Pair of hands holding a pen cai clay pot filled with abalone and pig trotters braised in premium oyster sauce for four hours before layering ingredients including dace fishballs, dried oysters, dried scallops, prawns, sea cucumbers, Chinese mushrooms, fish maw, soy sauce chicken, roasted duck, and black moss on a bed of cabbage, with yusheng at the side

6 Chefs & restaurateurs share the Chinese New Year dishes that warm their hearts

Chinese Executive Chef Albert Au, Jiang-Nan Chun, Four Seasons Hotel Singapore

Jiang-Nan Chun Chinese Executive Chef Albert Au, Four Seasons Hotel Singapore

Poon choi and steamboat for Chinese New Year in Hong Kong

“I grew up in Hong Kong with a Teochew father and a Cantonese mother. Although both dialect groups have different traditions, they are similar in their particularity towards food and are both very family-oriented. During the cold, wintry Lunar New Year season, my family would gather around a steaming pot of home-cooked goodness in the form of steamboat and poon choi. During reunion dinners, which are very important family events, the Teochews will have da bin lou (“steamboat” in Cantonese) while the Cantonese would have poon choi. The latter is especially a must-have dish as it originates from Hong Kong.”

Picture of teal and yellow chopsticks, spoon and a black pen cai claypot of Black Moss, 10 Head Abalone, Fish Maw, Sea Cucumber, Dried Oyster, Conpoy, Prawn, Soy Chicken, Roast Pork, Roast Duck, Fried Fish Maw, Waxed Meats, Black Mushrooms, Pig Trotters, Sophora Root, White Radish, Fish Cake and Yam Root from Cantonese restaurant Jiang-Nan Chun in Four Seasons Singapore

CNY food inspiration: Pen Cai from Jiang-Nan Chun restaurant

The Pen Cai (from $888 for 6 pax) from one Michelin-starred Jiang-Nan Chun is a three-layer dish reflecting the detailed preparation and layered cooking techniques used by Chef Au’s family during their CNY celebrations. All these bring out the best flavours and textures of the ingredients.

The top layer consists of ingredients such as 10-head abalone, fish maw, sea cucumber, dried oyster and roast duck. The second has fried fish maw, preserved meats, black mushrooms and pig trotters. And right at the bottom is a base of sophora root (a herb), white radish, fish cake and yam root.

Chef Au shares, “With all the nostalgia and warmth that the Lunar New Year brings, I want to capture the warmth of family around a hearty dish of abundance, Hence, I created the pen cai to reflect a taste of home. This version is an authentic Cantonese version that is focused on quality ingredients and perfection of culinary technique.”

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