You won’t just love these 10 last minute hot pot items. You need them.

17 Jan. 2024

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I did not grow up enjoying Chinese New Year.

 

There was a lot of tacit competition among aunties comparing me to my cousins. From height, to grades, eventually to jobs to car to houses to how many kids. It was always a busy hustle to get the house dolled up, only to leave it for exhausting visits at some distant relative's place and forced into polite conversations. However, my attachment to my family become cosier, closer, and more authentic with time. I am not sure if it was because my sense of self-worth grew to be more shameless to filter out comparison anxieties, or that the pandemic lock down toned down the fake parading part of CNY, or that as everyone grew older and more tired of seasonal friends, the family became a more familiar ground.  At this point, I am a convert - I enjoy CNY more than Christmas. Though every family is different, and not everyone will feel the same. So, even if we do not enjoy any particular holiday, we can make sure to enjoy the food.

 

I have taken over from my Grandma to be the designer of what we serve for reunion dinner. Here's sharing the ensemble.

1. Sauce station

The key to a good steamboat is not the base stock, it is your sauce station. Red chili padi, soy sauce, grated ginger, peanuts shavings, cilantro, vinegar, sesame oil, sambal, white sesame sauce. Nanyang Soy Sauce and Ri's Mala Chilli Oil, are two staple sauces in my spice corner. 3:3:1 ratio of soy sauce, oil, to vinegar is the magic ratio to mirror a dressing that seems to be straight out of a Michelin Hong Kong restaurant. (Alright, we learn this from Forbes 30 under 30's chef awardee, Lucas Sin)

2. The Greens

Cabbage always gives the sweetness. That is why the Japanese make mille feuille nabe by layering with cabbage. Though when I do want to impress my future mother-in-law, I would bring along the lion-mane mushroom. They are entirely vegan, yet meaty with the texture of lobster. I have been growing a stem of them at home from Spore-garden, in which our table is now our farm.

3. Balls

If you have balls, you always have options. Fish balls were the foie gras of my childhood. I remember that I would always finish my rice and save the balls to savour as the last. Bo Bo has a wide range available online and can be delivered for same day receiving, in situations when we need more balls.

4. For the pescetarian

While salmon is increasingly common now, it still feels like the introductory Western treat I got when my parents brought me to Ikea when I was a kid. In spirits of CNY, I turn to kuhlbarra for barramundi fillet. They are half the calories of salmon, at the same levels of the omega goodness, and 2X more Chinese good luck.

5. Dim Sum

If there is something I can eat for the rest of my life, it would be dim sum. Dim Sum literary means a "part of our heart". Sin Mui Heng (SMH)'s flower wantons and cheong funs rice rolls are fun for the kids to boil and bait in the steamboat.

6. Fizzy Drink

Every party needs a good drink. A party trick our family always rely on is to pop soda water with F&N's yuzu fruit juice.

7. Dizzy Drink

If the adults want a little booze for the festive, we have recently been into this soy wine from Sachi. This is apparently a Singaporean innovation that ferments the low-caloric drink from tofu residues.

8. Do not forget about our floof

FloofSg has sous vide bowls pre-mixed for the doggos. They look so good that sometimes even I want a bite of them. Though please don't.

9. Ready-to-Eat