Peach Garden’s Creative Pen Cai
If you are looking for something novel this Chinese New Year, the Premium Seafood Pen Cai With Laksa Broth at Peach Garden takes the cake for being one of the most innovative dishes.
Designed for six persons, it is available for takeaway at $505.44. The claypot is filled with a whole lobster, red grouper, sea cucumber, Japanese scallop, live prawn, fish maw, tientsin cabbage, gluten puff, radish and king oyster mushroom. A tub of laksa broth is packed separately, to be heated up and added to the pot before serving.
The ingredients are chosen because they go better with the spicy gravy than traditional pen cai items such as roast duck and Chinese mushrooms. Some of the seafood items are also first deep-fried to keep their shape and freshness, and that works well with laksa too.
The heat level is turned down to suit most palates, though I would not recommend serving the dish to young children. But laksa lovers will enjoy it.
The dish is not cheap, so do not let anything go to waste. I suggest blanching some rice noodles to add to the pot towards the end. Or pour the gravy over steamed chee cheong fun.
Where: Peach Garden’s five outlets, including at 33-01 OCBC Centre, 65 Chulia Street
When: Till Feb 5
Info: Go to www.peachgarden.com.sg. For takeaway orders, go to www.peachgardeneshop.com
Roast Suckling Pig At Man Fu Yuan
One dish I always look forward to during Chinese New Year is the Roasted Suckling Pig With Five Grain Glutinous Rice ($488) from Man Fu Yuan at InterContinental Singapore. Other restaurants do a similar dish, but I find this version to be more refined than most.
My first encounter with a whole suckling pig stuffed with glutinous rice was in Hong Kong more than 10 years ago at Kimberley Chinese Restaurant. It was gorgeous, but you had to order it at least a day in advance and pay a cash deposit.
So I was delighted when Man Fu Yuan introduced the dish in 2012 for its Chinese New Year menu. I do not have to make a trip down to the restaurant to pay a deposit, and just have to place an order three days ahead.
More importantly, I think Man Fu Yuan’s version is better. The rice – flavoured with Chinese cured meats that are popular this time of the year as well as the fat from the suckling pig – is delicious.
The pig itself is even more amazing, with its light and incredibly crispy crackling. Under that is a layer that looks like fat, but melts in the mouth with hardly any taste of grease.
Share the dish with five or six people. Two slices each would be just nice.
Though the pig can survive a short trip with its crackling intact, it is best to dig into it at the restaurant.
Where: Man Fu Yuan, Level 2 InterContinental Singapore, 80 Middle Road
When: Till Feb 5, 11.45am to 3.30pm, 6.30 to 10.30pm daily
Abundant Pen Cai At Shang Palace
When I visited Hong Kong during the Chinese New Year period in the past, I would see many Chinese restaurants touting their pen cai or poon choy, as they call it in Cantonese, at the entrance. Almost all of these treasure pots would boast a whole fried fish stretched across the top, snatching the attention from the abalone and Chinese mushrooms.
Why don’t restaurants in Singapore have that, I would wonder. After all, fish is a popular ingredient during this period as the Chinese word for it is a homonym for abundance. I reckon perhaps it is because all those bones would get in the way of enjoying the pen cai.
That would not be a problem with the Abundance Pen Cai ($498.80, serves eight people) from Shangri-La Singapore, which comes with a whole dace fish. That is because the fish is deboned and its meat stuffed back before it is pan-fried. It looks intact, including its head and tail, but you do not have to worry about the bones.
The pen cai is curated by executive Chinese chef Daniel Cheung, who moved here from Hong Kong more than six months ago to helm the kitchen at Shang Palace.
Besides the dace, the pot also holds ingredients like abalone, fried fish maw, sea cucumber, pork knuckle, goose web, roast pork, and sweet and sour pan-fried prawn, among others.
Where: Shangri-La Singapore, 22 Orange Grove Road
When: Till Feb 5
Info: Go to bit.ly/shangrilacny23 or call 6213-4511