Instead of flocking to restaurants, three home cooks are whipping up feasts for family and friends this Chinese New Year. They share their tried-and-tested recipes with SundayLife!
Fried glutinous rice pastry is a recipe that Madam Pearl Yeo cherishes as it is one of the few dishes that her mother taught her to cook.
The 40-year-old operations manager says: "This recipe is precious. My mother hardly cooked at home as she was busy working, and there's no substitute to this pastry as I cannot buy it."
To come up with the golden brown rolls, her mother, 62, drew inspiration from youtiao (deep-fried dough fritters) stuffed with glutinous rice, which a neighbour made.
Driven by a craving for the rice-filled fritters, she experimented and wrapped dough around a layer of glutinous rice, like a sushi roll.
She served the luscious parcels as snacks when relatives dropped by to visit during the fourth and fifth days of Chinese New Year.
Madam Yeo says: "My mum made this dish only three times a year. One of the occasions was Chinese New Year, as this dish symbolises a sweet start to the new year."
For the past decade, Madam Yeo has been upholding this tradition by serving fried glutinous rice pastries to family and friends when they visit her five-room flat in Punggol during the festive season.
Each year, she makes about 100 pieces of the pastries and serves them with tea or longan and red date soup with hard-boiled eggs. She says: "I can prepare the rolls the day before and fry them when I have visitors."
Over the years, she has tweaked the recipe. She rolls the pastry into bite-sized balls, instead of slicing them into trapezium-shaped pieces with the sides exposed. She notes that the rice remains moist when encased within the pastry.
She also offsets the sweetness of the pastries with some tartness from jam, blueberries and strawberries.
She says she took 10 years to nail down the right proportions of water to cook the highly absorbent glutinous rice to achieve a chewy texture.
Besides glutinous rice pastry, other festive dishes she cooks are pencai, a pot packed with roast pork and duck; Chinese cabbage simmered in crab stock; and ngoh hiang (five spice pork rolls) for her family of five.
She has three daughters, aged between four and 12, with her husband, Mr Nick Pan, 38, a director in a digital marketing agency.
On why she insists on serving home-cooked food during Chinese New Year, she says: "Cooking is tiring but fun and therapeutic, and it is a joy to host and cook for people and bless them with good food."
This article was first published on Feb 15, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.