Our second reunion dinner was at my in-laws' on the 1st day of CNY. MIL, being Shanghainese, does not follow the Cantonese belief for symbolic dishes. No fatt choy or lettuce, which is good because we get to eat completely different dishes. MIL is a very good cook, a perfectionist who will fry, then simmer her Shanghainese 'red-cooked' dishes whereas I, forever taking short cuts, will skip a step here or there and never come up with dishes as good as hers. The only thing I don't compromise though is the quality of the ingredients.
This is one of the most famous and delicious Shanghainese soup called yin doo xin (I think) meaning cured and fresh meat soup, referring to the mixture of Chinese ham, salty pork (xien rou, which is not as strongly flavored as ham) and fresh pork bones used to make the stock. Other ingredients are fresh winter bamboo shoots (ours was brought in from Shanghai), and fresh bean curd sheets called bai ye (also brought in from Shanghai, lucky us) which are tied into knots. Bai ye is not available here or even in KL I think. I used to bring them in from Hong Kong but they go sour easily.
The Shanghainese are especially good at braising and stewing meat in soy sauce, a method called 'red-cooking'. MIL is so good at making loh mei, a red-cooked dish of beef shins, pork stomach, tongue, bean curd cakes and eggs that some of my friends who have tasted it before still talk to me about it. Note: to cut eggs as perfectly as that, with yolks intact, MIL uses thread. If you use a knife, the yolks will break up, fall out and some will stick to the knife.
These are large prawns butterflied, seasoned and dipped in cornflour and deep-fried in very hot oil until the shell is crispy and edible. Very yummy.
Hakka-style stuffed tofu, a dish from Hub's SIL's aunt. The meat filling was very smooth and springy.
Every time we eat braised pork leg in restaurants, we'll end up saying "Nobody cooks it better than Ma." This is not a prejudiced exaggeration. The flavor is strong and just perfect and the pork tender because she steams it for 3 hours or more.
Another of her specialty: stir-fried celery, water chestnuts, button mushrooms, carrots, fresh baby corn and diced chicken. Anyone can do a stir-fry, but it takes a very good cook to make it perfectly blended in flavor and texture, and MIL gets an A+ for this.
I dared cook drunken chicken for a Shanghainese family. The relatives visiting from Shanghai said they loved it and were impressed that I could prepare it from scratch because in Shanghai, everybody uses packets of ready mix.
Also in the pic, braised Japanese dried shiitake mushrooms (very smooth and tender) and stewed bamboo and pork, from MIL's best friend Chin Aunty. Everything Chin Aunty cooks tastes better than the restaurants. And that's another CNY dinner.