I always look forward to our poon choy dinner as the proper start of the pre Chinese New Year celebrations. We got our poon choy from the famous Restaurant Lee Hong Kee (used to be known as Restaurant LYJ) last year and I decided to try a new place this year. I had passed by this small and unassuming shop and called them to ask about their Hakka Pun Choi.
Poon Choy is actually a Hakka tradition that has been adopted and popularized over the years here. It basically involves a pot filled with all manner of premium ingredients by layer – stacked from the bottom to the top so each layer seeps down to the next, providing a new ingredient as you eat “down” and having the gravy/juice absorbing stuff underneath so it gets all the wonderful flavors from the smorgasbord of meat and seafood.
Hakka Siu Poon Choy is helmed by Cheong Sifu (Master, can also mean Chef) and I called the proprietor to ask about their prices. Poon Choy is now streamlined into two (2) sizes – 5 pax and 10 pax. I wanted the Premium Abalone Poon Choy, their best offering, for 5 pax and it cost RM 280 for the basic set. You can also add whole baby abalone for RM 20 each and I had six pieces coz there are six of us eating and I wanted everyone to have one.
I wanted to try this small restaurant instead of the huge commercial multi-restaurant F&B enterprises e.g. Dragon-i, Unique Seafood etc even though they’re cheaper (probably coz they buy in bulk) coz a smaller operation would have a more homely feel. I had it to go since me and my better half had her parents over so it’s easier to eat at home, especially with the two kids.
I also got two craft beers from Oregon for my dear’s dad and myself from Betty’s Midwest Kitchen. I’ve always liked Rogue’s brews and I thought their Mocha Porter and Dry Hopped St Rogue Red Ale would be perfect for the meal. The first is a stout like beverage, dark and high in alcohol content, with a nice coffee aftertaste. The St Rogue Red Ale is a sweet affair that’s light and refreshing and tasty from the dry hop process.
The poon choy from Hakka Siu Poon Choy did not disappoint – it was even better than last year! I called over the phone and told them to prepare a good one for me with premium ingredients and they did just that. The optional 6 pieces of whole abalone for RM 20 each was well worth it too! The good stuff is in the middle – there’s whole baby abalone, sliced abalone (the lighter colored stuff), sliced conch (the darker colored pieces), Pacific clams, sea asparagus (razor clams), top shell, dried mussels, dried scallops, fresh scallops, dried oyster and black moss (fatt choy).
I’m quite impressed by that selection, although most of it probably came out of cans like New Moon, they’re not cheap either. The whole baby abalone and one type of scallop is fresh though. The dried scallops are large and flavorful too.
There’s also ½ chicken and ½ duck flanking the poon choy pot with huge prawns, spare ribs and fu chuk (whole beancurd sheets/tofu skin) interspaced between. I particularly liked how they had ½ fish maw with ½ dried and rehydrated pig skin at the second layer. There’s also a wonderful array of sliced pork belly and sea cucumber hidden below. The Shiitake mushrooms, straw mushrooms, broccoli and turnips at the bottom soaks up the wonderful juices from everything slowly soaking down very well.
I’m sure I have missed some ingredients coz there’s supposed to be 28 in total!
My favorite has gotta be the prawns cooked in sweet and sour sauce though – the juices from that flavored everything beneath really well and I’m glad I paid extra RM 20 / whole baby abalone for a more festive treat! Everyone loved it and even the kids had extra rice! My dear even had to cook an extra pot of rice for a second helping for everyone.
It was a great poon choy dinner that has become an annual treat, much like our Christmas turkey dinners! I can really feel the Chinese New Year “mood” now. :)