Friday, February 13, 2015

Pen Cai (盆菜) 2015

Chinese New Year is always the time of the year which I would over work, over spend and over eat. :P Over work because between spring cleaning and baking for everyone (even for neighbors), I pretty much do till the very last day. Over spent...well, Mommy needs some new dresses and shoes ya? Over eat...duh?! And besides all these, it's also a time for me to try new Chinese New year recipes, yay! And this time I decided to attempt the "impossible"...Pen Cai(盆菜)! A couple years back if you ask me how to make Pen Cai, I probably would say NO WAY! But now...., yes! Still apprehensive? No worries, let me walk through this with you. :) Just bare in mind, my recipe is just a guideline and you are free to change the ingredients to whichever one you prefer. :)

Pen Cai to me signifies togetherness. Much like eating hotpot, this brings people together, crowding around it and enjoying all the goodness together. Such a heart warming dish, so I hope this is one dish more people should try to cook at home. :)

So here is my Pen Cai (盆菜)
I have to say there are several steps involved that makes this dish really lengthy and elaborate. So do bare with me as we go through step by step in this rather long blog post. ;P

Here are the list of ingredients for this recipe:
I do apologize for my poor's not easy trying to fit all in one shot! Anyway, it's just for pictorial reference, so you get an idea on what it is. :) 

Ingredients for Pen Cai (盆菜) -Serves 4 pax
1 can Baby Abalone (8 pcs) - You can opt for 1 whole big abalone
150g Roast pork or Roast Duck (I bought from my favorite hawker)
2 strips dried Tau Kee (beancurd skin), rinsed
200g Napa Cabbage, washed and cut into 4 sections
1/2 red carrot, peeled and slices into thin wedges
4 dried Shittake mushroom, soaked and sliced
4 large Tiger prawns, washed and trimmed
200g firm white fish (I used Toman fish), sliced
6-8 fresh scallops (I opted for fresh verses dried because my kids aren't dried scallop fans)
4" ginger, peeled and grated 
4 slices of ginger
4 gloves garlic, minced
150g dried Fish maw, washed
Fa-cai (发菜) (you can omit this but fa cai means  "发财" haha!)
1 boneless chicken thigh, skin removed and cut into cubes
1 chicken bone (for making soup) 
1 sprig spring onion

Seasoning for Chicken:
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp white ground pepper

Seasoning for Fish:
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white ground pepper
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp Chinese Shaoxin wine (绍兴酒)

Seasoning for Prawns and scallops:
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper

Now we get some ingredients cooking, especially those that means more time.
  • First things first, you need to "pre-boil" the abalone. A technique used by many restaurants which really improves the abalone's taste and texture. So have a pot of water ready, enough for the can to be submerged completely.
  • Once the water boils, remove the paper wrapper on the abalone can and gently place the can in.

  • Let the can simmer in the water for 3hours. Then off the fire and let it cool completely in the water before removing it to use. So yes, it is okay to do this ahead, like the day before to save time.
  • Next you get your chicken stock ready. Get ready another pot of water boiling and parboil the chicken bone. Drain the water away and refill it with fresh water and boil with the chicken bone and 4 slices of ginger. (You can get the chicken bone in NTUC, perfect for making stock!)
  • Ooops looks greasy even after I parboiled it. :P Let the water boil then lower it to a simmer and cook for a good 45 minutes.
  • Next you marinate the chicken cubes with the chicken seasoning. Let it sit for 15 minutes.
  • Heat up the pan with 2 tsp of cooking oil. Then add in half of the minced garlic and grated ginger to cook till aromatic.
  • Now you add in the shittake mushrooms and stir fry for a couple minutes. (Yes, that's my brand new HappyCall pan which I bought from Tangs at a 20% sale heehee)
  • Next, add in the marinated chicken cubes and cook till toasty brown and opaque. Then add in the chopped green onion and give it a stir before dishing out.

  • Marinate the fish slices with the indicated seasoning. Also marinate the prawns and scallops. Let sit for 10 minutes before using.
  • Next you cook the seafood. Again add in the 2 tsp og cooking oil and the remaining minced garlic and grated ginger into the cooking pan over medium fire. Cook till aromatic, then add in the toman Fish slices. 
  • Be extra careful when you flip to the other side not to break up the fish.
  • Once cooked, remove from pan and set aside for later.
  • Add in the prawns and scallops, cook till just turned pink/red. 
  • Dish out and again set aside for use later.
  • At this point, your chicken stock should be ready. So get your vegetables and fish maw ready to be boiled!
  • First you boil the beancurd skin which takes about a couple minutes in that simmering stock. Remove and set aside.
  • Next you boil the napa cabbage and carrots. You leave the carrots in the stock to simmer for a good 3 to 4 minutes. While the napa cabbage only takes 1 minute to boil. remove both respectively and set aside.
  • After that you proceed to boil the fish maw in the stock. This one will take about 10 minutes. So just leave it in the stock to simmer. After 10 minute, it should be soft, so remove and set aside for use.
  • Last but not least, the Fa-cai! All we need to do it put it on a fine sieve and dip it in the stock. Then remove and set aside for use later...again. :P
  • Once the abalone can is cooled, open and remove the abalone from the can and save the abalone water for use later.
So yay! We finally finish all the preparation! Check out all the ingredients.
But before all that, you have to make sure you have a good trusty claypot to contain all the good stuff you prepared. Lucky me, I bought this really nice Tanyu clay pot from Orchard TANGS recently. It was going at a 20% sale, yay! It is 22cm diameter which can fit a standard size chicken nicely. :) And the design on the clay pot is super nice too heehee. :D Go grab yours now, sales end before CNY!

Now we assemble! 
The bottom layer will be the chicken mushroom stir fry.
Spread it out. Next layer is adding the fish maw:
Then over the fish maw, we place the bean curd over.
At this point, we pour about 1 to 1.5 cups of the reserved abalone stock in. Yes, DO NOT throw the water away, it is really flavorful and it will make your Pen cai so good!
Now we top it off with the Napa Cabbage.
Then top it with the roast pork, prawns, scallops and fish pieces.
Lastly, we add in the Fa-cai and the carrots and we are complete!
YooHoo! Finally, we are done! This dish is truly a labor of love! But again it ain't rocket science, just takes a wee bit more time then just cooking other dishes. It's all about the "art" of knowing how to assemble all the good stuff together in one BIG pot. :)

I am truly happy that this turned out great. My kids whom aren't that big on dried scallops or abalone, actually love eating this Pen Cai. I guess having it together makes the difference too. So hopefully my post will motivate more people out there to try this out. No pain no gain haha! Try it and let me know.

Have a great weekend ahead and Happy Gooooat year ahead !


鲸鱼蓝蓝蓝 said...


Aunty Young(安迪漾) said...

Both thumbs up for you😀