In Singapore, Chinese New Year is celebrated with great anticipation and vibrancy, especially within the Chinese community. This festive season stands out as one of the most significant cultural events, marked by a rich tapestry of traditions and joyous gatherings and reunions that reflect the deep-rooted heritage and customs of the Chinese ethnicity.
And what's a celebration without a feast?
Asia, a continent renowned for its culinary richness, offers an array of sumptuous dishes that bring rich flavours and diversity to the festivities. In this article, we dive into the top 5 Asian dishes that not just tantalise your taste buds but also add extra zest to your Chinese New Year reunion lunch or dinner.
1. Appetiser: Goi Ga – A Refreshing Vietnamese Salad
Embark on a culinary adventure with Goi Ga, a Vietnamese salad that dances on the palate as the perfect appetiser for your Chinese New Year feast. This dish, which means 'chicken salad,' is a melange of fragrant, aromatic ingredients that come together in a celebration of textures and tastes which are pleasing and light on your guests' palates.
Imagine a canvas of crisp, fresh cabbage and sweet carrots accentuated with zingy red onion. The tender and perfectly cooked chicken blends harmoniously with the heat of chillies and fresh herbs. Each bite explores sweet and sour, thanks to a sugar and fish sauce dressing. Remember to include a sprinkle of crispy golden shallots and a handful of unsalted peanuts to add the final touch to this vibrant Vietnamese cuisine.
2. Lo Han Choi – A Vegetarian Delight
Lo Han Chai, also popularly known as 'Buddha's Delight,' is an auspicious dish that is not just a staple in Chinese New Year feasts. It's a common presence in our 'Zi Char' stalls, blending into the vibrant tapestry of Singaporean cuisine.
Curious about the origin of its fascinating name?
Originating from the monastic kitchens of Buddhist monks, this braised vegetarian dish is traditionally savoured on the first day of the Chinese New Year.
Lo Han Chai, embodies the versatility of vegetarian culinary art as a dish that reflects the unique recipes of individual families. Each household brings its own flair to create a version that presents its preferred taste and ingredients, showcasing the creativity inherent in vegetarian cooking.
At its core, you'll find various vegetables, each with a distinct texture and flavour. From the umami-rich shiitake mushrooms to the delicate sheets of beancurd, from the slivers of bamboo shoots to the crunch of water chestnuts – every ingredient adds a different dimension of flavours and textures. Garlic, daikon radish and carrots join this harmonious blend, each enhanced by the braising cooking method that highlights their natural sweetness and robust flavours.
3. Tom Yum Goong – Spicy and Sour Thai Soup
Tom Yum Goong, a beloved Thai cuisine, is known for its bold and explosive flavours. This hearty soup is made from a medley of fragrant herbs and spices, including lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and red Thai chilli resulting in a unique blend of tanginess and spiciness that awakens the taste buds of your guests.
To whip up a delicious Tom Yum Goong pot, you must ensure the freshness of its seafood ingredients, such as prawns, squid, clams or fish slices. These star ingredients infuse the dish with rich umami flavours, transforming it into a truly enjoyable bowl of comforting soup.
If your guests have a penchant for spicy cuisine, include Tom Yum Goong in your Chinese New Year celebration as the centrepiece of your reunion dinner's steamboat soup base. This hot and hearty dish will inject your family gathering with a burst of vibrant flavours, symbolising the enthusiasm and anticipation of the approaching new year.
4. Pot Stickers – Crispy Dumplings
Potstickers, also known as crispy dumplings, hold a cherished place in Chinese Dim Sum.
These dumplings are popular side dishes during the Chinese New Year festivities as they are meticulously shaped to resemble gold and silver ingots, symbolising wealth and prosperity in the coming year.
These delightful dumplings consist of thin, round wrappers generously filled with an array of delectable ingredients such as crisp cabbage, succulent shrimp and seasoned minced pork. Family members will gather around the dining table to wrap these bite-sized Dim Sum together as part of the Chinese New Year reunion feast preparation.
The dumplings will undergo a unique cooking process of steam frying as they gradually cook to perfection. For the ultimate crispiness bottom, consider this tip: once the liquid from the steam has evaporated, uncover the lid and fry the dumplings using a tong under gentle heat until they turn golden brown.
5. Bubur Cha Cha – Creamy Dessert
No reunion feast is truly complete without the sweet embrace of a well-loved local dessert.
Bubur Cha Cha is a delightful Peranakan favourite that weaves together the sweetness of fruits and vegetables, including yams or taros, a variety of sweet potatoes and tapioca pearls with the aromatic creamy coconut milk, perfumed with the fragrance of pandan leaves and sweetness from palm sugar.
Its tender, sweet, and rich nutritional profile makes it an excellent dessert choice suitable for both the young and the young at heart. This colourful dessert can be enjoyed warm or cold. Create a surprise for your guests by adding a modern twist to the traditional Bubur Cha Cha recipe with special ingredients such as banana, black-eyed peas or grated coconut.
There is no better time than the Chinese New Year celebrations to indulge in mouthwatering Asian dishes at the dining table with our loved ones amidst heartfelt conversations and genuine connections.