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Friday, February 23, 2007

Happy New Year


How many new years do you celebrate in a year? It is only February and I have celebrated 3 - the champagne-ollieboolen-fireworks January First new year, the somber and quiet Maal Hijrah and the eating-gambling-kuaci munching Chinese New Year. My favourite of all is Chinese New Year.
Back in Malaysia, despite the fact that my grandmother converted into Islam to marry my grandfather, we never stopped celebrating it or any other Chinese celebrations. Because in our family, it is not about a *religious* event but a cultural and traditional one. Every new year's eve, like any other Chinese family, we will have a reunion usually with our extended family - which is my grandmother's only other living sister (and her huge family). Trust me our reunion dinner (with immediate family) is like a big party for about 500 people. And that is just 2 families of 4 generations!
The next morning, we usually have the lion dance in my grandparent's compound and we kids get our angpows!
Now that my grandmother has passed away, the reunion dinner is usually in a restaurant. On the New Year's day itself, it is usually a big satay party in the evening at my uncle's house where the famous Malaysian Open House tradition is observed. Everyone and anyone is invited. Even tourists!

I haven't celebrated CNY in Malaysia for more than 10 years now. I usually get a brown package of goodies 2-3 days before the day itself but it's not the same. There is no Chinatown in the town where I live and the closest is probably in Amsterdam. But the good thing about this year is... this weekend, a group of Vietnamese families are holding an open house at the community hall nearby.

My contribution is this fragrant roasted chicken rice with all the condiments. I wanted to make something which will transport easily and keep for a few hours and easy to prepare especially for a lot of people.

It took me two days to prepare this but the result is stunning. The chicken is prepared in almost the same way as Hainanese Chicken Rice. A solution of water and salt, cinnamon, lemon grass, ginger and star anise is made the as a Brine. The chicken is left submerged under the solution for about 2-3 hours. Then it is blanched in a pot of water with spring onions, ginger, carrot, celery with star anise, white pepper and cinnamon. Pat the chicken dry with kitchen paper. Leave to dry in the fridge for 24 hours. The next day it is basted in glaze and roasted. I opted to use chicken legs instead of whole chicken as it is traditionally served because it is easier to prepare and serve a large number of people.
The rice itself is prepared using the chicken stock used to prepare the chicken. A pot of soup is prepared as accompaniment using the remaining chicken stock by adding some celery, carrot, star anise, cinnamon, roasted chicken wings, spring onion, ginger and garlic. I also made some garlic-ginger-chili sauce to go with the dish.
I am happy to report the dish was a roaring success yesterday and I had the most amazing home cooked Vietnamese food too!

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