Chinese New Year, Shanghai, Li Yen, Kuala Lumpur - The Yum List
Food and luxury travel – Malaysia and the world
Chinese New Year, Shanghai, Li Yen, Kuala Lumpur
Words: Kirsten Durward . Photos: The Yum List
What I thought was an invitation to discreetly taste dishes from the Chinese New Year Menus turns out to be a splashy extravaganza involving 250 guests, musical numbers, a comedian and a Lion Dance. Well the auspices are good; it looks like the Year of the Wooden Horse is going to be full of surprises. Here’s hoping that none of them are a Trojan Horse….
Waiting for the arrival of the bulk of the guests (no doubt KL traffic has had a hand in this, we enjoy a glass of surprisingly delightful house red, a few canapés and some yummy roast pig. I’m sorry, there’s just no other way to put it. Crispy crackling and juicy pork. It’s simply yummy, and Caning obviously agrees, evidenced by his sequential platefuls and wide grin.
Chef Cutting the Suckling Pig
Dinner is further delayed by the lead up to the traditional Yee Sang – or Lo Sang as it is often called in Malaysia. This is an iconic good luck dish with all sorts of colourful pieces just begging to be attacked with chopsticks and tossed in the air. It’s a must have for our Chinese friends to welcome in the New Year. Our compere recites for us the 10 ingredients we are going to mix; jelly fish, salmon sashimi, pickled ginger, sesame extract, crackers, shredded chili, Chinese parsley, olive oil, lime juice, yee sang sauce – each accompanied by a minute of description and jokes in Mandarin – phew!
Salmon and Jelly Fish Yee Sang
Anticipation is high in the salivating crowd but it’s not time to toss yet. We’ve to wait to be sung in by a special guest who teasingly takes his time, drawing out the words to the last agonizing – ‘Lo Sang!’ At last! It’s time to grapple with our super sized double length chopsticks and join in the fun and energetic and very very messy activity of bringing luck to the New Year. The higher you toss the more prosperity you bring. We must have brought in a whole heap of luck judging from our destroyed table and deconstructed dish.
Tossing the Yee Sang
It still tastes spectacular; a sweety soury, gingery limey, nutty crunchy conglomeration of textures. If you’ve not yet tried Yee Sang, make sure you do. It’s an unmissible cultural experience as well as a workout for your taste buds.
Our mess is cleared away swiftly with the usual discreet service and swiftly replenished with another row of condiment dishes. All around, guests, mainly Chinese, are toasting and laughing and smiling and tasting, while cameras are popping a-plenty. I’m sure that Facebook is going to be busy tonight!
We’re trying a sampler of dishes from the two restaurant’s large range of menus and first to arrive is a tasting set of hot and cold starters scattered attractively and temptingly across a salver, hmm which to try first… Cheng Keng ham is slightly spiced and flaky, deep fried cuttlefish balls are surprisingly like a fish ball inner, but coated in a crunchy shell of sliced almond. We taste salty strips of mullet roe and a miniature portion of marinated octopus. Sweet and sticky, everyone’s genuine favourite is the signature golden prawn.
Hot and Cold Starters
Double boiled abalone soup with dried scallop and Chinese cabbage is a delicate clear fish broth, with a unique flavour.
Double-boiled Abalone Soup with Dried Scallop and Chinese Cabbage
Barbecue crispy suckling pig is a special dish for the Chinese, and there are a whole range of accompaniments laid out to flatter this hero dish. The crunchy crispy shiny skin seems to be the main feature, along with the camera attracting piglet head presentation. The dish is happily received around the table.
Suckling Pig and Soft Buns
‘It’s good,’ says Caning, with his mouth half full, of deep-fried Yellow fish with Chinese rice wine sauce. And indeed it is crispy and succulent both, the fresh parsley giving zing to the mellow wine flavour, leaving a delightful lingering taste in my mouth. Mainly, though the scene-stealers are small decorative marzipan fish serving as plate decoration. Everyone is oohing over this signature treat from Chef at Shanghai.
Deep-fried Yellow Fish with Chinese Rice Wine Sauce
Steamed glutinous rice with abalone cubed and Chinese waxed meat wrapped in lotus leaves is prettily presented lozenge style with colourful fresh flower decoration. Not to mince words; it’s chunks of sticky ham in stickier rice. Glutinous is the right word. I’m fleetingly worried for my own glutes – is all that training going to waste?
Steamed Glutinous Rice with Abalone Cubed and Chinese Waxed Meat Wrapped in Lotus Leaves
Dessert is a combination of deep fried yam with lunar cake, decorated by a teeny traditional good luck mandarin. A glutinous rice cake made with yam tastes good dipped in the sweet soup full of red dates and dried longans. Caning calls it delicious and goes for a second helping.
Deep-Fried Yam with Lunar Cake and Soup of Sweet Glutinous Rice cake with Red Dates and Dried Longans
The meal ends with our first Lion Dance of the year, a-shaking and a stirring to the drums and cymbals, eyes a fluttering and humour a-play. It has been a great start to this celebratory time of year and I do, indeed feel very lucky!
Large Dining Table for Reunion Dinner – Shanghai and Li Yen can set up a dinner table as big as this for your reunion dinner
Reason to visit: With a range of menus to suit all pockets and some wonderful group set meals, everyone should take the chance to welcome in their luck for the Year of the Wooden Horse in total style.