Valuing traditional dishes at CNY


IT’S time for feasting once again as those of Chinese descent celebrate Chinese New Year. It is also a time for family as many take the opportunity to return home for their family reunion dinner on CNY eve.

Shangri-La Hotel’s Shang Palace Chinese Executive Chef Tan Kim Weng says that when you have a large family to cook for it is best to go for simple and healthy food.

“Today you can easily get some semi-processed dried seafood in the market like sea cucumber and pre-cooked abalone. It will help to reduce the workload for people who prefer to do a CNY meal at home,” he says.

According to Chef Tan, yee sang is still the most popular dish every New Year.

“Every year, our guests look forward to dishes symbolising good fortune, wealth and happiness. For example, sea moss (fatt choy) means good fortune and we have this in some dishes.

“We are popular for family and company dinners. During Chinese New Year we expect many guests to patronise our restaurant, whether in big family groups, or for company staff dinners. The traditional set menu is very popular for such occasions as our set menus have been created with a good selection of dishes from the starter to dessert,” he adds.

Shangri-La Hotel's Shang Palace Chinese Executive Chef Tan Kim Weng.
Shangri-La Hotel’s Shang Palace Chinese Executive Chef Tan Kim Weng.

Chef Tan, who hails from Ipoh, believes that traditional dishes are very important at this time of the year. However, it is also a good time to experiment and introduce some new ones.

“Some Chinese New Year dishes that were popular the previous year will remain in our set menu. This is because some dishes are available only during Chinese New Year. We do make some changes to the menu with different preparations and sauces.

“Fresh ingredients with the traditional Cantonese way of preparation is well accepted by our guests at Shang Palace. The traditional Chinese New Year ninko, which is usually served with shredded coconut, will be different this year as we coat it with assorted nuts. The crispy nuts go well with the sugar-reduced cake.

“We introduce new dishes every year. For this year we have Steamed Omega-rich Garoupa Fish with dried mandarin peel and brown bean sauce. The mandarin peel adds a fresh, citrusy aroma and flavour to the bean sauce.”

According to him, the focus should always be on healthy and fresh ingredients.

Chef Tan has more than 20 years’ experience in the culinary industry and has won numerous awards, including the 2010-2011 ACE Rising Star Winner (Marriot Award of Culinary Excellence) and the 2007-2008 Hospitality Asia Platinum Award for Most Promising Asian Cuisine Chef.

He believes that food at CNY is the same whether you are in Malaysia, Macau or Hong Kong.

“It is the same in countries where there are those of Chinese descent. CNY is the time for family reunions and those of Chinese ethnicity everywhere will sit down to a feast. Nowadays chefs are travelling all over the world and I would not be surprised to find the same festive atmosphere in other countries.”

Chef Tan shares two recipes with 3Age readers:

Wok-fried fresh water king prawn with supreme dried scallop sauce


1 (250g) large fresh water prawn (split in two)
5g ginger, thinly chopped
10g red shallots, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
20g dried scallops (soaked till soft)
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
¼ Tbsp light soy sauce
½ Tbsp sugar
Dash of Chinese cooking wine (optional)
Dash of sesame oil
½ cup chicken stock
Cornflour solution
White pepper
Corn flour


Heat 3 Tbsps oil in a pre-heated wok. Pat the prawn with dry corn flour and pan fry prawn for 40 seconds until fragrant.

Heat up wok, add 1 tsp of oil to brown the garlic, shallots and ginger. Add chicken stock and dried scallops to boil and add in the sauces and sugar.

Put prawn in to simmer over slow fire for 1 minute or until prawn is cooked.

Add wine, sesame oil and white pepper, and thicken the sauce with cornflour solution.

Place prawn on a plate and pour sauce over it.

Garnish with fresh coriander leaves. Serve hot.

Stewed sun-dried oysters with sea moss and garden greens in oyster sauce.
Stewed sun-dried oysters with sea moss and garden greens in oyster sauce.

Stewed sun-dried oysters with sea moss and garden greens in oyster sauce


6 dried black mushrooms
30g black sea moss
12-15 dried oysters
120g sliced chicken meat
1 Tbsp Shao Hsing rice wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsps cornflour
2 tsps sesame oil
150g lettuce

(A) Black Sea Moss preparation

1 Tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp oil

(B) Dried Oysters preparation

1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp ginger juice
1 Tbsp Shao Hsing rice wine
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 cup chicken stock


Soak dried mushrooms in cold water for 4-5 hours until soft. Set aside.

Soak the black sea moss in cold water for 2 hours. Lift the moss out of water and clean it. Rinse the moss in water several times, getting rid of all the sand. Squeeze dry. Put in a bowl and add (A). Cover with cling film and steam over medium heat for 1/2 hour. Set aside to cool.

Soak oysters in cold water for half hour. Add ingredients (B). Steam for 15 minutes, let it cool and set aside. Half of the sauce is needed for the final sauce preparation.

Boil lettuce in salt water for 30 seconds, drain out and set aside.

Fry sliced chicken in oil over medium heat until cooked. Drain.

Heat up the chicken stock and half of the sauce from the steamed oyster preparation in wok, add mushrooms. Bring to boil. Adjust seasoning with oyster sauce, soy sauce and sugar and slow cook for 2 minutes. Add wine and sesame oil and thicken with cornflour mixture. Remove sauce from fire.

Arrange dried oysters and mushrooms in a dish, with lettuce at the bottom and drained sea moss on top.

Pour over the sauce and serve hot.

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