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Packed with a variety of different ingredients, pen cai is a great way to satisfy everybody’s taste buds. This version of the Hakka pen cai uses a light broth flavoured with seafood and meat instead of the usual braised sauce.


  • 300g dried sea cucumber
  • 100 g soya beans
  • 250 g chicken bones
  • 200 g chicken feet
  • 2 litres water
  • 2 tsps oyster sauce
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 300 g napa cabbage (wong bok), washed, each leaf sliced into three or four pieces
  • 300 g yam, skin removed, sliced into 1cm-thick slices, quartered and deep-fried
  • 80 g dried shiitake mushrooms, washed, soaked (save soaking liquid for stock), stems trimmed
  • 200 g steamed chicken, chopped into chunks
  • 200 g roast duck, chopped into chunks
  • 200 g roast pork, sliced into 1cm-thick pieces
  • 200 g fish maw, soaked in hot water and blanched
  • 300 g prawns, washed, feelers and legs trimmed
  • 80 g dried oysters, washed, soaked and drained dry
  • 80 g fresh scallops
  • 300 g pork tendon, boiled and sliced into 8cm-long pieces
  • 150 g abalone or about eight pieces (save liquid in the can for stock)
  • 20 g black moss, soaked and strained

To prepare the sea cucumber: One day before cooking the pen cai, wash the sea cucumber and leave to soak overnight. The next day, wash again and continue soaking.


When the texture becomes soft enough to be cut, use a pair of scissors to snip down the length of one side.


Bring a pot of water to a boil and boil the sea cucumber for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and continue soaking. Repeat this procedure three times.


Clean out its intestines and portion into 8cm-long pieces. Set aside.


To make the stock: Place the soya beans, chicken bones and chicken feet in a deep pot. Pour water in and bring to a boil.


Stir in the oyster sauce, salt, sugar and sesame oil. Boil for at least 1 hour and set aside.


To assemble the pen cai: In a large claypot, place a flat steaming tray at the bottom. This is to prevent ingredients from getting burnt. Place the napa cabbage, yam, and mushrooms at the base of the pen cai as these ingredients take longer to cook.


Add the chicken, duck, roast pork, fish maw, sea cucumber, prawns, dried oysters, scallops, tendon, abalone and black moss.


To the stock, add the liquid from the canned abalone and the water the mushrooms were soaked in. You should end up with about 2 litres. Then, pour the stock into the claypot. There should be enough stock to cover all the ingredients. If it is insufficient, add more water.


Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat for 30 mins. Ensure the liquid does not dry up. If necessary, add more stock or water.


Season to taste and serve hot.

Recipe: Chef Then Chui Foong/Euraco Finefood / Photo: Alvin Ho/The Straits Times

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