Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Peng Cai, Poon Choi or Big Bowl Feast





Peng Cai, or Poon Choi in Cantonese, is a luscious one-pot dish prepared and served on special occasions such as the Lunar New Year. With its layers of auspicious and premium delicacies, the festive casserole hotpot dish symbolises prosperity and abundance.

Peng Chai was invented in Hong Kong and became popular here in recent years. According to Wikipedia, the dish could be dated as far back as the Song Dynasty:

"It was said that Poon Choi was invented during the late Song Dynasty. When Mongol troops invaded Song China, the young Emperor fled to the area around Guangdong Province and Hong Kong. To serve the Emperor as well as his army, the locals collected all their best food available, cooked it, and because there were not enough containers, put the resulting dishes in wooden washbasins. In this way, Poon Choi was invented."

Ingredients are prepared and placed in layers in the pot. Relatively dry ingredients such as seafood are placed on the top while other ingredients, which can absorb sauce well, are placed at the bottom of the basin. This allows sauces to flow down to the bottom of the basin as people start eating from the top. This attentive design of layering the ingredients contributes to the taste of the whole dish.

I cooked this on the first day of the Chinese New Year. The whole preparation and cooking process took me 2-3 hours but let me assure you that you will be rewarded with a flavorful and luscious dish that gets everyone excited and satisfied.


Base Layer (A)

Ingredients

600g Chicken, cut into chunk pieces (I prefer to use chicken legs)
40g Ginger, finely shredded
1.5 tbsp Dark Soya Sauce
5 tbsps Chinese Wine (Hua Diao)
1 tbsp Sesame Oil
1 tbsp Sugar
A pinch of ground white pepper

Seasoning

3 tbsps Oil
30g Ginger, finely shredded
4 cloves Garlic, peeled and sliced
40g Spring Onion, cut into length sizes
30g Chinese Coriander with roots, sliced
4 tbsps Chinese Wine
500g Chicken Stock
2 tbsps Cornstarch

Preparation

Marinate chicken with all the other ingredients and set aside for 10 minutes.

Heat oil in wok. Add garlic, ginger, spring onion, Chinese coriander and stir fry until fragrant.

Add marinated chicken, broth, cornstarch with water, Chinese wine and bring to boil. Simmer for 10 minutes and stir occasionally. Set aside.


Vegetable Layer (B)

Ingredients

2 tbsps Oil
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
400g Chinese Cabbage, roughly cut and blanched
200g Broccoli, cut into flowerets and blanched
100g Lotus root, peeled, sliced and blanched
100g Carrot, sliced and blanched

Seasoning

1 tbsp Fermented red bean curd, mashed
1 tsp Sugar

Preparation

Heat oil in wok. Add garlic and stir fry until fragrant.

Add all the blanched vegetables and stir fry for a minute.

Add seasoning and stir well for 2 minutes. Set aside.


Premium Layer (C)

Ingredients

2 tbsps Oil
4 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
20g Young Ginger, thinly sliced
100g Chinese Shitake mushroom, soaked and de-stemmed
300g Bai Ling Mushroom, sliced
1 can Baby Abalone
1 can Limpets
100g Sea Cucumber (ready to use), sliced and pre-blanched.

Seasoning

2 tbsps Oyster Sauce
1/2 tbsp Sugar
2 tbsps Chinese Wine
1 bowl Water and
1/2 tbsp Cornstarch, combine well

Preparation

Heat Oil in wok. Add garlic and ginger and stir fry until fragrant.

Add Chinese Shitake and Bai Ling mushrooms and stir fry for 2 minutes.

Add abalone, limpets, sea cucumber, seasoning and bring to boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.


Top Layer (D)

Ingredients

100g Dried Scallop, soaked for 5 minutes
300g Large Prawn, trimmed
200g Fish Maw, soaked for 5 minutes and cut to 30mm sections
2 tbsps Chinese Wine

Granishes

Spring Onion and Chinese Coriander


Putting All together

Place the stewed chicken with the gravy (A) at the bottom of the clay pot.

Assemble the cooked mixed vegetables (B) on top of the stewed chicken and pour the balance of the sauce over the mixed vegetables.

Assemble (C) over the mixed vegetables and pur over the sauce.

