Gong Hei Fatt Choy!

And that’s to all who celebrate the Chinese New Year! Welcome to the year of the Water Dragon 2012! May it be blessed with more awesome prospects, happiness, and good health!

I wish I could be home in Malaysia now, but I guess I’ll have to wait for the next opportunity to celebrate this occasion. My husband and I tried to make the best of it here in the land of the West. I was feeling quite sad. How can one not be when Facebook keeps shoving images of joyous gatherings and savory home-cooked food?

Although we did not have a new year’s eve reunion dinner (that’s because we have no family here in Houston), we decided to go to our favourite Korean restaurant and feast in the scrumptious dishes there. After that, we adjourned to the Buddhist temple for some ceremonial prayers to usher in the New Year. To our surprise, there was a spectacular lion dance show as well! I think a part of me just wanted to feel close to home, and I depended on the temple’s activities for that reason. I am glad I made the decision to attend the prayers that night.

Last night, I cooked a simple but special dinner in conjunction with the first day of the Chinese New Year. My husband and I chowed down rice, fried fish, bok choy, and lotus root & peanut soup. My husband and I love to drink this soup. This is a recipe that I took a few times to master. Learning from my mum (no cookbooks or anything), and recently fine-tuned the recipe by observing the ingredients that my mother-in-law used. This soup dish is very common in Chinese households. At least for me it is comfort food any day of the year.

Lotus Root & Peanut Soup

Cooking time: At least 2 hours for richer texture and flavour

In my haste to eat, I forgot to take a photo of the dish (sorry!)

Ingredients:

600-700 mL of water for main soup

Pork bone meat (a couple, depending on size); can use pork ribs as well as an alternative

10-15 slices of Lotus Root (washed and skin peeled)

A handful of raw peanuts

8 dried red dates (jujube)

3 dried Shiitake mushrooms

2 dried scallops (conpoy)

Instructions:

1.Soften the dried Shiitake mushrooms in boiled hot water for about 10 minutes. A lot of the dried food contain sulfites, and so I always soak them in warm water for a few minutes – the red dates, peanuts, and dried scallops.

2. Since pork meat has a very strong gamey smell, it’s always best to blanch it first. To do this, boil water in a separate pot and blanch the pork for about 2 minutes. Then, transfer the pork to the main pot.

3. Add in the peeled and sliced lotus root, followed by the peanuts, red dates, dried scallop and mushrooms. Let boil rapidly for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and cover.

4. After 2 hours, add two pinches of salt – do Not stir – increase the heat to high again and let it boil rapidly for another 5 minutes. Serve hot in soup bowls – everything in this soup can be eaten if you like to!

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