Monday, 26 January 2009

chinese new year - reunion dinner

Dressed in our super ang-y best, last night we went to my parents' house for reunion dinner, as is customary on Chinese New Year's Eve.

The foods we eat for Chinese New Year have meanings beyond it's traditional; we eat noodles for longevity, and fish, as always, for abundance. The meal is loud and messy, and the table is always crowded with old friends.

reunion dinner: crispy chicken

Unlike with Christmas, my problem since going vego has not been "what do I eat?;" rather it has been the removal of the ability to share everything, every person taking a little from each dish, yelling across the table and throwing the scraps beside one's bowl.

This year my sister and I pushed together several tables to make the biggest table ever; my mum cooked a dozen dishes, half of them vegan and half of them not; and this was an awesome way to do it, being able to share with everyone so many dishes, and finally I felt like it was a proper CNY reunion dinner.

reunion dinner: mushrooms and gailan

There were noodles, and claypot vegies, and mock fish and crispy chicken and some mushrooms with gailan, and fresh mango and grapes and it was the best.

I am not a giant fan of mock meat, but it is for things such as this that it was invented, for these traditional banquets where the way you say it means everything, and I am just glad that they were incidentally tasty, and in the end there was no mock meat left because everyone had eaten it all.

The photos didn't work out fantastic, I was busy cooking and D was busy with jetlag, but you get the idea.

reunion dinner: fish = plenty


恭喜发财, happy new year and also happy Australia/invasion day.

15 comments:

Vegetation said...

Mmm it all looks wonderful! And I'm glad you have something you can share with your family. It's always nice to be able to share in a meal instead of feeling like you have one dish and it's just you eating it. Happy Chinese New Year/Australia Day!

tevere said...

Happy new year and gung hei fat choi! I'm just a lurker, but I thought I'd take this opportunity to say that I've enjoyed reading your posts over the last year.

I think I'm going to take your mock meat idea on for next new year, too. This year I was craving that lucky black hair fungus and pork dish, but went without rather than experiment. (Also, my fungus options are kind of limited around here. Only one kind of dried mushroom! Sacrilege!) But I'll experiment with mock meats and see if I can come up with something authentic tasting by 2010...

Jean said...

now that looks like the real way to celebrate CNY! what an amazing spread of yummy-looking dishes! It's making me hungry now. :P

Ricki said...

So glad you were able to share! And I'm not a fan of fake meat, either, but this sounded like a great compromise. Happy Chinese New Year! :)

a vegan about town said...

Hi Vegetation - Yeah, it was nice to be able to share, because it is the act of sharing everything that is the very important part of the whole thing. Happy New Year and I hope your Australia Day was good.

a vegan about town said...

Tevere, Gung Hei Fat Choi! I was really reluctant to do the mock meat thing, but in the end it worked out very well. We even had some char siu in the freezer but we decided we'd prepared too much food!

I find that sometimes it tastes exactly right, and sometimes it tastes nothing like. I made kapitan recently, using mock chicken, and it was perfect, exactly right consistency, flavour, all the rest of it.

Also only one dried mushroom?! That is pretty shameful of Sydney!

a vegan about town said...

Hi Jean! It was a really great way to celebrate CNY, I love the food most of all the traditions, I think.

Hi Ricki! Yeah, I was really happy to share the meal with everyone.

Theresa said...

I think those photos look pretty great! Happy year of the ox!

a vegan about town said...

Thanks Theresa! Happy New Year to you also!

tevere said...

There's cha siu mock meat? Have you tried using it in bao? I have some bao mix floating around, but I always find chive/mushroom ones a little unsatisfying -- I guess my palate is trained to expect that cha siu sweet salty savouryness.

I'm sure Sydney has many dried mushrooms! But I live in East Timor. There's a reasonable Chinese-Timorese population, but only a really random selection of Chinese groceries at any one time, sadly. No nian gao...

a vegan about town said...

I'm so sorry Tevere, I thought you were in Sydney! Did you previously live in Sydney?

There is cha siu mock meat, in fact I had some just on Monday. I have not yet tried to make bao using cha siu, mostly because I have yet to try making bao at all but I really want to give it a go. Is it hard, do you know?

tevere said...

I was in Sydney a couple of days earlier this month, but no -- I'm originally from Melbourne, and I grew up in Adelaide.

I've never made bao, either -- I thought I'd start with a packet mix, but the instructions are so mysterious that I never got around to it! (I think I'm missing a complementary packet of mix.) Making it from scratch doesn't sound too hard, though, especially if you're comfortable with making bread (here's a recipe). I might try this weekend with an eggplant filling -- I'll let you know if it's a pain in the neck.

a vegan about town said...

Tevere, definitely let me know how it goes! OH BAO.

tevere said...

So: bao. I made that recipe I linked to above, with a spicy eggplant filling (eggplant, shallots, garlic, hot bean paste, chilli, pickled yellow capsicum, five spice, soy, rice wine, veggie oyster sauce). Making the bao isn't hard, exactly -- it's a nice fun dough to work with. There's lots of waiting around while the dough rises in its various stages, and it takes ages to steam all the buns if you can only do seven at a time like me (one small bamboo steamer and a colander, not exactly ideal). 24 bao is... quite a lot of bao. And you know how they're only really good if they're straight out of the steamer. The recipe claims you can freeze, but I dunno.

These bao had a slightly leathery outside, but inside were decently light and fluffy. I think the key is not rolling the dough too thin -- the filling can make a too-thin dough kind of soggy rather than fluffy. Not the best bao I've ever eaten, but definitely okay. I'd recommend a drier, more toothsome filling than the one I used. You don't want a slimy inside to your bao, unless it's custard. Fried, crumbled tempe (pre-marinated in soy and palm sugar?) mixed with eggplant would be great, I think. Or mock cha siu!

This is what mine looked like while rising.

disa said...
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