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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chinese New Year Dinner with Suckling Pig



Why hello. An invitation to a Chinese New Year dinner is always exciting, but when Veruca Salt told me that a suckling pig was also on the guest list, I could barely keep the grin of anticipation off my face.

Chinese New Year is all about getting together with family and friends. It's a time to cherish loved ones, be thankful for what you have, and to clear the slate for a New Year filled with the promise of good fortune. It's a bit like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year all rolled into one, and a bountiful feast is the best part of celebrations.


King crab 

A feast at the home of Veruca Salt is never a modest undertaking. The table was overflowing with food, and the generosity of dishes was staggering. I've known Veruca Salt for over 15 years, and to be included as part of their family celebration was humbling. And delicious.

We relished the sweet flesh of the enormous king crab, cooked with tamarind and chilli and hoed into homemade spring rolls and stuffed chicken wings, packed tight with pork mince, black fungus and vermicelli.


Homemade spring rolls and stuffed chicken wings


Steamed silver perch

There are many dishes that feature regularly at Chinese New Year, usually because the names of the dishes sound lucky or auspicious. The word for fish sounds similar to abundance, dried oysters sounds like 'good things' and black hair moss sounds like the phrase 'to prosper, or grow rich'.

So a whole steamed silver perch took pride of place in the centre of the table, the flesh moist and fatty in a ginger, soy and shallot sauce.


Dried oysters with fatt choy black hair moss

Dried oysters were reconstituted, the flavour-intense bivalves cooked up with dried shiitake mushrooms and the treasured delicacy of fatt choy black hair moss, harvested in the Gobi Desert.


Chicken and jellyfish salad


Xoi Vietnamese sticky rice

Chicken and jellyfish salad
has always been one of my favourite dishes, fresh with coriander and crunchy from celery and carrot shreds. It provides freshness and balance in-between mouthfuls of deep-fried spring rolls and chicken wings.

There are also three kinds of rice to choose from: fried riceclaypot chicken and Chinese sausage rice; and xoi Vietnamese sticky rice, faintly sweet from coconut milk. 


Suckling pig

But really, I only had eyes for the suckling pig, picked up from a barbecue shop in Bankstown and waiting patiently in its red cardboard box.

EDIT: The suckling pig was bought from Big Hong Kong Garden, 292 Chapel Road South, Bankstown, Tel: +61 (02) 9793 8540. Cost was $43/kg (as at Jan 2012). The pig pictured weighed about 6.3kg.


Suckling pig

The loud and distinct splintering sound as the meat cleaver was pushed through the crackling was like music to our ears. It was almost like glass breaking, as the toffee-like skin split apart neatly in two.


Banh hoi

Vietnamese often have suckling pig with banh hoi, lacy bundles of fresh steamed rice vermicelli dressed with shallots that have been sauteed in oil. The banh hoi and pork is eaten together, drizzled with nuoc cham fish sauce dressing - others wrap it all up in lettuce leaves with extra herbs.

We just eat lots of it, savouring the juicy fatty pork crowned with irresistibly crunchy crackling.


Suckling pig plate with banh hoi



A night of good food and much laughter? I couldn't think of a better start to the Year of the Dragon!

34 comments - Add some comment love

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/25/2012 02:26:00 am


34 Comments:

  • At 1/25/2012 2:35 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    everything looks GLORIOUS! zomg that suckling pig! my soul weeps at the lack of suckling pig in my life

     
  • At 1/25/2012 6:15 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Where in Bankstown did you get the pig?

     
  • At 1/25/2012 8:05 am, Anonymous Tina @ bitemeshowme said…

    What a feast to be having for CNY. Happy New Year Helen!

     
  • At 1/25/2012 8:24 am, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    I would love suckling pig to be part of every guest list on every event I go to! lol

     
  • At 1/25/2012 8:38 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Zomg! I thought our families CNY feasts were good but that looks INCREDIBLE!!! I'd love to know where Veruca got the pig from??

     
  • At 1/25/2012 9:17 am, Anonymous Tina@foodboozeshoes said…

    Ooh, I had some dried oyster recently and couldn't quite handle the intensity of flavour... But 'ello piggy!

     
  • At 1/25/2012 9:57 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Anons - The suckling pig was bought from Big Hong Kong Garden, 292 Chapel Road South, Bankstown, Tel: +61 (02) 9793 8540.

     
  • At 1/25/2012 10:38 am, Anonymous Eha said…

    What a wonderfully appetizing feast of so many colours and flavours topped off by that suckling pig :D ! Thank you for sharing and DO have a happy and successful New Year!

     
  • At 1/25/2012 10:43 am, Anonymous Anna @ The Littlest Anchovy said…

    Hi Helen, First time commenting here (though have been reading a long time) because I just had to say that the suckling pig you have there is the stuff dreams are made of....

