Sunday, 10 February 2008

Reunion Dinner

Reunion dinners have not been the same since dad passed on and mum has been afflicted by Alzheimer. Both were good cooks; dad once ran a food catering business for weddings and mum was known for her stewed duck soup and five-spice braised duck in black soya sauce. Now we have our reunion dinner at our aunt’s place.

Many Chinese have opted for the steamboat as the most convenient way for a reunion dinner. The dishes, prepared beforehand, are kept in the fridge and can be taken out at anytime.

White pomfrets and large prawns, traditionally the most popular items, will disappear from the market two months before the Chinese New Year to reappear close to the New Year and sold at two or three times their normal prices. Likewise, pig stomachs are another item in great demand, and since fresh pig stomachs are limited, they have been substituted with frozen ones from Holland or Australia. Pork sellers would buy the frozen ones, defrost them, spread fresh blood over them and pass them off as fresh, local pig stomachs which fetch a much higher price. Somehow, the dinner is incomplete without the sea cucumber. The dried sea cucumber is first soaked for days for it to expand and then boiled to clean and soften it. It has become more expensive to include in the menu. Likewise, the expensive canned abalone, the most sought after of which is Calmex, from San Diego, USA has been priced out of reach of many and left out of the menu of ordinary folks.

At my aunt's dinner, we had prawns and fish aplenty; her son. who is with a logging company in Sarawak, would bring home huge white pomfrets and other fish, prawns and lobsters packed in styrofoam containers. She would also make traditional dishes like pork rolls, egg rolls with meat fillings, stewed pork leg, and my favourite, prawn balls, which cannot be bought anywhere.

The common vegetable for the steamboat is the Chinese cabbage

Huge prawns from Sarawak

Peeled prawns

For me, one is enough

I don't know what this fish is

A large pomfret more than a foot long

Sliced pomfret to be cooked in the steamboat

A frozen lobster

A type of shell fish that has replaced the abalone that has become very expensive

On the right are prawn balls. These are springy and tasty. On the right are soaked slices of fried pork skin. They are packed and sold commercially and are popular during Chinese New Year

Cooked prawn balls and slices of pig stomach

An assortment of fish cakes, crab and fish balls. There are commercially available

Frozen egg rolls

Cut egg rolls

Cooked egg rolls. The filling is minced pork with a distinctive taste of ginger

This is the commercially available egg rolls

Homemade minced pork rolls. These are deep fried


Sliced mushrooms and Inoki mushrooms

Homemade preserved vegetables

Homemade kim chee

Hainanese chicken

Fried mixed vegetables

Pork leg stewed in sweet sour black vinegar

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