The Lunar New Year of the Rabbit is less than a month away. The streets of Chinatown in Singapore are all lit up and bright red and cheery, with none too subtle hints of a prosperous and bright year ahead. Traditions for the lunar new year are many and one significant occasion is the reunion dinner. A moment when families get together and kindle ties anew, all eagerly waiting to usher in an increasingly prosperous year.
Yu Sheng and Pen Cai have always been an integral part of the Lunar New Year festivities in Singapore. The Yu Sheng, a raw fish salad comprising of various colourful ingredients is a significant symbol in representing “good luck” and “fortune”. Thereafter, the Yu Sheng is tossed with everyone shouting auspicious words and phrases such as Nian Nian You Yu (年年有余), Da ji da li (大吉大利) and Bu bu gao sheng (步步高升).
And for a symbol of cohesion and everyone coming together to share from the same pot of abundance, there is the Pen Cai – a giant claypot layered with braised meats, seafood and vegetables. It is traditional said in history that the Pen Cai was made for a fleeing Emperor in war by the citizens selecting their best foods from their houses all in one pot. A dish with humble beginnings, it is now a festive luxury and a feast fit for the Emperor.
And for GourmetEstorie’s first Lunar New Year article, we have the delectable imperial dishes from Xin Cuisine.
And the Yu Sheng is certainly no ordinary dish at Xin’s Cuisine. Itself named as Xin’s Prosperity Yusheng with Gold Leaf, Lobster, Salmon, Tuna, Japanese Sweet Prawn, Geoduck Clam and Japanese Cobia, this six story high Yu Sheng Pagoda is made of a bountiful serving of colourful vegetables and topped with a generous sprinkling of edible gold leaf flakes. The Lo Hei sauce is special and made just right complementing the entire dish. Not too sweet with flavours bringing out the natural tastes and textures of the salad, this is one Yu Sheng with many returns.
Yes, this Ice Sculpture topped with servings of the Yusheng is part of the entire presentation. One can settle for the full selection of Japanese Sweet Prawn, Geoduck Clams, Salmon, Japanese Cobia, Tuna and Lobster or opt for a choice of favourites. This is one Yu Sheng with a spectacle to behold from start till end.
Out come the rest of the ingredients and its a toss and a bountiful lo hei!
Delightfully, this is a very good serving of Yu Sheng. The balance of flavours is good and I particularly adored the crisp crackers which itself is slightly more different from the ordinary with a scented sweet flavour in each bite.
The Xin’s Prosperity Yusheng with Gold Leaf, Lobster, Salmon, Tuna, Japanese Sweet Prawn, Geoduck Clam and Japanese Cobia is available as part of the Bountiful Harvest ($2011) set menu for 10.
Please note the Xin’s Yusheng featured above is a media tasting portion for 4 persons.
This Lunar New Year, Xin Cuisine is presenting three different types of Pen Cai. Xin’s Imperial Pen Cai (only available in Big $888) is itself a feature in the dinner. Packed with superior ingredients of Whole Australia 3-head Abalone, Superior Shark’s fin, Fish Maw, Deer Tendon, Sea Cucumber, Goose Web, Sea Moss, Dried Oyster, Black Mushroom, Wild Bamboo Pith and Chinese Baby Cabbage, these ingredients are stewed for hours on end and layered together in a claypot. The best part comes from the superior stock which is umami rich is decadent savouriness with a hint of mild sweetness throughout made from all the goodness which has been boiled down over time.
Please note the Imperial Pen Cai featured above is a media tasting portion for 4 persons.
The large portion is fit for ten people the whole claypot is enough for up to two bowls plus per person. And for takeaways of the Imperial Pen Cai, the claypot is pacakaged in a red silk embroidered bag inspired after the Emperor’s robes.
And as part of the festive dishes enjoyed for the dinner, there was a special preparation of Rabbit Shaped Prawn Dumplings served in a clear seafood stock.
Apart from the traditional Lunar New Year delights, we also had certain key favourites from Xin Cuisine’s menu. Xin’s Crispy Roast Pork with Mustard Dip ($10) is an exceptional dish. Skin so crispy that I could even hear Daniel crunching away. And it is also through his recommendation that I tried the Roast Pork with a sprinkling of sugar to bring out the salty smoky flavours of the meat with a sweeter dimension. Fascinating, and it also goes very well with the mustard though it might be a little too spicy for some.
Another perennial favourite on the menu is the Barbecued Suckling Pig with Goose Liver, Yam and Japanese Cucumber ($30). Tracy recommended each portion to be savoured in its entirety. And it is the marriage of textures from the crisp crunch to the soft and mellow which really brings out the dish.
