Closed doors…

Chinese New Year 2021 is around two weeks ago on Friday, the 12th of February, but we shall be ushering in the Year of the Ox behind closed doors.

There will not be any need to go through weeks of strenuous spring cleaning, wiping and scrubbing every nook and cranny in the house from top to bottom, no climbing up and down putting up the lanterns and other decorations and of course, there will not be any welcoming of family and friends, unlike last year. In view of the current situation, we shall not be holding an open house this year.

Of course, we shall have a simple Reunion Dinner on the eve of the brand new year and we shall be inviting my sister to join us, that’s all.

No, we are not going out to buy anything special – we shall have to make do with what we have in the freezer and the fridge. We still have a few ikan bawal hitam/or chio (black pomfret) and those will have to do – nian nian you yu 年年有鱼.  We will probably cook sweet and sour fish with those as red is an auspicious colour. I don’t think we shall take out the otak-otak from Payung as they say we must have whole fish and we must leave a bit for the following day and not eat up all of it.

My missus made some Sarawak acar timun (pickled cucumber) and I’ve been frying keropok (prawn/fish crackers) – they go so well together and sitting down to enjoy them is a Chinese New Year thing here but the problem with being cooped up in the house all day long, the keropok kept running out.  We still have two packets left but I think I shall wait till the festival draws near before drying them in the sun and frying them.

She also made some pineapple tarts…

Missus' pineapple tarts

Usually, she would just go out and buy – there is a bakery here that makes them in the form of golden nuggets…

Daily Bread pineapple nuggets

They are getting more expensive and smaller each year but thankfully, when we bought some last year, they were still very nice.

It sure was extremely work intensive, making one’s own pineapple tarts. Preparing the jam was so tedious – I saw my missus stirring it slowly over a very small fire for hours and at times, she would enlist my girl’s help.

Getting the pastry ready isn’t so bad unlike in my younger days when I used to help my mum and aunties and my maternal grandma to make pineapple tarts. We would use bottle caps (Sun Valley orange cordial or grenadine) to cut circles in the pastry for the base to put the pineapple jam and then we would cut long strips of the pastry to line the sides and seal them. After that, we would clip the sides with brass clippers – a special instrument with serrated edges – to make a nice design.

Nowadays, there are special moulds for making pineapple tarts and you can just use them to stamp the pastry…

Pineapple tarts, pastry

…and after you have placed the ball of pineapple jam in the hole…

Pineapple tarts, ready for the baking

…they are ready for the baking.

My missus’ pastry is perfect! It is crumbly but it melts in the mouth and does not crumble in your hand. That is really quite a challenge to achieve. Ever so often, I’ve had pineapple tarts where the pastry was a bit too hard for my liking.

The pineapple jam was perfect when it came out of the oven – moist, not hard and not too soft and sticky but unfortunately, once it cooled down, probably due to the loss of moisture and the extended cooking in the residual heat, the jam got a little bit dry and hard. Still, it was very nice and we still enjoyed it very much. They’re all kept in tightly-sealed jars now – no eating till Chinese New Year or else they will all be gone in no time at all.

While she was busy with the tarts that afternoon, my girl made these lovely mini gimbap/kimbap aka mayak gimbap

Mayak gimbap

…for our dinner. There was rice, tuna and vegetables with some Korean sauce wrapped in the seaweed so it was a complete meal in itself and thankfully, there was no kim chi so I could enjoy it. LOL!!!