To keep Chinese New Year reunion dinners fun and interesting, why not add lucky ingredients? As well as tasting great, these ingredients make wonderful conversation topics if you run out of things to talk about with relatives that you last saw many months ago. Featuring auspicious ingredients, we have picked five CNY-worthy recipes from the cookbook of Singapore chef and author Pamelia Chia, who is now based in Australia. Her cookbook, Wet Market To Table is packed with recipes for your cooking and feasting pleasure.
About the chef-author: Before she left for Australia, chef Pamelia Chia, affectionately known as Ah Pam, who used to helm the curry and charcoal grill sections in the Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant, Candlenut, recently launched Wet Market To Table, her “love song to the markets”, whereas a child, she used to accompany her mother, and as an adult chef, where she finds joy as she admires the produce and becomes immersed in the stories of the vendors.
As a child, Pamelia Chia dreaded the Chinese New Year. She shares, “I used to dislike Chinese New Year when I was younger because I considered it an excruciating frenzy of dressing meticulously and socialising with people just for propriety’s sake.”
However, moving away in Melbourne caused Pamelia to change her views. “Having lived overseas for years, I view it from a different lens now. It is such a blessing to have a holiday where the whole family gathers for a meal and can catch up with one another.
“I once celebrated Chinese New Year overseas by having a mediocre, overpriced meal at a Chinese restaurant. While back in Singapore, my family and friends were having amazing celebratory feasts. It made me think about how in Chinese culture, one communicates love and kinship through food more than words or physical affection.”
Pamelia understands that preparing a meal for the whole family can be daunting, and shares a few tips to stay in control when preparing your reunion recipes:
CNY Cooking: Tips to Stay in Control
* Don’t veer too far from tradition. “Definitely keep your menu Chinese or CNY-appropriate. There are some recipes in the book that are particularly festive, such as the boneless stuffed chicken, salt-baked chicken with sand ginger sauce, Cantonese roast duck, and prosperity claypot.”
* Serve dishes you feel confident about. Pamelia shares, “If you can, I would recommend either practising before the CNY meal or falling back on the reunion recipes in your repertoire.”
* Aim for high impact, low effort. “When preparing a multi-course meal, it is crucial to not be too ambitious with your [reunion recipes]. Keep to a maximum of one labour-intensive dish, and keep the rest easy. A high-impact, low-input dish from the book is the clams with laksa leaves. It is one of the quickest yet most gratifying recipes in the book!”.
* If you are really time-pressed, go with steamboat! “All you have to do is cook rice (or skip the rice and have some quick-cooking noodles instead), whip up some dipping sauces and do light preparation on the meat and vegetables. The soup base for the Teochew fish soup in the book is a great one for this. ”
Wet Market To Table (published by Epigram), at $44.90, is available at leading bookstores and at shop.epigrambooks.sg.