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Lunar New Year Planner - Suggestions for the Reunion Dinner

The next Lunar New Year, that under the sign of the Snake, begins on 10 February 2013. It is occasion for the extended family to gather on the eve and take dinner together.  Here are some ideas for table servings to complement such gatherings. Above, blueberries and strawberries form a delightful and eye-catching combination.  Below, slices of the chu chu kueh or the kueh bingka, sitting beautifully on a round plate - made of tapioca flour, firmed with coconut milk and added with egg, sugar and essence of the pandanus leaf, this traditional item echoes a link with tradition and uniqueness with societies in South-east Asia.

Two essential sauces in Asian related cooking and serving, the pounded or blended fresh chilies (left in picture above) and the hoi sin sauce (right on top).  Both of them are compulsory for diners when eating the poh pniah rolls, originally from Fujian in China. The sauces are spread on to your warp skins before filling them up with cooked or fresh ingredients and then parceling all up for a zesty bite.

Oven roasted pork, with crackle and kick, must be cut up carefully to bite-sized portions to accompany noodles or rice, or eaten by themselves.  Pork signifies plenty and wealth, hence the popularity of roasted suckling pigs in many cultures like Spain, Germany, Thailand, Vietnam and China.

Tamarind flavoured prawns are deep fried on the shell and are a must for gracing festive occasions in most of Asia. (above)  Below, a serving of the kapitan chicken with steamed rice, a curry unique to Medan, Malacca, Penang and Singapore.  This version of curry has strong influences from Thailand, Indonesia and the Malayan peninsular itself, in that galangal, kaffir lime leaves, tumeric, lime juice, candlenuts and lemon grass are utilised, in contrast to Indian curries.

Kari Kapitan (adapted by Phong Hong Bakes from At Home with Amy Beh)

Ingredients :
- 4 chicken legs cut into 8 pieces
- 1 packet coconut cream (200ml)
- salt and sugar to taste
- lime juice from one lime
- oil for frying

Spice Paste Ingredients :
- 4 dried chillies, soaked
- 4 fresh chillies soaked
- 20 shallots
- 5 cloves garlic
- 3 stalks lemongrass
- 1 inch tumeric
- 5 candlenuts (buah keras)
- 1 heaped tablespoon belacan granules

Method :
1. Blend spice paste ingredients.

2. Heat oil  in a wok and saute spice paste until aromatic and oil rises on top. If you find the spice paste is too dry, add a bit of coconut milk.

3. Add chicken and mix until chicken is covered with spice paste.

4. Pour coconut milk into the wok and simmer over low fire until chicken is cooked and tender

5. Taste and add sugar and salt to taste.

6. Serve with white rice, roti jala or bread.

Note : I did not dilute the coconut cream because from experience, the chicken will bleed water. I want my curry to be thick and not runny.

For dessert, why not try fresh mango slices on top of a sago pudding laden with coconut milk?  This light dish is neither too sweet nor heavy on the palate.  Unlike in China itself, the Lunar New Year in Australia, New Zealand and South-east Asia is celebrated in sweaty conditions - and this cooling proposal may be most welcome.  Below, shredded pieces of turnips  for the poh pniah rolls.  Lettuce forms the basis of a firmed up roll, but only remembering to spread the chili and hoi sin pastes first on the wrapper skin.  The lettuce also serves as  a natural cup for the other and mainly shredded ingredients before folding. The other ingredients are julienned carrots, fine sliced French beans, narrow strip cucumbers, crispy deep fried shallots, fried and crushed peanuts and shelled cooked shrimps.  The fun part about having poh pniah is that every one can roll up their sleeves and participate to roll their own servings for the festive feast.

The above dishes were photographed at the home of Mr and Mrs Boo Ann and Susan Yap in Carlingford, NSW.


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