“Food Abundance. Fortune Abounds. In your treasure pot. 聚宝盆.”
Lunar New Year is the most celebrated religious festival for Chinese. What’s the most important during this celebration, food, of course. Plentiful of symbolical, auspicious and luxurious food will be consumed. Pen Cai is one of the must-eat dishes, especially for Cantonese dialect.
Pen Cai was originally made due to too much left-over from the fifteen days of lunar new festival. In order not to waste food, and people believed to gather all of their left over food/ ingredients in the last day of the lunar new year festival would bring them fortune and savings. Hence, people used a metal basin to contain all of their left over food and cooked altogether, called it the Pen Cai (“food in basin”). However, Pen Cai is no longer using just the “left over”, but mainly luxurious ingredients. We also use beautiful casserole, stainless steel pot, or claypot to serve our Pen Cai, too.
Here’s my version of Pen Cai:
(Dried seafood 乾海味)
1 large piece of dried fish maw (soaked in hot water till overnight) 花胶 (花膠)
2-3 tubes deep fried fish maw 炸鱼鳔
5 dried scallops 干贝 (瑤柱)
5 dried oysters 蚝士 (蚝干)
5 dried Shiitake mushrooms, trimmed stem 花菇
Handful of black moss (fatt choy) 发菜
(Raw seafood 生海鲜)
100g Japanese scallops (frozen) 鲜带子
200g of sea cucumber, cut into chunks (either pre-soaked/ frozen/ dried) 海参
5 large fresh prawns, trimmed legs 大虾
Amount as desired 随意搭配:
Cauliflower, cut 椰菜花
Carrots, cut 萝卜
Sweet corn, cut 玉米
Broccoli florets 西兰花
Whole garlic 蒜头
1 red apple, cut 红苹果 (for cooking gravy)
1 can of braised “Hong Shao” Abalone 罐头红烧鲍鱼 200g of roasted pork 烧肉
500ml of water/ chicken stock 水或鸡汤
(1) All dried seafood ingredients to be soaked in tap water, for at lease 1 hour, except for dried fish maw (must be in hot water) to be overnight.
(2) Frozen scallops, thawed. Sea cucumber, if gutted and pre-soaked, just rinse and cut. Frozen type, thawed. Dried type, to be soaked in hot water overnight with multiple water changing process.
(3) Start blanching: Blanch soaked dried fish maw, fried fish maw and sea cucumber, to get rid of anymore impurity. Blanch broccoli, to eliminate greenish taste.
(4) Start braising: Pour chicken stock/ water, and abalone sauce from canned abalone into a pot. Add cut apple and whole garlic, bring them to a boil over high heat. Lower heat, add fish maw, dried oysters, dried scallops and mushroom to cook first, for about 1 – 2 hours or until soften. Then, add sea cucumber and fried fish maw, continue to simmer for another 30 min.
(5) Assembling and layering Pen Cai: In your casserole (or serving pot of your choice), layer pot base with whole garlic and root vegetables, followed by Napa cabbage (or any preferred leafy veggie). Arrange fresh prawns, raw scallops, dried black moss and cooked ingredients according to your liking. Broccoli can be placed in the middle or around edges of your casserole to presentation purpose. Then, pour in gravy.
(6) Put whole casserole/ claypot to continue simmering for another 30min to 45min (or until root veggie well cooked). Keep pot on super low heat during meal to keep the food hot.
Different food requires different cooking duration, depending on its texture. This is to avoid over-cooking the precious ingredients.
Not sure what’s difference btw dried fish maw and deep fried fish maw? Refer to my IG post now. :)
Fish maw = 花胶 = 鱼鳔？ 什么分别？现在就游览我的IG页看看吧！
Tips: Make sure clay pot/ casserole or aluminum dish tray can withstand long heating process, if not using stainless steel or metal pot.
* Keep adding water, bit by bit during the long braising process, if gravy thickens too quickly.
* Raw prawns and scallops may only be placed to cook on the last stage to avoid shrinkage due to over-cooking. This way to retain freshness and QQ mouthfeel with the seafood.
* Ingredients in your treasure pot can be added to your preference. For example: it can be roasted duck leg and/or chicken drumstick instead of just roast pork. It can be white radish instead of just carrot. Napa cabbage can be added instead of sweet corn. It depends on how large you want your treasure pot to be, and how many servings to cook. :)