It’s that wonderful time of the year again – it’s Chinese New Year!
For Chinese families all over the world, now is a time of enormous festivities. A couple of weeks filled with delicious and addictive New Year goodies such as pineapple tarts, love letters, “bak kwa” (salty-sweet dried pork) and so many more.
Happy Chinese New Year by the way!
As we welcome the “Year of the Horse” this 2014, and Chinese visit each other’s houses decked out in bright shades of red and bearing Mandarin oranges (with the single, unmarried children getting the gifts of a red money-filled envelopes called “ang pao“), there’s no better time of celebration than Chinese New Year.
But above and beyond the abundant amounts of food we get to devour, the thing that makes my heart all fuzzy when I think about Chinese New Year is the fact that it’s a time of reunion, between family and friends and loved ones.
We’re a large family back in Singapore, and when our extended family gathers together for Chinese New Year, it’s a whole load of fun. Our family members have a peculiar humor that makes me feel comfortable and safe; I know their jokes and harmless bickering are all based on bed of love, and you can safely say that Chinese New Year, also known as “Spring Festival” is among my favorite yearly celebrations.
This year though, I’m watching my family celebrate through pictures and videos sent via Whatsapp or uploaded onto Facebook.
Having determined that 2014 will be the year we relocate to another country, I’d made the decision to stay in Argentina instead of going back to Singapore for my yearly visit. Instead, Juan and I will be heading to Natal and Pipa in Brazil in February, our last trip to explore South America before we finally move out of the continent.
Still, despite the fact that I would give anything to be there celebrating with my family; or that looking at pictures of the delicious New Year foods they are eating makes my stomach growl in envious hunger; or that I so desperately wish I could hug my one-year old cousin who has not recollection of my existence – I can feel the love and warmth of my family from continents and oceans away.
I think and I know deep inside that I’m very fortunate.
My family, and extended family in particular, has always been close. It’s hard for it to be otherwise since we’d grown up gorging on the same foods together; taking late night suppers with my Uncle Eric and Aunty Adeline to explore Singapore’s ever-growing food scene; or traipsing the streets of icy cold Tokyo during a family holiday to find the best Japanese ramen.
Yes, as I’ve told you guys before, my family practically lives to eat.
And what better way to bond together than over a plateful of Hokkien noodles or a steaming bowl of Wanton noodle soup?
So many of my memories with my family (particularly our outings with Uncle Eric, Aunty Adeline, Shawn and Gracia) are tied to dinners, lunches or suppers – and if I remember clearly, so many of them were filled with hearty, booming laughing and ear-to-ear grins – because that’s precisely how much we enjoy our time together. And when we’re not physically together eating something out-of-the-world delicious, we talk about eating – the best bowl of Bak Kut Teh (pork rib soup), the amazing mango pudding dessert (like the one in Hong Kong!), those gold-ingot shaped Chinese pork dumplings (so good!!) or my granny’s once-a-year stewed bamboo shoots.
In the last few years, I’ve seen so many families being torn apart by negativity and separations that leave a gaping hole incapable of being filled.
Because of that, I’m constantly reminded and filled with gratitude that my family (even if we are imperfect like all families are) is held together by our love for each other, and on an equally important level, the love of food.
Uncle Eric and Aunty Adeline are “foodie” pioneers.
I honestly think the word “foodie” was created out of a need to describe people like them. Remember how they introduced beef liver pâté to us ? I mean, that was novelty!
And a long time ago, before Singapore’s cultural food scene started expanding and became the melting pot of cuisines it is now, it was Uncle Eric and Aunty Adeline who introduced Japanese food to us. And no, I’m not just talking raw, cold sushi or sashimi. Apart from the uncooked food, they also introduced us to cooked, warm Japanese food that would fill our stomachs and cradle our souls. Dishes such as Unadon (eel and rice) and pork ramen became the highlights of our dinner sessions.
Among the dishes we were introduced to, was teriyaki chicken rice.
Yes, I’m talking about tender chicken slices marinated in teriyaki sauce (essentially a mixture of soy sauce and mirin and a bit of sugar); then either grilled or cooked in a saucepan. Serve it on top of a bowl of steaming hot white rice, sprinkle on some sesame seeds and chopped spring onions, and there you have it – one of the most welcoming, filling and satisfying dishes ever.
Are you drooling yet?
This dish takes me back to the streets of Asia; it brings me right into the heart of my memories with my family; and it fills me up with a warm, fuzzy feeling of unconditional family love.
Do you have a dish that makes you feel that way? Do tell! I’d love to hear your stories!
TERIYAKI CHICKEN RICE
1) 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips
2) 4 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce (if you wish to make it yourself, see this recipe)
3) 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds
4) 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh spring onions
5) 2 bowls of cooked long-grain white rice (or make this grain-free by using cauliflower rice!)
1) Marinate slices of chicken breast in the teriyaki sauce for at half an hour
2) Cook chicken slices in a non-stick pan (or if you prefer on the grill) on medium-high heat (making sure to remove chicken slices once cooked through), adding two tablespoons more of teriyaki sauce if you wish
3) Serve chicken slices on top of cooked white rice, sprinkled with sesame seeds and chopped fresh spring onions