Poon choy feast cooked from scratch for Chinese New Year!

Poon choy with abalone, Korean oysters, scallops, tiger prawns, fish maw, mushrooms, soy chicken, siu yoke (roasted pork belly), quail eggs, broccoli and daikon radish.

I love eating poon choy. I’ve had it in 2014, 2015 and 2016. I only paused after that coz this isn’t a dish you can eat by yourself. I’ve always wanted to try making my own version of poon choy. It’s not difficult, just labor-intensive coz you need to cook all the ingredients separately before combining in a big bowl. Nothing that can’t be done with proper planning. I nailed down all the ingredients I wanted to have inside and how long it’ll take to cook each one and came out with a shopping list and recipe.

I had ordered all the dry seafood the week before via online shopping. I got large dry scallops, Korean dried oysters and huge dried mushrooms from a specialty dried produce store. I read mushrooms need to be soaked for a day prior to cooking so the preparation started the day before I started cooking. I even timed when I needed to get the fish maw (12 hours), dried oysters (8 hours) and dried scallops (2 hours) into the soaking basin.

I also prepped the tiger prawns by deveining and removing the long feelers. This took longer than expected coz I don’t have much experience in deveining prawns. I usually get the frozen and peeled ones. It’s quite intuitive though and after this episode I’ll be able to do it a lot faster in the future. At the end of it, I didn’t even need to cut open the back – I could just twist into an opening in between the shell and pick up the vein. Next level up is doing it with a toothpick.

The prawns are cooked in a mixture of Japanese sushi vinegar, mirin and sucralose. I also boiled the quail eggs in this sauce. Mandy helped peel the shells of the quail eggs, which was her only contribution to this endeavor. Haha. To be fair, I actively told her not to assist me coz I wanted to be the one to cook her this poon choy feast.

The only two ingredients that wasn’t cooked from scratch are the abalone and siu yoke. The former came already pre-braised in a can. The latter I tapau from one of the chicken rice stalls near my house coz there’s no way I can make better siu yoke at home, considering I don’t even have an oven!

Next was the “master stock”. This was a mixture of oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, chicken stock, coriander, Shaoxing wine, fish sauce and sucralose but at the end of it was heavily flavored by the dried oysters, scallops, fish maw, and mushrooms too. I started with the plump rehydrated mushrooms before adding in whole chicken legs.

I also chopped up the stems of coriander leaves to add that distinct taste into my braising stock.

I then added in the rehydrated Korean oysters. This added SO MUCH FLAVOR to the stock. Dried oysters have the essence of umami inside them and they contribute so much savory taste to the braising liquid. It’s uncanny! I would say this is one of the most important ingredients in poon choy.

I also dumped in the rehydrated fish maw while chopping up the daikon radish. I really enjoyed the fish maw – it absorbs up so much of that delicious broth. It was one of my favorite things to eat in this poon choy big bowl.

The daikon radish goes in last and I let this whole pot simmer at low heat for about 30 minutes before adding in the scallops. Rehydrated scallops are very fragile so I used a strainer to keep them together. This makes it easier to scoop up and also prevents other sturdier ingredients from bumping into it. You want them plump and whole to be displayed in the poon choy.

All that’s left after that is arranging the ingredients into the bowl. There’s abalone, Korean oysters, scallops, tiger prawns, fish maw, soy chicken, siu yoke, mushrooms, quail eggs, broccoli and daikon radish. I also heated up a bit of the braising liquid with tapioca starch to make a gooey gravy to go with the poon choy.

It’s really delicious! This came out way better than I expected. Everything tasted so good! 10/10 – a success. 👏

Unfortunately, I’ll be eating poon choy till I go back for Chinese New Year. At least I have Mandy now so she can help out a bit. I wouldn’t have cooked this before she came into my life coz it’ll be impossible to finish by myself. Haha.

Our RM 890 8-Head Abalone Poon Choy Dinner

Poon Choy

This is a Chinese New Year tradition that I do with my better half and the kids. Her parents usually come along as well so it’s 6 pax for our poon choy dinner. I make it a point to do a lot of research before ordering the year’s poon choy (which is a big bowl feast with lots of stuff inside) and decided on Unique Seafood, Kota Damansara for our 2016 table.

Prosperity Poon Choy

I had to order and pay for the poon choy in advance – it costs RM 411.65 for a 5 pax poon choy with with 8-Head Abalone. It says RM 374.20 nett on the poon choy reservation slip, but that’s for take-out only. You get a 16% surcharge for service and GST if you dine-in, which is what we opted for this year.

Table Reservation

I made reservations for a table of 6 for 6:15 pm.

Seafood Fish Tanks

My dear’s father is a huge fan of fish so that was one of the reasons I had chosen this place for our Chinese New Year dinner. They have a wide range of seafood on offer – everything from lobsters to fish. It’s also super fresh (since they’re still alive and in aquariums) and you simply walk over to choose the specimen that you want and the chef will cook it for you.

King Grouper

He went for the King Grouper (RM 173/kg) and one of the waitresses fished out the 1.3 kg creature and it eventually ended up on our dinner table.

Abalone Salmon Yee Sang

I also wanted to have yee sang with everyone so I asked for their most premium version, which was the Abalone and Salmon with Fuji Apple Yee Sang (RM 160.90 for half portion). It’s good for them to offer 1/2 portions since a full portion would be too much for our table of 4 adults and 2 kids.

Lou Sang

The abalone was very good and sliced well, but the salmon was a little sad looking. We later found out that Japanese restaurants around Klang Valley has started offering fresh salmon and other seafood for yee sang at extremely competitive prices. Nevertheless, it was the symbolic tradition of the lou sang toss that means more than the food itself.

