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SeeFoon seeks out auspicious food for Chinese New Year

This is the season for that delightful Chinese tradition of welcoming the new year with “Loh Hei” or the Prosperity Toss, the tossing of various ingredients symbolic of auspicious qualities that we pray will come our way. Not only is the ritual a wonderful form of fellowship as friends and families stand around the table lifting the ingredients with their chopsticks (Chinese salad tossing!) but as they voice the various chants of ‘good business’ ‘good health’ ‘smooth sailing’ ‘good results’, the camaraderie and ambiance generated are wonderfully uplifting.

And this is a dish that allows for a huge amount of creativity as to the ingredients. As long as there is the raw fish, Yu Sang (representing growth, abundance), other ingredients can be as interesting as the chef wishes it to be. The ritual is to toss the mixed ingredients high in the air with a shout of “Loh Hei” which literally means to “move upwards”. It is symbolic of the wish for our fortunes to rise and expand during the forthcoming year.

I recently had the pleasure to enjoy my first prosperity toss in anticipation of Chinese New Year at one of my favourite restaurants, Crab House in Ipoh Garden East. Fanny who is my ‘go-to’ person whenever I make a booking at Crab House, and her partner Ah Sing who helms the kitchen, are very creative and diligent about coming out with new dishes to tempt the jaded palates of their regulars.

For this coming celebratory season their Yu Sang has an added ingredient: fried fish skin. Together with the raw salmon and added pomelo, plus all the other must-haves like julienned carrots, white and green radish, sesame seeds, crushed peanuts, fried crisps and plum sauce, the resultant ‘salad’ has a taste and texture that is utterly yummilicious with the fish skin adding the extra crunch. RM48 small; RM68 large with salmon and fish skin; RM38 with salmon only.

Aside from all the usual goodies on offer at Crab House, (written about in issues 152 and 222) while you’re there, make a note to order another new dish which is their salted-egg-yolk-encrusted fish skin served with a mayo mixed salad of carrots and jicama. Crunchy, crispy and crackling.

Crab House will be open throughout the CNY celebrations.
32 Laluan Perajurit 1, Taman Ipoh Timur
Tel: Fanny Chan, 012-565 7723; W.S. Wang, 014-940 8500
GPS: N 4° 616 733, E 101° 125117
Open 7 days a week, 11am-2.30pm & 5.30pm-11pm

Continuing my search for auspicious foods for Chinese New Year, I went in search of fresh steamed fish which as we all know, can be exorbitant in most restaurants especially at this time of the year. In Chinese, fish “Yú” sounds like ‘surplus’ and to have a surplus augurs well for the rest of the year. Hence the wish for “nyen-nyen yo yoo” meaning “May you always have more than you need” is a familiar greeting during this period. And most people dining out during this season will always insist on fish. At a price.

So for a change of price and pace, yet still attracting all auspiciousness for the coming year, do go to Restaurant 226 in Chemor and have their Steamed Chili Fish. It is a ramshackle coffee shop about 300m from the traffic light intersection at Jalan Jelapang and Jalan Chemor. Their Steamed Chili Fish is worth the drive as is their price.

Known as the Fei Tsao Yu (African fish) this stall stocks live black Tilapia most of which are at least 2kg in size. At RM20 per kg, plus a cooking fee added, we had a 2kg-plus fish recently that was steamed to perfection. This was butterflied, and done yin yang style with one side topped with ginger and the other side with the addition of black beans (Dao Tse). Amy, the young lady who served us, explained that their ginger topping is not blended but rather chopped fine which makes a big difference in taste. Plus their use of Bentong ginger lends another dimension of flavour. Despite its size, the fish was tender and steamed to just the right degree of doneness. RM50 for a fish that was too much for five of us.

The whole purpose for coming here is for the fish but one can have accompanying vegetables with it as well as browse some of the other stalls for other nibbles. Try the braised chicken feet from a neighbouring stall selling yeong liew.

For me just the fish is enough “raison d’etre” for the drive.

Restoran 226
Jalan Jelapang, 300m to Chemor junction.
Choy Kee: 012 573 9825  to reserve your fish.
Business hours: 11.30-4pm. Closed Thursdays.
GPS:  E 101° 7’ 11.4”  N 4° 43’ 5.5”

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