The top 3 things that I look forward to every Chinese New Year (in no particular order) are:
1. reunion dinner
2. flower butter cookies made by my aunt
3. Chinese New Year feast at Auntie CM and Uncle PG's place
If I had to miss out on any 1 of these 3 items above ... oh wait, that thought is wayyy too depressing than say, dying in my sleep.
I love dinners at Auntie CM and Uncle PG's place as they are incredibly generous hosts and I always feel so pampered - I remember one year, there were peeled and perfectly plump mangosteens nestled among an exquisite tropical fruit platter ... Peeled mangoesteens!? I bet only Thai royalty gets those!
Although we would tell Auntie CM and Uncle PG the same thing year after year ("There is always more than enough ... Don't need to prepare so much!"), it is an annual feast that would take us days to get over.
This year was rather special too as Auntie CM and Uncle PG had just renovated their place (big time, if I may add). As if the food wasn't enough to impress, their new place was marked by an open-concept, Chinoise-Balinese style that I absolutely dig.
Before proper dinner, there would always be a whole lot of nibbles and this year apart from the Chinese New Year cookies, there were smoked lup cheong and duck, bak kwa and kueh lapis, as well as steamed yam cake and carrot cake that I loaded up on.
What the ... As you can see, this wasn't your usual plum-sauce-crushed-peanuts lo hei. There was whole lotta salmon sashimi that I, who had been abstaining for months, couldn't resist. Thankfully, there was alot of commotion going on and I think I managed to get away with multiple servings. Heehee...
Year after year, I never seem to learn my lesson. Whenever this mammonth bucket of homemade Buddha Jumps Over The Wall arrives at our table, I would always silently chide myself for not leaving those pre-dinner snacks alone. Filled (and I mean, choked full to the brim) with abalone, scallops, fish maw, pork leg and Chinese mushrooms, this was just 1 of the 3 buckets we had that evening.
Check. This. Out. Can you count the number of abalone I have in my bowl? I ate enough to make these memories last a year. Insane...
Other dishes we had include ginger steamed chicken...
Steamed fish with light soya sauce...
And their signature heng hwa (xing hua) fried bee hoon - the fried bee hoon of my childhood dreams. Good stuff.
For dessert, I filled the hairline spaces in my tummy with chocolates, the hugest and sweetest red cherries from New Zealand as well as pomelo silvers (as that was all I could manage).
Though according to Auntie CM and Uncle PG, this was a much more "modest" affair compared to previous years, it was no less decadent and defnitely worth shifting my Hong Kong trip around for.