     
  • At 1/25/2012 10:53 am, Anonymous Anna @ the shady pine said…

    The feasts for CNY always leave me gob smacked by their colour and festivity. How could it not be a celebration with that wonderful suckling pig at the party!

     
  • At 1/25/2012 10:54 am, Blogger Yas @ hungry.digital.elf. said…

    so much delightful dishes!! I wish my family lived in the country (but not close by). One this I miss is my family when celebratory occasions come around.

    How much did the suckling pig cost? I'm planning on ordering one for special occasion!

     
  • At 1/25/2012 11:02 am, Anonymous JB said…

    OMG. The suckling pig! The crab! And gasp, dried oysters with black hair moss from the Gobi Desert?!? That's incredible! So jealous!

     
  • At 1/25/2012 11:24 am, Blogger Michelle Chin said…

    The head there frightened me at first but slowly, it transform into part of a porridge - okay, that's my hunger talking. :)

    Happy Chinese New Year Helen.

     
  • At 1/25/2012 11:24 am, OpenID lateraleating said…

    That suckling pig looks awesome! The steamed fish reminds me of the one my uncle used to cook (he was Japanese but worked for Chinese people and learned to cook Chinese-style).

     
  • At 1/25/2012 11:27 am, Blogger Gourmet Chick said…

    How amazing is that suckling pig? I love it that you can pick it up to takeaway! Happy Chinese New Year Helen.

     
  • At 1/25/2012 2:19 pm, Anonymous gastronomous anonymous said…

    i only have eyes for suckling pig, and the pig looks absolutely divine! what a feast! gotta love CNY feasts! happy CNY to you too helen :)

     
  • At 1/25/2012 3:18 pm, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    Oh look, a crunchy snout big enough for two. How romantic. You know what I mean. Happy New Year, young lady

     
  • At 1/25/2012 3:34 pm, Blogger muppy said…

    what a great feast, wishing you a wonderful new year :)

     
  • At 1/25/2012 3:43 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Ooooh! I really want the chicken jellyfish salad, the dried oysters, and the bright pink rice. Happy New Year!! :)

     
  • At 1/25/2012 4:20 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Big Hong Kong Garden - watch out!! we will all be heading there. Can I ask how much the pig cost nd how far in advance you would have to order it?

     
  • At 1/25/2012 9:55 pm, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    looks better than many chinese restaurants i've been to. love the look of the king crab!

     
  • At 1/25/2012 11:40 pm, Anonymous Maureen said…

    I can't remember ever seeing so much delicious food in one place before. The smells alone must have sent you to heaven. :)

     
  • At 1/26/2012 12:50 am, Anonymous catty said…

    OMGGGGG.. i want your suckling pig! That looks AWESOME! gong xi gong xi!

     
  • At 1/26/2012 12:56 am, Blogger Kay @ Chopstix2Steaknives said…

    aww man!! thankfully I am eating while reading this otherwise my tummy will be rumbling like crazy!!

     
  • At 1/26/2012 9:31 am, Anonymous thang@noodlies said…

    Yum.. that pig is delish.. as is the Viet sides! Happy Lunar New year!

     
  • At 1/26/2012 11:16 am, OpenID dontthinkjusteat said…

    WOW we don't usually do CNY (or LNY) in a big way but thinking about starting a new tradition... really just an excuse to eat a fat little suckling pig!!!

    Can I ask - what makes the Xoi vietnamese sticky rice so pink? I'm trying to solve the mystery of some pink rice I ate in Cambodia.

     
  • At 1/26/2012 4:01 pm, Blogger Food is our religion said…

    Happy chinese new year Helen! The pig and the crab made my heart melt!!
    p.s. I never knew Vietnamese sticky rice was pink!

     
  • At 1/26/2012 9:26 pm, Anonymous tania@mykitchenstories.com.au said…

    it all looks amazing Happy New Year!

     
  • At 1/26/2012 10:47 pm, Anonymous Jacq said…

    omg that suckling pig looks amazing! I'm envious of your CNY feast!

     
  • At 1/26/2012 11:50 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Yas and Anon - The suckling pig cost $43/kg and the one pictured was about 6.3kg. It was ordered one week in advance but it's best to call them direct to check latest prices.

     
  • At 1/27/2012 11:47 am, OpenID jujichews said…

    The photos of that suckling pig quite literally took my breath away.

    Hopefully not a sign of impending heart attack, and instead just an indication of my enduring love for pork! :)

     
  • At 1/27/2012 9:45 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi dontthinkjusteat - The rice is pink from food colouring. Different colours can be used, but I think pink is one of the prettiest :)

     
  • At 1/29/2012 8:12 am, Anonymous Ozmo said…

    i'm gunna look up stuffed chicken wings.that just has so many possibilities.what a feast helen.

     
  • At 1/29/2012 11:35 pm, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    Always a special occasion when there's whole suckling pig involved!

     

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