Assemble (D) over (C).

Pour chinese wine over (D). Cover the pot , bring to boil and simmer at low fire for 30 minutes. Check to ensure gravy does not dry up.

Add garnishes and serve hot.














I am submitting this post to Chinese New Year Delights 2013 hosted by Sonia aka Nasi Lemak Lover.

53 comments:

  1. I tried it once in KL as everyone was raving about it in their blogs so I just has to see what the excitement was all about...but I was a bit disappointed...despite it being a famous place with photos of Hongkong celebrities displayed all over the walls.

    It was nice, no question about that...but it was very expensive and I do think everything in it would be much nicer if cooked separately and served on their own. Like the one I had, they had roast pork, duck, chicken inside...and I felt they were all not so nice after having been soaked in the simmering gravy/soup.

    Hmmm...you would not want to know what "pun chui" means in Foochows dialcet. LOL!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Arthur! That's why I cooked this at home instead of ordering it in the restaurant.

      Hey... Must be something bad... Keep it to yourself! :)

      Delete
    2. True! True! I've had disappointment after disappointment at nyonya restaurants in the peninsula - in Penang and even the celebrated one in Malacca. Maybe our taste buds are pre-tuned to what and how we cook at home...so others somehow would pale in comparison. I would think that I could do better - one post on that coming up...this Saturday, I think.

      Delete
    3. Wow.. Looking forward to your Sat post!!!

      Delete
  2. When I was having reunion dinner with in-law they talk a out this restaurant style Peng Chai. I not sure about it until I read this post. Wow that's a lot of ingredients! Wondering how is the flavor after 'marriage' each other?But I'm sure this Peng Chai is meant to serve big crowd. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would say it's a bit like "Buddha jumps over the wall" with the different expensive ingredients.

      Yes, this recipe can feed 10-15 pax.

      Delete
  3. Hi Alvin
    Your post every time fascinates me.....and I would like ....."oh my look at that dish"..a winner dish! The big restaurant lose it out to you, man! A gorgeous treat once a year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Mel! You are too kind... How can I beat those big restaurants?

      Delete
  4. Alvin, this looks so good and luxurious! I wanna eat all the vegetable and premium layer!

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  5. Your preparations are always so on point. I enjoy coming here =)

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  6. Oh my goodness! Your Peng Cai looks amazing. You had me drooling. I shall try my hand at this next year.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Mich! Worth a try for big occasion or gathering.

      Delete
  7. Your poon choi looks absolutely scrumptious! Last year, on our reunion dinner, we had Poon Choi at a restaurant, and it was not properly done, more like rojak, everything mixed in one pot and hardly can see any layers at all, none of us enjoy it! So for this year, we go for 9-course dinner! Yours look perfect! Yum! Your family is very lucky, you are a great chef!

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  8. What a wonderful celebratory dish!!! I would be delighted to see this on my dining room table...just gorgeous!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Lizzy! There are quite a number of very chinese ingredients in this dish... like dried fish maw and dried scallops... might be new to you!

      Delete
  9. Alvin , your poon choi looks scrumptious ! Just love every flavorful layers *drool* lol

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Anne! You must have tried this dish many times in Hong Kong?!

      Delete
  10. I have not had poon choi before, and to be honest the idea of having so many thing mixed in sounds like a disaster waiting to happen: if the chef doesn't know what he/she is doing. But your version seems particularly luxurious. I like the way you've captured each layer for our viewing pleasure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HI Kelly! That (Cooking and taking pictures) is one big challenge for me! Sometimes I would prefer to focus on my cooking and snap only when the food is ready. But for this Peng Chai dish, I thought it would be interesting to share with all how I assemble the different layers together.

      Delete
  11. I always found the history and symbolism behind pen cai fascinating and the flavour derived from so many choice ingredients is magnificent, but, after preparing it to test out a recipe, I will definitely think more than twice before I attempt again LOL I really think this is the most beautiful pen cai I have so far seen!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Denise! This is definitely not your everyday dish... only for occassions like CNY!

