Amid the abundance of food available in restaurants for the festive season, here are some quality goodies to feast on.
Some of these Chinese New Year takeaway items stand out for being not only top grade, but also very creative. And while quality often comes at a price, a few are well-priced. Here are my top picks of delicacies to order for the Year of the Rat that you can enjoy at home with your family and friends.
From: Crystal Jade
Order at: estore.crystaljade.com until 4 Feb or Crystal Jade outlets until 8 Feb
It used to be a tough choice for me deciding whether to get the steamed radish cake or yam cake from Crystal Jade because both are delicious.
But this platter solves that problem by including both in a set of five cakes. Packed neatly in a red box, it makes a very nice food gift too.
The cakes, which are a mix of sweet and savoury ones, also include a nian gao (Chinese New Year cake), a roselle osmanthus cake and an egg sponge cake.
The cakes are also sold individually in slightly bigger versions with a diameter of 17.8cm. Those in the set measure 11.4cm.
From: Jade at The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, 1 Fullerton Square, 049178
Price: $32.10 for a box of nine
Order at: shop.fullertonhotels.com
Nian gao or New Year cake is a must for Chinese households. Taoists use it as an offering to the Kitchen God so that the deity would have only sweet things to say when he makes his yearly report on the family. And to others, it symbolises a rise in one’s fortunes.
Traditionally made with glutinous rice flour and brown sugar, the cake is too hard to be eaten as is and is usually sliced and pan-fried or steamed before serving.
But these yam paste nian gao tarts are ready to eat. And they are yummy, with the sweet cake encased in a brittle tart shell. A layer of yam paste below cuts the sweetness.
The only drawback is that, unlike traditional nian gao which can keep for months, they are best eaten fresh.
You need to order three days in advance and the last day of collection is 8 Feb.
From: Man Fu Yuan at InterContinental Singapore, 80 Middle Road, 188966
Price: From $22
This Cantonese restaurant serves the most premium – and the most expensive – steamboat in town. Available only on pre-order, it costs $180 a person for a minimum of four persons.
Just for the Chinese New Year season (until 8 Feb) ten of the steamboat ingredients are also available for takeaway. They are not cheap, but the quality, especially that of the handmade balls and dumplings, is unrivalled among steamboat eateries.
My choice are the fresh prawn dumplings ($26 for eight) and minced pork balls with dried oysters ($32 for eight), which boast fresh-tasting ingredients and a springy texture. I had bought them previously to supplement home-cooked reunion dinner steamboats and they were a hit.
Other takeaway items include poached drunken kampung chicken marinated in Chinese herbs and huadiao wine ($22 for half a chicken), freshly handmade crab claw with minced prawns ($28 for eight), USA Angus beef balls with water chestnuts ($32 for eight) and eight-head abalone with minced Hokkaido scallops ($108 for 10).
From: Paradise Group
Price: $328, $298 for Paradise Gourmet Rewards member. Serves from five to eight persons
If you are planning to hold your reunion dinner at home, but do not want to cook, the best option is to order one of the takeaway set meals that many Chinese restaurants have put together. This set by the Paradise Group, consisting of four dishes, offers one of the best value.
One of the dishes is Prosperity Abalone Yu Sheng, which would have cost $46.80 on its own. The salad with a tangy plum sauce comes with a can of abalone.
There is also the Auspicious Black Truffle Kampong Chicken, with the bird steamed with black truffle for 11/2 hours until it is tender and infused with the aroma of the prized delicacy.
The Grandeur Treasure Pot or pencai is the main event. This comes with items such as abalone, sea cucumber, fish maw, conpoy, dried oyster, mushroom, dried fish maw, black moss, pork trotter, duck wing, Chinese sausage, bean dough, cabbage, yam, lotus root and radish.
The five-person pot is also sold on its own at $258.
Last but not least is the Fortune Lotus Leaf Glutinous Rice. The rice is fried with mushroom and Chinese sausage, and seasoned with a housemade sauce before being wrapped in lotus leaf and steamed.
The set is available for collection at the participating outlets until 9 Feb, from 11.30 am to 3 pm on the eve of Chinese New Year and from 11.30 am to 8pm on other days.
By Wong Ah Yoke, The Straits Times, January 2020
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