Can you believe it? It’s 21 Jan today! The 21st day of the new year… as usual, the days go past really very quickly! And suddenly it’s going to be Chinese New Year! Wooohooo!
I thought for this season, I’ll share our family’s tips to surviving CNY. But do note, we ain’t very traditional, we try to get round the elders’ expectations with a modern twist. So far, I’m happy to report we’ve not incurred any wrath from our seniors!
One of the highlights of CNY for us is FOOD! We all love food, and everyone loves good good food! Alas, the entrepreneurs know that too, and prices naturally inflate during this season. This is how we got around it!
1. PLAN early
If you intend to host a meal or party during this season, plan early. And I’m referring to before Christmas.
Besides the glorious CNY snacks that only appear in Jan, there are stuff that we serve when guests come.
E.g. Drinks, Chocolates, Nuggets, Sweets
Tip: Do you know that you get a wider range and cheaper NUTS in December?
2. CUISINES can change
We know that there are many auspicious sounding food that are a must in some households. Yes, these items are really very pricey and can affect your eventual menu.
For the ‘compulsory’ meals like Reunion Dinners, we do try to incorporate all these items. It’s not wise to upset the Matriarch or Patriarch of the family!
For meals that you are hosting in your own homes, do consider changing the cuisine! We concluded that the purpose is always to maintain relationships and have a good time. Very rarely do the younger generation bother about Joy (prawns) or Abundance (fish) or Prosperity (Fa-cai). So we avoid serving these foods! We go either Western (Pasta and Steak), Indian (Briyani and Curry), Indonesian (Nasi and all the sides) or even Korean and Japanese!
With the change in cuisine, you can be sure the food stalls or restaurants are still open and still serving their yummy food. I remember last year, it was great joy seeing our Uncles and Aunties digging into KFC like the grand nephews and nieces!
Tip: If you’ve confirmed your cuisine you intend to serve, try to avoid using the ‘auspicious’ food like prawns and fish. Inflated prices apply too!
Tip: It’s also easy to go for Pizzas!
3. Keep it LIGHT
One thing I learnt is there’s is sometimes WAY too much food every where. Imagine going to our parents’ place to eat, then there’s 1st to 8th Aunty’s place, then to the Tampines cousin and to the Boon Lay uncle… and food is served every where. And you cannot don’t eat, it’s rude.
Be kind to your guests. Serve something light, or serve many light food.
One of our family’s tradition is to cook a huge pot of Chicken Porridge. When you come by, if you are hungry, just grab a bowl, and add any of the condiments. It’s simple and presentable. And one can always squeeze in that bowl of porridge!
My Grandma’s style is to cook a huge pot of Fish Maw soup. This is of course a lot more traditional, but same principle!
Tip: Use small bowls, for obvious reasons
4. Something DIFFERENT
Ok, do know that nearly every household has Pineapple Tarts, Cornflake cookie, Kueh Bangkit, etc etc. And for those home cooks or friends of homecooks, their tarts are the best in the world, or this year’s tarts are not as nice as last year’s but it’s very fresh… blah blah blah…
Unless your CNY snacks are deliciously homemade, or from a Die Die Must Try store, you may want to serve something else. Otherwise, that’s where the calories come back on you… cos you have loads of leftovers.
Some snacks to consider: Very Sweet chilled Mandarins, Chips (Potato, Corn, Veg etc), Nuts, Grapes, any regular stuff that you serve in a normal party. And as above, snacks from other cuisines would be wonderful too!
Tip: And you can get these snacks in December, if it’s from other cuisines, it is very likely there’s no inflation!
This year, we are going Indonesian! We are having Yellow Rice, Fried Noodles, Beef Rendang, Sambal Egg, Tempe and I’m still keeping that large pot of Chicken Porridge!
I hope this helps you plan for the upcoming CNY! More tips coming up next week!