The highlight of Chinese New Year, besides the visiting and eating of bak kwa, is the reunion dinner. These days, most families eat out to erase the burden of cooking, thus allowing everyone to enjoy reunion dinner with no cooking/cleaning up duties! Being teochew (on mom’s side), we usually opt for a teochew style reunion dinner and for the past few years, we have been returning to Hang Kang Teochew Restaurant for some good wholesome Chinese cooking.
Lo Hei – it’s become like a ritual of sorts in Singapore, but the lo hei that is served here is quite different from the usual Cantonese style lo hei. Instead of the salmon and other brightly coloured ingredients that are indicative of Cantonese style lo hei, Teochew lo hei consists of raw white fish, plum sauce, sesame oil and a plate of fresh greens on the side. First, the sauces are spread all over the fish, followed by the greens and a simple tossing and mixing of the ingredients. You rarely hear the boisterous shouting of chinese phrases and idioms wishing one another good health and fortune. Indeed, the restaurant’s website describes this as a lo hei of a quieter and more elegant kind. One might call this tradition (which is quite different from the stereotypical lo hei), snobbish. But then again, one would respond: why depart from your own traditions even though it is not the norm? Are we not all just celebrating the same thing?
Next up: Shark’s fin soup with crab meat and shredded fish maw. Since shark’s fin is quite a delicacy nowadays, restaurants try to substitute or compensate it with crab meat and/or fish maw. To be honest, I’m not too bothered by the composition of it – most people I know who shun shark’s fin avoid it for ethical and not taste reasons. I usually add lots of pepper to mine because I think it really enhances the soup. Others may add vinegar as well. Hang Kang delivers a good version of the Shark fin’s soup. The texture is deliciously thick and they were very generous with the ingredients.
Teochew sliced duck meat: Have I mentioned that I love duck, braised duck in particular? This was typical teochew fare: braised duck meat over a layer of soft tofu cubes. The meat was tender and the dish had been cooked long enough such that the tofu was drenched in the dark sauce. This was one of my favourites of the night.
Steamed pomfret: the key to this dish is a fresh fish and it is very easy to feel it if the fish is not fresh. Unfortunately, there seemed to be something missing in this dish… it was good, but the table felt that it could have been better.
What’s reunion dinner without some stewed vegetables with mushrooms, sea cucumber and abalone? I’m not really a big fan of abalone so I ended giving up most of it back to M. To me, the cabbage, mushrooms and sea cucumber were enough to make this a good dish.
At last dessert! There were noodles too earlier but I failed to take a picture of it. Traditional teochew dessert = oh ngee (yam paste) with mandarin orange. I really love yam paste but I felt that it could have been done better if the orange was substituted for ginko nuts instead. The orange gave a rather bitter aftertaste which I didn’t really like.
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