Chinese New Year dishes come early this time round. For those of you who will be preparing reunion dinner next February may want to give this recipe a go. It has all my favourite ingredients all in one platter. Here I have chosen the pre-soaked sea cucumber which is springy in texture, not the hard and dried ones. Mainly because the hard dried ones need a long time to braise until edible. Truthfully, I don't have that sort of time to spare with a toddler constantly looking for my attention. All the ingredient quantities below can be increased to suit the size of your platter, so the recipe I am giving today is based on the size of my platter.
In Chinese cooking, steaming is a very much preferred method in cooking to deep frying. My mom always insists that when cooking at home, we should try our best to keep our meals simple and healthy. This is to balance out what is served outside in restaurants, cafes and 'Kopitiam' (Malaysian coffee shops). Steaming is a good way to bring out the sweetness in fresh seafood, may it be clams, crabs or even fish. Usually not much marinade or seasoning is added to the fresh seafood if we want to taste the original sweetness. Cantonese call it "seen theem hoi mei".
This recipe requires the use of a very Malaysian ingredient called 'Belacan', also known as shrimp paste. Shrimp paste consists of tiny shrimps fermented with salt, pressed into shapes like blocks of butter or round discus pieces which are then wrapped in brown paper or vacuum packed for freshness. The smell is pungent and only a small portion is required for a single dish. Another important Malaysian ingredient here is the 'Assam' also known as tamarind paste. This paste is used to give this dish a sour tinge.
I do not eat sharkfins, neither do I use real sharksfins in any of my daily or festive cooking. Nowadays, we can purchase some gelatinous sharksfins from the supermarket frozen food department and whip up a tasty stir-fry for lunch or dinner. I love this dish cos it is simple to prepare and lovely to eat with all the different textures and flavours.