Start off the bite with the suckling pig skin that is paper thin with a beautiful bite followed by the soft goose liver which itself has a distinctive flavour of savouriness and fattiness. Then comes the yam as a firm entourage and lastly with the slice of Japanese cucumber to quell any overpowering tastes and giving the lasting refreshing bite. Now if they only used a slice of Foie Gras instead of just goose liver, who knows what else can be expected.
Desserts started off with a tasting portion of the traditional nian gao in a combination platter of the coconut and chrysanthemum flavours with a radish cake in the centre topped with xo sauce. Nian Gao is made from a base of glutinous rice and the Cantonese variety is usually sweetened. Its auspicious meaning comes from the identical sounds of 粘糕 (nian gao:sticky cake) to 年高 (nian gao:a higher year) which literally means an even better upcoming year. The nian gao served tonight are coated in an egg batter and fried.
Xin’s Nian Gao with Chrysanthemum, Xin’s Radish Cake with Waxed Meat, Xin’s Nian Gao with Coconut
I particularly enjoyed the Chrysanthemum flavoured Nian Gao as the flower essence is deeply infused into the cake giving a refreshing taste in each bite. The radish cake was enjoyably firm with the XO sauce being nicely savoury with no overpowering spice or saltiness. Yet, while I tasted the Chrysanthemum, I could not really discern the coconut flavours from the coconut nian gao.
The nian gaos are available in packages of $39 for 4 pieces.
And I really thought this was Fiona’s handbag.
And the desserts do not stop there. This is one dish I must order the next time I visit Xin Cuisine again. Fried Sesame Balls with Red Bean and Chocolate Liqueur Filling ($8 for 4 pieces) is a top winner that is clearly set to impress. Humble in its presentation like the traditional fried snack, the interior is what surprises many on the first bite.
An explosion of tastes with the distinctive champagne liqueur hitting the tastebuds immediately! The alcohol is definitely not the toned down variety but one with intense flavour that aims to complement the smooth velvety chocolate and sweetness from the red bean. The dish is also a play of different textures with the crisp sesame outer skin followed by a chewy layer, and finally the liquid goodness within.
The Custard Bun with Salted Egg Yolk ($4.20 for 3 pieces) is a memorable affair with flavour imaginable just by looking at the picture. With a filling comparable to the delectable ones I had previously at Peach Garden, the custard is a wonderful blend of salted egg yolk with custard finished with a sweeter touch all within a steamed bun. The filling literally oozes out and its viscous nature is visually impressive. Everything would be perfect if the skin was a little thinner, but I guess to compensate for that explosive custard, compensations must be duly made.
The final dessert of the day would be the Chilled Mango Coulis Pomelo Sago with Strawberry Haagen dazs Ice Cream ($10). A silky creamy and tart combination of crunchy pomelo bits and soft sago makes its appearance together with a scoop of strawberry ice cream to freshen up the overall flavour. A very enjoyable dessert and a smooth way to end the meal, this is a two thumbs up for me though some may not go entirely for its creaminess.
The hot teas at Xin Cuisine is one specialty that should be savoured. The private rooms are all named after the specialty teas and if one dines within, the tea would be served. Individually, the teas are available in 6 different varieties of White Peony, Dewdrops, Bamboo Green, Morning Blossom Pearl Tea, and the French Rose Tea.
Our private room’s tea : Morning Blossom Pearl Tea
Simple yet impressive general interior of the restaurant with booth seats.
The Grand Private dining room of White Peony
White Peony Private Dining Room
Morning Blossom Pearl Tea Simple Private Dining Room
The Lunar New Year Goodies
Our friendly and senior service staff Captain Lien Yoke Khuen for the night.
Me with Executive Chef Kwan Yiu Kan
The traditional delights of Yusheng and Pen Cai at Xin Cuisine Chinese Restaurant certainly has left me impressed. Though the restaurant is located hidden in Holiday Inn Atrium along Outram Road which may be slightly out of the way, it is well placed as a gem amongst the rocks. The daily menu also offers a wide variety of traditional dishes to please and a mix of fusion creations to impress. Couple these with the fine ambience of the restaurant away from the major busy districts, this is almost certainly like a retreat for that fine enjoyable dinner which you have always wanted.
And for all my readers, have a Prosperous and Bountiful Lunar New Year!
Thank you Fiona and Tracy from Holiday Inn Atrium Singapore for the invitation.
Holiday Inn Atrium Singapore
317 Outram Road
Tel: 6731 7109