      Delete
  12. Wow! You certainly eat well! What a lovely and expensive dish yum yum yum! Pass me the prawns first:D then the abalones :D:D Gong xi fa cai to you and yours! *still in the mood *:D

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    Replies
    1. Gong Xi Gong Xi! Haha Jennie, not everyday... splurge for CNY only...

      Delete
  13. what an opulent treat! sure beats the usual vegetarian fare we have on the 1st day of cny! i'd be excited and very satisfied with this dish too! ^^

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Hui! You mean you had vegetarian food the whole day?

      Delete
    2. yes ^^|| it's a kind of tradition in the family.. it's probably the only day in the year i make it a point to not eat meat, eggs, fish or dairy.. though i really don't see why dairy is not vegetarian?? since no meat is involved ^^

      Delete
    3. That's interesting... Hmmm... If you increase the frequency of this strict vegetarian diet, you will fit into your cheongsam in no time!!! :D

      Delete
  14. Oh My... what a big pot of scrumptious delicious treat :D

    ReplyDelete
  15. You have abalone in your big bowl! since my family not fancy on abalone, so i can save few hundred ringgit by not putting abalone into my peng cai ^_^..I have the same concept like you, wet ingredients at the bottom whereas dry ingredients on top, but my ingredients are slight difference from you..
    Your peng cai must be very tasty with added all these prime ingredients..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey A-Chi, pls share your version of the Peng Chai!

      Delete
  16. Wow! Wow! Wow! This is amazing, you made this at home! I understand that this dish costs hundreds of $$$$ at the restaurants. Ok, am bookmarking this for CNY 2014. Just cook one big pot of poon choi and everybody just dig in!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi PH! I find it too expensive to have this at restaurant too...

      Understand from Sonia you don't like abalone? You can exclude that from your pot next year when you are making this.

      Delete
    2. Oh no, I like abalone. Just don't like to spend money on it. Heh..heh...kiamsiap accountant :)

      Delete
    3. Haha... oic! Ya, personally I cannot comprehend the value of abalone too but once a year... for CNY and I received them as gifts...

      Delete
  17. Hi Alvin, I'm impressed!! You're really a good cook, good photographer, good menu planner, what are your other hidden talent??? :)

    Your peng cai is extremely good, better than those from 5 star restaurant. Best regards.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha Amelia! My other hidden talents are hidden... You can't see! Haha...

      Thanks for the kind words... and humour! I always enjoy reading your posts and comments!

      Delete
  18. Hi, Alvin, just popped over from Sonia's place. I just realised that you are a Chinese. All this time, I thought that you are either a Spanish or Mexican by judging the profile picture, sorry huh! In Sydney, we can also get Poon Choi during CNY and if I'm not wrong, it is also getting popular in Malaysia for the past few years. We are so lucky to be able to get the best quality of seafood in Australia but never try this dish b4, haha! Yours look absolutely delicious! Thumbs up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Huh Jessie! Was it because of my Spanish Polvorones or Mexican Wedding cookies posts that made you thought that I was a Spanish or Mexican? Haha... Tell you something funny, I'm quite dark as I run outdoor almost every lunch time... So when we were at Phuket last year, the Taxi driver thought that I was a Thai and started talking to me in Thai!

      Thanks for following me!

      Delete
  19. I'm available for adaption, want another kid who has a big appetite? Occasinally I can cook some Japanese food for your family~~~. ;) What a feast!! We all know that there's always good food at your home when there is celebration going on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Huh Nami? Adopt you? I don't think I'm so much older than you?! LOL... But I welcome you to cook Japanese food for us! :P

      Oh yes, food plays a very important part in the way I want to bond the family... and for the kids to connect with me.

      Delete
  20. wow.. very nice. But it would be lovely to see bigger scallops and perhaps a few more layers to stack in the pot to make it look really full! hahha... i hope you had a great CNY celebration

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  21. wow splenid poon choi! i never thought of doing that and i dont know how to go abt doing the layers too. *clap clap* my kitchen will sure go upside down if i do this!

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  22. Like the simplicity of your version of pencai. Now many restaurants do it well as they do not have the time to layer it properly..often they cook the various items in bulk.

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  23. Hi Alvin, Your post on Pen Cai has inspired me to make mine for CNY reunion dinner 2014. Thank you. Gong Xi Fa Cai!

    ReplyDelete

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