For the reunion dinner on the eve of the Chinese New Year, each family would have their own traditional dishes served on this special evening. First of all you need to have enough food to stay up the whole night, at least past midnight to usher in the new year – the taoist would be offering prayers and burning papers at midnight and firecrackers where they are legal, are being set off.
The louder (the red ones particularly are a favourite) the better, because the noise will chase away the bad spirits and usher in the auspicious spirits. In Singapore as these firecrackers ARE illegal, the atmosphere past midnight was a little subdued.
Spring rolls and Stir fried vegetables
For our family, we normally would have curry chicken, spring rolls, jiu hu char (slivers of cuttlefish and sliced turnips, eaten with sambal), too toh thng (pig stomach soup – tastes better than it sounds) and chap chye (mix stir fried veges). This time I hosted the reunion, and hence there was a slight change to the usual menu – instead we had spring rolls, fish curry assam pedas, chap chye and vegetarian yee sang (from Whole Earth, at Tanjung Pagar).
Yee Sang and Fish Assam Pedas (Sour Spicy Fish Curry)
The chinese believe one must have a fish dish for Chinese New Year eve as again it symbolises abundance – the word ‘yee’ in cantonese or ‘yu’ in mandarin. Being nyonyas, here is our version of a fish dish – the quintessential Fish Curry Assam Pedas with okra
Fish Assam Pedas Recipe (for 4 people)
- 4 pieces of fish steaks (ang cho/ red garoupa) or 1 large pomfret /2 small ones or any firm white fish or stingray
- 5 pieces okras chopped into half (across width wise)
- 1 tomato (cut into wedges)
- fish assam pedas spice paste (see below)
- 3 tbp of cooking oil
- 1 pandan leave washed and tied into a knot
- 1 tablespoon of palm sugar/sugar
- Salt to taste
- 1 sprig of daun kesum (laksa leaf) – optional
* Fish Spice Paste:
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 stalks of lemon grass (white parts only)
- 6 shallots
- 8-10 dried chillies (depends how spicy you like – soaked in hot water for about 30mins)
- 1 inch long tumeric root, peeled.
- 1/2 tablespoon of belacan (prawn paste)
- 1 tbp of cooking oil or coconut oil
2 cups of water + 2 tbp of tamarind pulp
For garnish: 1/2 bunga kantan, sliced finely
Blend the spices for the fish spice paste in a blender or a food processor.
Soak the tamarind pulp in warm water for 15 minutes. Squeeze the tamarind pulp constantly to extract the flavor into the water. Drain the pulp and save the tamarind juice.
Heat oil with the pandan leave and fry the spice paste for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Slowly add the tamarind juice, while stirring it and bring to boil – once boiling, add in the tomato wedges, daun kesum and okras and let the vegetable simmer for about 10-15 minutes till okra is soft but not squidgy.
Lastly add the fish, salt, and palm sugar/sugar, give a quick stir to coat the fish with the curry. Simmer on low heat for 5 minutes or until the fish is cooked.
Serve hot (garnish with a sprinkle of the chopped bunga kantan and mint leaves if you have them). To be eaten with a bowl of white rice.