Monday, December 2, 2013

Bring a plate, it’s Christmas!

IT’S BECOME a pre-Christmas tradition, a gathering of like-minded friends. Now the grown-up children come with their parents, and that is testament to the fact that they still think it’s cool to hang out with us oldies but more importantly, the food is as good as you can get.
   The menu is planned a month ahead, there is an email thread of culinary proportions as we suggest what we would like to cook for ho-ho-ho. As we all hail from shores afar like Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and China, the menu reflects our counry of origin but then there’s always some who have been here so long they are more comfortable with the local cuisine. For someone who doesn’t cook much or worried the cooking would mess-up their minimalist pristine kitchen, they subtefuge and sneak in a dish from a restaurant (the pak thong ko being the case in point). Or they are banished to culinary backwater by making a fruit platter. The men this year surprised everyone by making dishes of considerable aplomb. Fred cooked a mee goreng that’s as good as KK Malaysia. He must have a really hot wok! With help from parents, Frances produced a roast duck to rival Grand Harbour.
  The young ones made bruschetta (with salmon and cucumber topping). We had been snacking on kwa-chi (melon seeds) and peanuts in shell. No gathering is complete without JJ’s crispy roast pork. She’s never been allowed not to make it.
   YHL’s pineapple salad is another favourite, the ingredient that makes it is the salted preserved plum, a singboi that many expectant mothers crave. Rosemary’s salmon had an Asian twist, julienne ginger and spring onions. Such a great idea to use ginger.
   As mentioned earlier, Fred’s Mee Goreng was one of the star turns. It had all the ingredients, prawn, taupok and the mee cooked to fragrant perfection in a very hot wok. Vegetable dishes included a stir-fried eggplant and a seaweed cucumber salad.
   The hit of the evening was cooked by one of the young ones, Frances. Dad carved it to a very appreciative audience. It was stuffed with glutinous rice, cashew nuts and salted duck eggs. Genius! What’s not to love? It was the first dish to go as everyone wanted to try it.
   Fred’s knowledge of Taiwanese cuisine had seen him produce this bean, tofu and carrot salad. No gathering is complete without a curry.This chicken rending was made by nonya specialist YHL. Rendangs are notoriously labour intensive to make and this is truly the defining nonya dish.
   Georgia made a Thai beef salad with a fish-sauce dressing, topped with chopped peanuts and sliced fresh chilli. By the time the dessert dishes were unveiled, there wasn't much room to fit in the sweeties. But the fruit kebabs eased us into the sweet treats coming up.
   There was pak thong ko (white honeycomb steamed cake made with rice flour, sugar and yeast ), a sticky lemon tart, and a nonya sago cake, abuk-abuk, made from sago pearls, made green with pandan flavour and sprinkled with grated coconut.
   JL produced her speciality, strawberries with mascarpone and watermelon granita and JJ a Malaysian favourite, sago pudding with palm sugar and topped with coconut cream. We just had to try all the desserts.
   As our host said, the evening was better than anything you can have in any restaurant. I have to agree. There will be another get-together coming up for Chinese New Year. We can’t wait!

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