A New Beginning

This Chinese New Year is the fourth I celebrated with Wuan’s family in Ipoh. Something is different this year. I was embraced by a sense of belonging, a sense of familiarity, a sense of festivity that I have not experienced in a long time, not since my mother’s death in 2003.

In the subsequent years after her passing, I had consciously chosen not to partake in the celebrations. I was simply too disraught to even think of making merry. Festivals were mostly spent in quiet reflections of the sacrifices she made to ensure that I was never in need.

Although the pain of losing her is still as fresh today as it was seven years ago, I realised that the grieving has to end somewhere for the living to begin. The advent of the new spring is as good a time as can be to start afresh. That was what I did and intend to do from now on.

New She Lai Ton Restaurant yee sang
Flavourful salmon yee sang from New She Lai Ton Restaurant.
Photo by Wuan.

We spent four days in Ipoh, taking along Fei Por and Cheeky with us for their vaccinations and annual check-up at the Ipoh Garden Animal Clinic. As for us, it was feasting, feasting and more feastings. Needless to say, the Chinese New Year season is the most difficult time for me to keep to my low-protein diet.

New She Lai Ton Restaurant red cooked pig trotter with black moss
Hung siew chu sau with fatt choy (Red cooked pig trotter with black moss).
Photo by Wuan.

Of all the restaurants we ate at, we liked the food most at the New She Lai Ton Restaurant. We had one half portion of salmon yee sang and three simple dishes as there were only Wuan’s parents and us for that meal. The yee sang came in a very generous serving. We had to confirm with the waitress to be sure it was indeed for us. Of all the yee sang I have eaten this year, this is the best.

New She Lai Ton Restaurant steamed fish with tau kan
Steamed king grouper fish (long tan) with tau kan.
Photo by Wuan.

The hung siew pig trotter with black moss was well marinated and tender. I actually had to stop myself from eating too much. Next up was the steamed fish fillet with tau kan (bean curd sheets). It was done just right despite the restaurant being almost full. The stir-fried lai pak with garlic looked deceivingly plain but was tasty.

New She Lai Ton Restaurant stir fried lai pak with garlic
Stir fried lai pak.
Photo by Wuan.

The food was so good that my mother-in-law is already planning the next reunion dinner and new year lunch at this restaurant. Wuan and I certainly do not have any objection. We all left the restaurant with our appetites fully satiated. Most importantly, the restaurant is accessible from the car park. We usually have a hard time selecting a restaurant that I could get into.

The joy of celebrating the Chinese New Year, the rekindling of family ties and the sitting down for a good meal together have all stirred up that warm and fuzzy feeling in me. Finally, after so many years, I have again found the reason to be happy during these auspicious occasions.

Braised Dried Oyster With Black Moss – Hou Si Fatt Choy

Braised dried oyster with black moss
Braised dried oyster with black moss – Hou Si Fatt Choy.

When I wrote about eating my last festive cuisine in 2005, I really though I would never get the opportunity to savour hou si fatt choy again. That was five years ago. From then till now, I have diligently maintained a low-protein low-purine and low-salt diet. At the same time, I perform the clean intermittent catheterisation on schedule and take Detrusitol as prescribed. Those effort has paid off. The deterioration of my renal function has stabilised.

For this Chinese New Year, Wuan and I decided to cook this auspicious dish. Most of the restaurants that we patronised for our Chinese New Year meals did not have it in their menus. We used the recipe as a guide but did not adhere to the portions strictly. After all, to me, cooking is not an exact science. As long as we get the taste right, a little bit more of this and a little less of that would not make much difference.

Wuan bought eight extra-large dried oysters, black moss and shiitake mushrooms from one of the Chinese grocery shops in Petaling Street. During one of our weekend grocery shopping trips, we bought a small bottle of oyster sauce and a bottle of thick soya sauce. The day before we were to cook the dish, Wuan bought 300gms of roasted pork belly and half a head of Chinese cabbage from the wet market in Pandan Perdana.

This dish is actually very easy to prepare. The only ingredients that need cutting are the Chinese cabbage, garlic, shallots, ginger and removing the stem from the shiitake mushrooms. Wuan got the siu yuk seller to cut the roasted pork to size. We used only four of the extra large oysters and added four smaller ones that she usually used for soups. The dish turned out nicely.

The intense aroma from the mushrooms and dried oysters that wafted from the kitchen made me salivate long before the dish was ready to be served. The mushrooms were soft. So was the black moss. Overall, we liked it very much. I am looking forward to the next Chinese New Year already so that I can get to savour this dish again. Below is the recipe we used for this time with some variations from the previous one. We hope you will enjoy it as much as we did. Bon appetit.

Hou Si Fatt Choy (Braised Dried Oysters with Black Moss)

4 extra large dried oysters,
4 dried oysters
soak in enough warm water to cover for 1 hour

20 g black moss, soak in 1 cup warm water for 30 minutes and drain
300g roasted pork, cut into 1 cm thick portions
8 large shiitake mushrooms, remove stem, soak in enough water to cover and leave overnight
1/2 head of Chinese cabbage, cut into 2″ strips

5 cloves garlic, chopped
5 shallots, chopped
3 slices ginger, bashed several times with the broad side of the kitchen knife

3 tbsp cooking oil

3 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp thick soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp corn flour
a dash of sesame seed oil

Heat oil and saute garlic, shallots and ginger until fragrant. Add oyster and fry for another 1 minute. Add shitake mushrooms, roasted pork and sauces and stir fry for another minute. Add water from that the shiitake mushrooms and oysters were soaked in. Cover the kuali and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Check occasionally to ensure there is sufficient gravy. When the mushrooms becomes tender, add corn flour to thicken the gravy. Add the black moss and simmer for another 10 minutes before turning off heat. Serve with rice.

Yee Sang At Esquire Kitchen Mid Valley Megamall

We were at Mid Valley Megamall for our weekly grocery shopping last Saturday. As usual, we would be at a lost when it comes to eating there. It was not that we did not know what we wanted to eat. Rather, we had eaten most of the food the shopping mall had to offer and wanted something different for a change.

Yee Sang from Esquire Kitchen Mid Valley Megamall
Yee Sang from Esquire Kitchen Mid Valley Megamall.

We still could not think of any place to have our dinner after throwing the same question back and forth. When that happens, our option would be to eat at one of our regular Chinese restaurants. Esquire Kitchen is top in the list. Most of the time, we would order one serving of chicken, two bowls of rice and a small bowl of double boiled soup.

Yee Sang from Esquire Kitchen Mid Valley Megamall
Yee Sang from Esquire Kitchen Mid Valley Megamall.

We had yee sang instead. The full portion is RM38. We ordered half portion for RM28. Even then, it was too much for the two of us. I think that somewhat killed our appetite for yee sang. Wuan explicitly forbade me from ordering any more yee sang the next time we eat out. Chinese New Year is not here yet and we already have eaten this dish twice but I am sure we will be enjoying a few more servings of yee sang soon in spite of that.