lo-hei !

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lo-hei” – A toss for Happiness, Blessing, Abundance, and, well, all things good! This is the Cantonese term that describes a tradition begun in Singapore of sharing a large salad and raw fish / seafood dish called yusheng“, usually during the Lunar New Year. Everyone joins in with gusto, quite a bit of vim and vigour, to stir and toss the salad into a blended mix. The dish is delicious, a delightfully composed orchestration of lightly piquant, sweet, savoury and ‘umami’, the dish often includes ‘auspicious’ sounding fresh vegetables, pickles, raw fish, highly prized seafood, such as abalone, crab, shrimp/prawn, bound together with a sweet-sour sauce.

This Autistic Bunny is a foodie, and how absolutely, fabulously fortuitous to have a brother-in-law who was a top professional chef and now a food scientist. Never a dull meal when we’re with this chap. Always happy tummies too! Well, folks, the Lunar New Year is almost upon us, so it’s time for food-tasting, reviewing and just enjoying the goodies galore. Some of the dishes are new concoctions and others are variations on a traditional theme. This year, my brother-in-law has developed a new and superbly tasty variation of the traditional “yusheng” salad dish, and we’ve had the good fortune of several previews, in the quest to make it just perfect.

My Foodie Bunny verdict? It’s really delicious! But that’s too sweeping and general, so I’ll provide a quick hyper-sensory AutisticBunnyMe detailed summary of the dish here.

Why do I like “yusheng“? It is a beautiful dish to behold. I also enjoy the way distinct, separate entities blend together, visually and texturally still retaining each their own properties visually as well in texture and taste. Carrot is carrot, turnip is turnip etc, no mushiness (which I detest, hence my dislike for stews and curries), just clean, clear, varying degrees and harmonic reverberations of ‘crunchiness’ and ‘chewability’.

Then there is the raw fish – I have always loved raw fish, not sure why, and raw fresh oysters too. Cooked fish takes on a flaky, dry, ‘crusty’ texture that my tongue rejects upon contact, which is why I need a lot of sauce when eating cooked fish. And I avoid cooked oysters as far as I can. They taste like fishy powder.

The Premium set which I’ve been taste-testing has a plethora of yummies from the sea: Amaebi (sweet shrimp), Kajiki (swordfish), Salmon, Hotate (scallops) and Kanifumi (crab sticks) and juicy Abalone. Abalone is yet another favourite of mine. My grandfather used to give us cases of the stuff every year during the Lunar New Year season, and one of my favourite memories is opening a tin of mini abalone and stabbing at the little chewy things with a fork. All to myself, no need to share, straight out of the tin! (Of course there may be others who dislike the eccentric textures and tastes of seafood presented this way, if so, there are other variations of the dish available.)

Then there is the ‘Pork-sperity’ version that comes with bakwa – thinly sliced, tender barbecued pork jerky, another traditional favourite among the Chinese. (Our Singapore version has my top vote, I think we do it best here.) Lightly sweet and savoury, there is a mild smokiness that lingers in the mouth. I’ve never had bakwa in this dish before, it’s a new sensation to me, and since I love bakwa, this addition is a welcome change.

What struck me most was the addition of local fruit in the ‘Fruit-licious’ version: Guava, Pomelo, Mango, Pear and Rose Apple (we call it “jambu“). A quirky, unique combination, refreshing in texture, taste and fragrance. This is such a surprisingly excellent synthesis, especially as I absolutely love tropical fruit!

I’m not fond of the mandatory traditional crushed peanuts or the little puffy crackers poured on top of the dish, but they do lend added texture to the richly endowed experience. I tend to pick out the puffy crackers as I feel they interfere with my exploration of taste, texture and smell, but almost everyone loves the stuff, and it’s an auspicious symbol, so it stays.

OK, I’m almost done with my glowing review. One last thing, and a very important one: that secret recipe yuzu sauce, whatever is in there, it’s amazing! I’ve never tasted any other yusheng sauce like this one. Kudos to my talented brother-in-law. The sweet-sour traditional sauce pales in comparison to this one. This is the sauce that binds everything together into a grandly orchestrated uplifting ‘zing’ – a perfect reward for all the gung-ho efforts put into tossing the yusheng in the lohei tradition.

My personal recommendation, especially for a largish crowd? Get the Premium set + Fruit-licious set – blend and toss! Add your own bakwa if you like too. The best!

Here’re some photos from the many taste-testing sessions we’ve had. I usually dislike festive seasons, but this Lunar New Year, I really am looking forward to doing the lohei and tucking in!

(Work in Progress… arranging the components is an art in itself!)

 

(All ready for the secret sauce, and then lohei!)

 

100t7593-lohei

Mine! All mine! Now to retreat into my corner to tuck in.

Happy Lunar New Year, Every Bunny!

jumping melons

jumping melons

gyrating mandarins

broccoli crunch

crispy explosions

against tingling palate

tangy aromatics

polyphonic cacophony

grating chromatics

navigating bodies

bobbing, bumping

fading focus

dizzy, fevered

start, stop, start again

pushing rusty wheelbarrow

along bumpy path

uphill, down

left, right, across

worthy labour

just to see

loved ones

happy

it’s all good

sweet

South East Asian Chinese Pastries

South East Asian Chinese Pastries

Every culture has its sweet dishes, and these are a must-have in every major celebration. The Chinese have a host of sweet foods that are an essential part of the New Year celebrations, of course. In South East Asia, especially Singapore and Malaysia, these were modified, mainly by the Peranakan Chinese (a hybrid culture from Chinese and Malay roots). I usually prefer savoury dishes over sweet stuff, but it’s the Chinese New Year, and who can resist a good pineapple tart (centre)? Pineapple is the most popular stuffing for sweetmeats here, perhaps because it is abundant in the tropics, and its Chinese name has auspicious associations too. I have been stuffing my face of course, and I now feel like a bloated Bunny!

roti prata

Roti Prata, Fish Head curry, Nasi Bryani, Chicken Korma and Pappadam!

