Thursday, February 17, 2011

Three Celebrations in One

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Happy Chap Goh Mei (Wikipedia spell it Meh) - Hokkien dialect meaning 15th Night. Today is the 15th day of the new Lunar Year and the end of the celebration. Usually the evening starts with a special dinner, may not be as grand, as the Chinese New Year's Eve dinner with loved ones. There would be a lantern procession in town. This lantern possession is different from the Mid-Autumn festival (Mooncake Festival). The Chap Goh Mei lantern procession see beautifully decorated floats, built by organisations and companies, lion dances, etc. The difference is that on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, little children are allowed to carry a lighted lantern and walked outside the home, together with their older siblings or their parents. And they loved it.

Here I would like to share with you how my year of the Rabbit was so far.....

A delightful surprise gift on Saturday, 5th February 2011, in our mail box - a Chinese New Year card together with an Ang Pow - Teochew dialect meaning red packet - containing $20. I never imagine.

We had to postpone our Chinese New Year's Eve dinner (Wednesday, 2nd February 2011) because of the blizzard on the 1st February! Travelling is out of the question, for our guests.

While we were stuck at home in the cold winter day, I imagined my children visiting their relatives, enjoying the fellowshipping, feasting and the festival atmosphere. This is the time of the year that nothing is more meaningful than to be with your family loved ones, not just one but as many as possible.

Having guests to join us is good because it instills the desire for me to cook. As I get older, I get lazier cooking! I wouldn't be lazy if I have my children to cook for as well.

For this year's celebration, I bought Mandarin tangerines instead of the valencia oranges. It is the only closest similarity to the Mandarin oranges, that I am used to for this festive season. I think Mandarin tangerine is smaller in size but the skin is quite similar to the Mandarin orange. I thought Mandarin tangerines have the same Chinese New Year symbol as any oranges but not quite. Tangerines, sound as "luck" in Chinese, therefore are symbolic of good luck while the oranges, sound as "wealth" in Chinese, therefore are symbolic of wealth.

Chinese New Year dinner is only once a year so I decided to cook different from my usual. Thanks to the internet, there are lots of recipes to choose from.

(1) Sweet and Sour Pork (the healthier way) - I don't like the popular way of the pork being coated with batter and deep fried. What I would omit next time, with this recipe, is the cornstarch. I don't like starchy dishes.

(2) Braised Chicken Feet in Soya Sauce

This is interesting. I converted the weight of the meat from gms into lbs wrongly. The recipe calls for 600g of fresh chicken feet. I had 1.5 lbs. So that is okay for the recipe. BUT my mind was stuck with 1 lb = 1000g! And so I ended up using 3 times the light and dark soya sauce, the spices and other ingredients. No wonder it turned out to be salty.

My common sense should have realised that there was something wrong with the amount of ingredients I was using for that amount of meat, but I was determined to follow the recipe diligently. I am sure the chicken feet would taste great if I hadn't mistook the weight. I thought maybe the recipe is meant to be salty, as they are eaten with the rice. I have my own style of cooking the chicken feet. No specific amount of soya sauce. It depends how I want my dish to turn out.

I think Mike and our guests were being polite when they said the chicken feet tasted just fine OR maybe they have salty tongues! I used some of the left-overs in my vegetable soup today, and it was delicious since the chicken feet were already salted.

They said that eating chicken feet is good for our joints because they are full of collagen. That is why the sauce is succulent when we cook them slowly for a long time. The sauce is like a gelatin when it is cooled down. That is why there is no flour needed to thicken the chicken feet sauce!

(3) Stir-fried Prawns in Tomato Sauce
Again this recipe calls for gms in prawns and I regarded the 1.09 lbs I had as 1.09 kg! After the end result of the chicken feet, I decided not to follow the seasoning part anymore. I did, however used 4 times the amount of tomatoes and spring onions, but that was okay. I liked the dish! Next time I am going to omit the potato flour so that it is not starchy.

(4) Stir-fried Kung Pao Chicken - I like this dish. No problem with this as the meat was in ounces.

(5) Beef - Broccoli Stir Fry - this is a tricky recipe. It calls for a small chuck roast and no weight. It turns out alright except that I had too much water. And I would omit the cornstarch next time.

(6) Baked Snapper with Black Bean Sauce
I used the black bean sauce recipe from the 'Easy Baked Salmon with Bake Bean Sauce'

Traditionally the fish should be served whole for Chinese New Year to symbolise prosperity. I cut off the fins because they pricked my hands and the tail was cut because I can't get the whole fish in my baking tray. I guess I wouldn't prosper this Rabbit year.

I was however disappointed that Mike dumped the black bean sauce that the fish was sitting and marinating in. I had asked him to help put the tray of fish into the oven. He said the sauce would make the fish soggy and he didn't like soggy fish. He is a good cook. He has his own way of cooking. He forgot I was the cook this time, and he should have asked me :( Lesson learnt: be clear in our instructions, don't assume people know.

Luckily it turned out alright. The fish had been marinated. I would have used whatever remaining sauce in the tray, after baking, and pour over the fish.

Well, since the dinner was held on Wednesday 16 February, we decided to consider it the Chinese New Year's Eve Dinner (2nd February), the Saint Valentine's Day (14th February) as well as the Chap Goh Mei aka Chinese Valentine's Day (17th February).

Mike gave me a card, a limoge box and a balloon for St. Valentine's day.

The celebration of the new Lunar Chinese New Year of the Rabbit has passed.

Wishing everyone Happiness, Joy, Health, Success, Innovation, Safety, Serenity, Peace, Love, Blessings, Generosity, Wisdom and may your dreams come true.

Beauty in the Eyes of the Beholder

Monday, 7 February 2011

I saw this guy with his long pleated hair at a grocery store. To me, minus the beard, I thought he looked like the famous American actor Brat Pritt. I knew this guy definitely wasn't.

I don't see men with that length of hair. I believe the Sikhs have longer hair because they don't cut their hair, roll them on top of their head and covered them with turbans.

This guy told me that he stopped cutting his hair since the 80's and hadn't comb his hair since the 90's.

I wondered what happened if he caught lice! I wondered how his companion can stand it. It would smell, from sweat, in the hot and humid weather.