Every Lunar New Year’s Eve, if I’m not abroad, you can expect me to be having dinner with my family. By family, I mean all 23 of them from my 93-year-old grandmother to my 2-year-old niece. It is something my grandmother insists on—she believes a person who forgets tradition, forgets family.
Like any cosmopolitan city, it’s nothing short of a miracle to get so many people to sit down to dinner together in Singapore. It requires the expert management of multiple clashing schedules, packed with the million little demands modern life makes.
As you can imagine, arranging an unforgettable dinner for 24 is no simple affair. So this year, I’ve decided to take a leaf from Executive Chinese Chef Lee Hiu Ngai of Cassia, Capella Singapore.
During the 40 years of his culinary career, Chef Lee has charmed diners at top hotels in Beijing, Hong Kong and Singapore, and made Lunar New Year memorable for so many families. He generously shares his ‘recipe’ for happiness this Lunar New Year.
What is the most unforgettable Lunar New Year meal you’d recommend?
Chef Lee: One of the top five fish I’ve tried over the past four decades of my culinary career is the Unforgettable Fish. In Mandarin, it’s called 忘不了鱼, which actually translates to ‘unforgettable fish’. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll see why. The first time I savoured this fish was when a guest from China specially requested it. I took my first bite, and was instantly enraptured.
Why is this fish so exceptional?
Chef Lee: I could tell you how sweet, succulent, silky and tender it is, but that barely begins to describe it. The Unforgettable Fish swims against the current, and its scales are unusually crisp when steamed. Unlike other fish, we tend to steam this fish with its scales intact.
At Capella Singapore, we import the Unforgettable Fish ‘live’ from Sabah, Malaysia when it’s fully-grown and at least 2kg in weight—any smaller, and it loses some of its unique flavour. As with the best ingredients, there’s no need to do too much with it. It is best enjoyed lightly steamed, with a glass of white wine or champagne.
Any other dining tips for an unforgettable Lunar New Year?
Chef Lee: Lunar New Year has special significance for Chinese around the world. We believe it is auspicious to enjoy a beautiful and unforgettable meal to herald an amazing New Year.
Fortune and good luck aside, what really warms my heart is being with my family, and watching their sheer delight in enjoying a meal together. As a chef, this naturally fills me with a deep sense of pride. But as a father, husband and son, this gives me a glimpse of true happiness, in all its richness and simplicity.
If you are planning your own Lunar New Year’s celebrations, be sure to check out Cassia’s Lunar New Year specials here.