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
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
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
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.