Saturday, February 28, 2015


This success of this supposed delicacy of pen cai (盆菜), literally 'Basin Vegetables' (or in Cantonese, 'poon choi') depends entirely on how each restaurant or family stews the broth. It's not similar to lo kai yik (卤雞翼), which is a Cantonese dish of chicken wings braised in fermented red bean curd sauce and loads of tau cheo (brown bean paste). Many versions also hold pork belly and pork skin. Nowadays, it's the simpler braised soy sauce chicken that's common.

Pen cai's base stock comes from stewing pork for hours. It's apparently eaten layer by layer. But often, we simply stir everything up so we could eat it all at the same time. Heheheh. Also, I especially like the daikon at the bottom. Fish maw, shark's fin, abalone and sea cucumber make up the bulk of the cost of this dish. But I would prefer to give all those a miss. Scallops and prawns would do fine.

I happen to like pen cai. Well, some of its ingredients, when I get over the pork broth or pork trotters. Some restaurants don't do it well and the meat stink is terrible. I understand the significance of this dish, although we aren't in the middle of a siege within a walled village in a protracted war. I welcome the idea of equality and communal dining of this dish. BUT PLEASE USE SERVING SPOONS AND CHOPSTICKS. Otherwise it's super EIOOWWWW.

Towards food I don't like, I go "Eeeee...I don't like this", "Yucks....I hate that". Well, I still do that, but quietly and inwardly. At many Asian meals, it's a 90% chance that you'll get more than four dishes at a table, which means, I can easily pick out items in a dish I want to eat. If I'm dining with elders at the table, I defer to their dining choices, although my stance on endangered species as food stands. You can eat it, please don't insist I do too. But I've stopped voicing aloud vehement objections. I also reserve all rights in accepting dinner invitations to meals that comprise largely of foods that I don't eat. With age, I've learnt something called respect versus loud assertions of dietary preferences. People have realized that I prefer to keep quiet than to comment, unless it's to rebut bigots and stupidity. Also, by now, many know my firm opinions on various matters and they've learnt not to ask me questions that they're not prepared to hear the answers to. Gatherings are so much more amiable after we very quickly reached this understanding.

This weekend (5 March, really, but whatever) marks the end of the traditional celebration of the first 15 days of Lunar New Year. Whewww. I can stop carrying that silly ang pow pouch around.

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