Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lunar New Year - Traditions Part 2

If I had to play my family's lunar new year (or for that matter, most Chinese's lunar new year), it would be a repeat of everything, except maybe the hairstyles and clothes we wear, but everything else is a constant.  Some take comfort in the constancy, but others bore of it.  But whatever it is you feel, you have to feel that as you recall, a large part would be what you eat, and the food you identify with each household you visit.  

I tried to capture that today although I was too hungry and too quick to tuck into Gramma's yummy Lor-Hon (罗汉斋)stewed vegetables tossed with a mid-sized vermicelli, akin to the size of a slightly thicker capellini, enough to soak up the gravy to become at one with the stew, before I could even take one snapshot.  Add a little sambal belachan for heat and this one dish meal makes for a healthy start to the new year).  Dessert is gingko and snow's ears soup (雪儿银杏糖水).  A soup to lower the body's heat to ready it for all those new year goodies we readily consume with abandon this time of year (and pay penance for later). 

From my Sei Yup side to my Chiu Chow Shantow side, my aunt is now the sole disciple in the family of my paternal grandmother's braised duck.  Bless my grandmother soul, this is probably the best in Singapore - none of that thick gooey stuff with strong whiffs of herbs that the likes of the South Buona Vista folks claim to fame, this is the real McCoy where it's all about the fragrance of the spices that are rubbed on, the texture of the duck once treated right, and finally the quality of the soya sauce it bathes in prior to being served.  A process which should not take less than 48 hours, the results speak for themselves.  Tender, and effortless chewing, with hints of the spices as you ingest, this is sadly becoming a lost art in Singapore.  I look to Hong Kong to satisfy my cravings since there are more Chiu Chownese there and where the poultry star is goose (fatter and more succulent than duck).  I regret not becoming disciple of my late grandmother and will have to somehow take the time to learn it from my aunt soon enough.  

Dessert is also a Chiu Chow tradition of Steamed yam paste with gingko and pumpkin  (芋泥).  With bits of yam still in the paste, you know everything is handmade and not thrown into a blender.  Interspersed with generous amounts of soft pumpkin and gingko to give it added texture and taste, it was a nice finish and not cloyingly sweet as they do them in restaurants.

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