfriend well. He was the one who poked around and retrieved the fish cheeks - one for him and one for me. I won't go into detail here about fish cheeks. But for those in the know...isn't my 'S' a clever boy?!!!

I've promised 'S' to cook something special for tonight's new year's dinner. But its almost 5pm and I'm not feeling inspired. I did spy some zuchinni flowers in my landlords vegetable patch......

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