During the first two days of the Lunar New Year, almost all businesses owned and run by the Chinese shut down. Where do Singaporeans go for food then? To the Indian and Malay food stalls and cafes of course! How lovely it is to live in a multicultural society. Yesterday, we had Indian fare for lunch on the first day of the new year. A quiet day, usually reserved for the immediate family, and for us, it was free of noisy crowds and visitors.

From top left, clockwise: Fish Head Curry, curry sauce and Korma Chicken, Pappadam, Roti Prata, and Nasi Bryani (rice). Miam! A happy, satisfied, foodie Aspie Bunny!

 

lo hei!

Chinese New Yea / Lunar New Year is a time for celebration for most Chinese around the world. The specific customs and traditions differ slightly but it is a time for family and friends to gather, some even converging from around the world, for a few days of feasting. The Chinese are big on food. Yup. I admit it. I was born a foodie! Continue reading

catch up ketchup

It has been a flurry of activity over here for weeks now, and I know there will be more when I return to my home city for a brief visit over the Lunar New Year holidays. Over here, I have been enjoying the recent additions to our home – my girl friend, her darling Westie girl, and a beautiful Lorikeet. Yeah, the bird does make an awful racket, but he stays in the back and so I am ok. There are plenty of birds in this area anyway, so he just merely adds to the cacophony. I have not suffered from sensory or social overload as yet, because my friend is very respectful of personal space, and she is usually busy in her own room working at her computer anyway. Oh, and we mustn’t forget Panda’s homecoming too! Yes, Panda is back here, in a loving, patient home, where she belongs! Continue reading

Lunar New Year

It’s the Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year, as it is called in many Asian countries. For the majority of people, festivals and festivities are of paramount importance. They mark the key events in our personal and social lives, binding us one to another and creating a collective identity. Not to mention the ritual of food – which everyone loves!

I love the food too, and in South East Asia, that can be very eclectic because of the mixed heritages present, and the Peranakan pineapple tarts are a hot favourite of mine! Here is a pretty photograph sent to me by a friend, featuring all the wonderful dishes of the season.

Chinese New Year goodies

Chinese New Year goodies

But I am quite averse to the social and sensory dimensions of any celebrations. Too much sensory stimulation – human beings gathering in droves, everyone talking at the same time, nobody listening to anyone else apparently (apart from a terrified me) – makes it a living nightmare for my delicate and finely tuned senses. My ears literally hurt. When I was a child, grandfather would have fireworks going off from our balcony and us kids played with sparklers in the garden. I loved the technical stuff but I hated the noise and smell.

This year, I am spending the Lunar New Year with just Lucy (traditionally, the festivities last for two weeks). Just like I spent Christmas and New Year’s Eve and Day. But before you pull out the green polka dotted hanky and sob on my behalf, I assure you it was lovely. I miss the food, of course, but I really do not miss the sensory overload. Bliss, to me, is just being with my Lucy.

We did spend an hour and half at tea, on Saturday, with two lovely friends and their handsome, genteel greyhound, who Lucy adores (as does everyone else!). Lucy really loved the little terrace house, she was sniffing everything and even attempted to go upstairs! Her friend, in contrast, sat quietly on his mat throughout, putting my princess to shame in the good behaviour department. Lucy even managed to disgrace herself (and me) by stealing a few licks at the dip bowl! Oh dear!

Apart from that very sweet social occasion, it was a nice and quiet weekend. I am no specialist in traditional cooking, but I decided I should try to cook something that I used to enjoy back home. Not Chinese New Year goodies per se, but just two of my favourite familiar dishes.

1. Hainanese Chicken Rice. I cheated, I used a prepared pack of condiments, and followed the instructions. I have, in the past, tried the other one by Asian Home Gourmet, but it wasn’t half as good as this one by Prima Taste. I am beginning to become a fan of Prima Taste prepacked seasonings now! However, instead of a whole chicken, I used four chicken drumsticks. Kale is not really a normal part of the dish, but I had a lot of it in the fridge, so I parboiled a large bunch and added that to the dish. All else was pretty authentic in terms of taste – even the chilli sauce and minced ginger dip! I usually prefer light soy sauce to the dark one, so I skipped the dark sauce. And yes, tomatoes go very well with the dish too. Miam!

hainanese chicken rice

hainanese chicken rice

2. Chicken Wonton Soup. I made a batch of wonton dumpling wraps. My very first attempt to make my own. They are too cheap in Asia to bother with making one’s own. Not very expensive here in Harris Farms either, just AU$2, but I already have flour and egg, so no point spending more money on a packet of wonton wraps when I could try to do them using what I already have. Every penny saved counts. Well, the wraps turned out too thick and I cut them too large, so my wonton were giant sized ones! Oh, and I used chicken meat instead of the traditional pork favoured by the Chinese (pork was twice the price of chicken, so guess what I bought, of course?). I used the soup from the Hainanese Chicken Rice for the wonton. The dip in this photograph is a simple mixture of sesame oil and soy sauce, nothing more. Fragrant and tasty!

wonton dumplings in soup

wonton dumplings in soup

I did think of making pineapple tarts, but I was too tired.

Happy New Year of the Snake! It’s my year, so what do I hope for? Simple: creativity and health to do what I love with diligence, and some extra sponsorship would be ever so helpful so I don’t have to starve or be in debt in order to eat decently, and so that I would have a bit of money to purchase some necessary material for my installations.