For Chinese New Year dishes that are sure to impress guests, Nafeesa Saini looks to four society personalities known for their cooking wizardry. At the stylish showroom of German luxury kitchen appliance brand Gaggenau, she speaks to Susan Peh on their family celebrations, signature recipes and expert tips.
Made of memories
“It was about 10 years ago when we were accompanying our eldest daughter in London. She had just started her first semester at a university there. We were in a Chinese restaurant and I was feeling nostalgic and homesick. There was a particular smell with the comforting undertones of sesame, ginger and scallions that reminded me so much of home. We discovered that it was a lobster noodle dish, decided to try it and found that it tasted really good. The dish has since grown close to my heart as it always brings back comforting memories. I decided to cook it myself so that the ingredients and flavours could be adjusted to healthier proportions and yet taste great.”
Fresh is best
“Buy the freshest ingredients. For the lobsters, purchase them live on the day that you are cooking them. I often improvise and have added beer, salted egg yolk, Chinese black vinegar, prawn roe, angel hair pasta or mee pok as substitutes. Ultimately, perfection is achieved when your family and friends are happy and gratified after tasting the dish.”
“My husband Adrian and I work long hours so our time for socialising is limited. Before the pandemic, we used to host family and friends at our home during Chinese New Year to catch up. One of the highlights that I would always be excited about was to create a giant yusheng for family and friends. We would also visit our senior relatives and close friends. With social distancing measures in place now, it is sadly not possible to do the same in large numbers for a while. We will likely have a quieter family Chinese New Year celebration at home over home-cooked food.”
A chef’s joy
“A clean, bright, well-organised and ventilated kitchen equipped with quality appliances and utensils always makes cooking and baking an absolute joy!”
Susan’s celebratory lobster noodles
- 6 halves Maine lobsters
- 1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour • 2 tsp corn flour
- 2 tsp pepper
- 11⁄2 tsp sea salt
- 3 tbsp cooking oil
- 2 shallots, sliced
- Cooking oil (for deep-frying)
- 2 tbsp shallot oil
- 1⁄2 cup chopped garlic
- 6 slices young ginger
- 4 tbsp XO sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
- 7 bowls chicken stock
- 1 tbsp corn starch mixed with 2 tbsp water
- 6 stalks scallion, cut into 2-inch strips
- 2 tsp ground pepper
- 1⁄2 tbsp fish sauce
For marinated minced pork
- 250g minced pork
- 1⁄2 tbsp light soya sauce
- 2 tsp white pepper powder • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp shallot oil
- 6 servings egg noodles
- 6 large pieces Chinese lettuce
- Big red chilli
- Fresh tomato
- Chinese celery
- Fried shallots
- Wash lobsters, cut into halves and crack pincers.
- Dry the cut lobsters and very lightly coat with flour, corn flour, pepper and sea salt mix.
- Heat the wok and add 3 tbsp cooking oil over moderate fire.
- Add sliced shallots and lightly fry until brown.
- Strain the oil and set aside as shallot oil.
- Fill wok with at least 3 cups of cooking oil and heat until about 180 deg C.
- Once oil is very hot, add lobsters. Deep-fry for about two minutes until the meat is almost cooked.
- Strain the lobsters and put aside.
- In a dry wok, add 2 tbsp shallot oil and heat over moderate fire.
- Add chopped garlic and sliced ginger. Lightly fry until golden brown.
- Add loosened marinated minced pork, XO sauce, sesame oil, Shaoxing wine and stir-fry until fragrant
- Add chicken stock and bring to a boil for about 10 minutes.
- Add corn starch and stir into the stock to slightly thicken.
- Add lobsters, cut scallions, pepper and fish sauce and gently simmer in stock for at least three to five minutes with wok covered, until lobster shells are bright red and meat is thoroughly cooked. 7. Dish out the lobsters and set aside. Put stock aside.
- Bring half a pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tsp shallot oil.
- Cook noodles for about two minutes to desired texture.
- Place noodles in strainer and rinse with cold tap water. Put noodles aside and stir in another 1⁄2 tsp shallot oil if desired.
To serve: Assemble noodles, lobsters and vegetables on a serving plate. Pour hot stock generously over the dish. Garnish creatively.
PHOTOGRAPHY: ALECIA NEO | ART DIRECTION: AUDREY CHAN | HAIR: SHA SHAMSI | MAKE-UP: NOOR FASEHA ISMAIL
This story first appeared in the January 2022 issue of Prestige Singapore.