February 9, 2013

My lunar new year eve

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I'm back in Taipei, staying in my own apartment which I have been missing so much.  Lunar new year is the biggest time for family gatherings, so the parental units grabbed a few days' worth of supplies and moved in with me.  It's good to be home.

Of course, the biggest benefit of being home is being able to have mom's home cooking!  There are dishes that she only makes once a year, so I really look forward to this season.  Last year I managed to get mom to open a "cooking class", and she spent a couple of days showing J and ILoveLubutin how things are done.  Maybe one of these days I'll be able to try and see how much of mom's techniques they managed to learn…

Among the dishes for lunch today was stir-fried diced smoked chicken with garlic scapes (大蒜炒燻雞腿).  Every year around this time, dad goes to the same store to pick up the smoked chicken drumsticks. This year he had to line up twice, since each customer is allowed to buy only 3 each time…  But we love this dish, which requires the chicken to be finely diced along with bamboo shoots and garlic scapes.  Very powerful flavors, and one can gobble up a bowl of rice in no time.

Dinner is a big deal, when mom brings out the best dishes.  We started with some Cantonese preserved meats (腊味) from Hong Kong, including sausage (腊腸), liver sausage (膶腸) and pork belly (腊肉).

We also had some steamed chicken (白斬雞), although this store-bought version did not have that wonderful layer of chicken stock jelly between the skin and the meat.

Her signature dish has always been the perfect ten (十全十美).  I've been having this dish every year - at least every year that I've been home for lunar new year - ever since I can remember.  The combination of 10 vegetarian ingredients is a labor of love, as it requires an incredible amount of time and effort to cut up each ingredient, stir-fry them individually, then mix them in together for the final product.  I'll never get tired of having this.

The other festive dish is braised stuffed sea cucumbers (海參燒肉) - something the ladies learned to make last year but didn't get to actually try.  This time around, mom was very satisfied with the result.  The sea cucumbers were braised for long enough for the outer layer to be soft, having started to liquefy a little, yet the entire thing still retained a bouncy and springy texture.

The minced pork stuffing was made with black pork (黑豬肉), with a little ginger to counteract the "fishy" flavors of the sea cucumber.  The addition of finely diced water chestnut (馬蹄) would add the slightest bit of crunchy texture.  Totally yummy.

Stir-fried bean sprouts with abalone (銀牙鮑魚) is something I haven't had a while.  The wonderful flavors of abalone contrasted well with the sweet, green and slightly bitter taste of the mung bean sprouts (綠豆芽).  The contrast in textures is also interesting.

Finally some green veggies to finish off, with a plate of leafy mustard stir-fried with garlic (蒜蓉炒芥菜).  A little bitterness at the end of the meal.

1983 Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde - plummy, animal, leather and potpourri notes.  Body was light at first but gained weight with aeration.  Died horribly after about 2 hours.

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