All families have their traditions and even though we're in Canada, my family celebrates the Lunar New Year with a big meal. Today I review the best eatery of all, Mom's House!
Each year my mother slaves all day on each of the little morsels that must be balled, fried, steamed, boiled and shaped, before assembling the melange into a steam boat. My favourite is the pork and ginger egg roll, but others eagerly snap up the lobster and prawn balls. We each have our favourites and because of that, we don't have to compete too hard. (Though, I am not above fencing the other server to get the choice bits.)
The special napa cabbage and chicken broth simmers throughout the day on the stove, resulting in a homey, steamy environment by the time we arrive. We snack on styrofoam-like prawn chips and catch up as we bide our time for what we've all been waiting for.
My dad's job is to prepare the charcoal briquettes (usually outside, dark and in the cold) and transfer them into the steam boat once it's fully loaded with the rolls. Then, it's a race to get it onto the table, and the soup into the steam boat before it burns. In the interest of convenience and fire safety, I've offered to buy them an electric steam boat but they refuse, claiming there is no substitute for this taste. They make a great team and execute this every year anyways.
We all crowd around the table once we hear the sizzle. The person closest to the steam boat on each side of the table is responsible for serving the rest. This is an honoured position, where you are responsible for getting everyone else's favourites. Tofu curd, Enoki and shiitake mushrooms are buried deep to cook in the hot broth, and will later be fished out like treasure. It's so much fun.
My mother is required to make her spring rolls for every family gathering and this was no exception. I have a bad habit of ruining my dinner due to eating them non-stop. This year I managed to restrain myself to only 3 rolls before dinner. Only after the sauteed veg in oyster sauce is flash fried and served does my mom allow herself to sit and watch her family devour her hard work.
Everyone is more quiet, but still animated, enjoying the food we've waited all year to taste.
After dinner, we exchange red envelopes over dessert. I brought a cake in tribute to Asian tastes - a coconut chiffon cake with coconut milk custard and icing. I've found that Asians will take a pass on chocolate cake, in favour of a light, sponge cake with fruit, whipping cream and if possible coconut, taro, or mango. This was my compromise between East and West palettes and it was very well received by both camps.
The cake also looked moon-like which I thought was appropriate. I decorated the top with blood oranges, as oranges are often served at New Year celebrations because they look like bars of gold.
This is my favourite holiday because the food and merriment is incomparable. My mom also is the best cook! How do you celebrate with your family? Have you ever had steam boat? Tell me in the comments. Kung Hai Fat Choy!