A SIMPLE AND LIGHT DISH TO SHARE ON YOUR LUNAR NEW YEAR’S EVE DINNER TABLE
Kung Hei Fat Choi! It’s 2019, the year of the pig. Lunar New Year is one of the most important festivals of the year in Hong Kong. I remember how we always gathered the whole family to celebrate with a huge feast to end the year. We call it our New Year’s Eve reunion dinner(團年飯). I have a clear memory of my aunts and my grandma running around my grandma’s apartment, cooking all afternoon and rushing to get all the dishes ready to feed 20+ people. It’s like private catering! And if you know Chinese cuisine, you know that most dishes need to be served steaming hot, straight to the table, so you can imagine how stressful it was. My aunts always did fantastic job!
There are dishes you HAVE to serve on New Year’s Eve reunion dinner, because they symbolize luck, wealth, good fortune, and everything desirable for the upcoming year. To name a few, we have steamed fish, which symbolizes prosperity (年年有餘), braised sea algae moss with dried oysters, which symbolizes good fortune and business (發財好市), and braised abalone and mushrooms on a bed of lettuce, which has a similar meaning to the fish. I believe that this dish is something that non-Chinese people will particularly enjoy.
On the first brunch of Lunar New Year, we serve deep-fried dumplings filled with toasted peanuts, sugar, and shredded coconut(角仔), which symbolizes money/gold, as well as turnip cake (蘿蔔糕) and brown sugar rice cake (年糕), which both symbolize higher income or position, and many other treats that we eat on this special day and pretty much the whole week of Lunar New Year! (When it comes to New Year fitness resolutions, we start a bit later than the western calendar.)
Because I don’t usually eat abalone that often, I do it the convenient way and use canned, precooked abalone that my mom brings me when she visits. You should be able to get these in special Chinese grocery stores (see picture).
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms soaked in warm water for a minimum of 2 hours or until completely rehydrated
- 1 x 150g instant abalone in gravy, drained (reserve gravy)
- 1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 head of romaine or iceberg lettuce, washed and trimmed, broken roughly into palm size lengths
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- sunflower oil
Rinse and drain mushrooms. Slice them into roughly half centimeter widths and set aside.
Slice abalone the same way, set aside.
Using a wok or large frying pan, put about a half cup of water into the wok/pan, on high heat. Start cooking the lettuce in batches in the boiling water (doing this instead of boiling it gives the lettuce a nice nutty taste). Drained the cooked lettuce and line it up in a shallow dish.
Dry the wok and reheat it on medium high heat with a bit of oil. Flash fry the garlic until fragrant. Add mushrooms and cook until slightly brown. Add oyster sauce and give it a quick stir. Remove from heat and stir in abalone. Add abalone gravy and stir until well coated.
Finally pour abalone on the bed of lettuce and serve it with steamed rice.