It’s been a little more than a year since the start of Covid, and here we are. Your Chinese New Year might look a little different this year, mine certainly did. With domestic and international travel restrictions in place to keep a lid over the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve swapped huge gatherings in restaurants and visits for smaller family gatherings and zoom dinners from the safety of our homes.
Having relocated in Hong Kong four years ago, the annual Chinese New Year trip back to Malaysia is a ritual, and failing to complete it this year feels blasphemous. It is at this moment I truly miss the little things. I miss the bright red decorations, the loud Chinese New Year songs pervading the air, the fireworks, the chatter of friends and generations of families reuniting, the shy giving and receiving of red packets, and of course, the food.
Whether we are stuck halfway across the globe or several states away, many of us are missing our families. Despite the slightly hollow feeling in my chest this year, food, seems to be the thing that connects us. Looking at all the “reunion” dinners posted on my social media newsfeed, and the multiple family facebook video calls, my heart is warm. The “pun choi” and “yee sang”, roast duck, the munching of Chinese New Year treats on Instagram show that we are celebrating this occasion, albeit, a slightly different way.
Using food to connect with ancestry can be a comforting and bonding activity during these times. Spice things up by adding twists to old family recipes! If you’re not a whizz in the kitchen, keep your eyes peeled for vendors selling your heritage meals! We may not physically be able to fly across the world, but the smells and flavors of food can conjure the closest thing to home.
Easy Chinese heritage food to recreate:
1) Pan fried dumplings
Pan fried dumplings: Wrap minced pork in dumpling wrappers. How simple does that sound? Compete with family members for the neatest and most innovative pleats! Play around with this recipe!
2) Char Siew (Roast pork in sweet sauce)
Char siu: Drench in sweet sauce and throw it in the oven. The smoky sweet scent of meat roasting in the oven is heavenly. Recipe here, and don’t worry, it’s not as daunting as it’s made out to be!
3. Tang Yuan (Glutinous rice ball)
Tang Yuan: Fear not vegetarians, try out this Chinese dessert! Everyone can chip in in this family affair! Roll tiny balls of colored dough to be boiled and infused in pandan ginger syrup. (Recipe here) If you want an extra burst of flavor in the middle, check out this recipe for tang yuan with black sesame fillings!