2016 Poon Choy

The 8-Head Abalone Poon Choy (RM 411.65) came next and it was enclosed in a claypot, complete with lid, and a heating source at the bottom. I dare say that this was the best poon choy we’ve had over the years and the hot nature of the ingredients contributed to that. Of course, the awesome selection of goodies was cooked to perfection too.

8-Head Abalone

This year had 8-head abalone, fresh prawns, fresh scallops, black moss, sea cucumber, huge sheets of fish maw, oysters, dried scallops, roasted duck, steamed chicken drumsticks, mussels, mushrooms, abalone slices and plenty of vegetables at the bottom. There was a lot to eat! Unlike last year’s poon choy, our 2016 poon choy was cooked together and all the flavors combined really well.

Grouper

The fish came after the server saw we were done with the poon choy. The King Grouper was cooked two ways – the first as slices of grouper in superior stock. This proved to be a hit as well, the entire grouper cost RM 224.90 (not inclusive of RM 12 cooking charge) and the flesh was soft and tender. I like how the freshness was accentuated by the cooking style too. The slices of grouper rested on soft and silky tofu, a very nice way of presenting it.

King Grouper Soup

The second course for the King Grouper came as a soup. Unique Seafood fried the head and bones and cooked it with some vegetables to produce a flavorful soup. It’s usually taboo to not serve a whole fish for Chinese New Year but since we have kids, it’s a lot easier (and more practical) to have the restaurant slice up the fish so there’s no bones and cook the head separately.

Waxed Meat with Glutinous Rice

I also ordered the Waxed Meat with Glutinous Rice (RM 44.35) which is a Chinese New Year staple. We barely made a dent in this since we were all full by then. I tapao it and we enjoyed it the next day though and it was delicious!

Seasonal Mixed Fruits

The kids wanted to have dessert so I ordered a platter of Seasonal Mixed Fruits (RM 20). They first had this when they came over to Sibu a few month’s ago. It’s nothing spectacular but maybe that was coz we were almost bursting with food at this point. Haha.

RM890 Bill

The bill came up to RM 890.50 for everything. I had already paid RM 414.50 when I reserved the poon choy earlier in the week (you have to pay up-front nowadays since it costs a lot to prepare the top shelf ingredients) so I just needed to pay RM 476 more after dinner. It’s slightly more than if you had booked a banquet but this way we got to choose what we wanted to eat and we had it centered around poon choy, which you can’t do with the banquet option.

Stuffed Scallops

I particularly enjoyed the fresh scallops stuffed into gourds and the fatt choy (black moss – a type of bacteria). I was quite surprised to see the little one eating a whole 8-head abalone by herself too. It was really yummy and we nearly managed to finish the poon choy despite just having 4 adults.

Unique Seafood

It was a great poon choy dinner and I’ll be looking to try a different restaurant’s poon choy around this time next year. Chinese New Year is coming up in less than a week’s time! Happy Chinese New Year everyone! :)

Our annual poon choy dinner with whole baby abalone @ Hakka Siu Poon Choy

Poon Choy

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

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.

Poon Choy 2015

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.

Rogue Red Ale Mocha Porter

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).

Hakka Poon 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!

Whole Baby Abalone

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. :)

Poon Choi @ Restaurant Lee Hong Kee

poon choi top layer

I’ve always wanted to eat poon choi. It’s a a traditional Chinese New Year feast in a bowl that requires at least 8-10 people to finish. There’s an interesting article in Wikipedia that has the origins of poon choi – it’s apparently prepared in layers and meant to be eaten layer-by-layer instead of stirring everything up.

poon choi tapau

I decided to book a table at Restaurant Lee Hong Kee (previously known as Restorant LYJ) since their flagship dish is poon choi. However, the restaurant is fully booked for all the dates even *remotely* close to CNY. Thus, I decided to take away and have it at home instead.

full house

Restaurant Lee Hong Kee really is packed to the brim – there’s a sign saying “Full House” and all the tables are reserved. We sat down and waited about 20 minutes for our take-away poon choi to come. It’s served in a big, deep bowl and wrapped with aluminium foil and wrap to retain the heat.

restaurant lee hong kee

The people there will also help you to move the poon choi to your car!

poon choi to go

I also ordered some of their popular dishes like their signature roast chicken a.k.a. “Dong Tok” chicken. It’s literally a chicken that’s made to *stand up* with head and throat served intact. Since we had it to go, I couldn’t make it stand up without assistance, despite all my best efforts. smirk

standing chicken

There were 11 of us that day – some are kids, but all of them are my dear’s brothers and parents. The poon choi is priced at an auspicious RM 338 and contains a lot of goodies – the top layer (dry) has ½ Hainanese steamed chicken, ½ roasted duck, abalone slices, fishball cake, a dozen large prawns (unpeeled) and a token amount of vegetables.

poon choi

I found out that poon choi doesn’t have a lot of vegetables coz of the history behind the dish. There are a lot of premium ingredients though!

poon choi bottom layer

The bottom layer contains the “wet stuff” and other goodies which can absorb the sauces which drips down from the top layer – fish maw, roasted chestnuts, pig skin, bean curd, Shittake mushrooms, braised chicken feet and stewed pork, just to name a few.

big bowl feast

It really was a wonderful experience eating the poon choi! I had it with my dear’s family and the 11 of us couldn’t even finish the bowl! It’s not called the Big Bowl Feast for nothing. The sauce is really delicious and we all ate till we’re about to burst! I highly recommend their poon choi, it really is something special due to the chef’s familiarity with preparing the dish.

classic pun choi

The bill came up to RM 421 and it’s definitely worth it. I’ll happily eat the poon choi from Restaurant Lee Hong Kee again – according to my dear, it’s the best she has eaten to date.

Happy Chap Goh Meh everyone! :)



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