Where To Get Pen Cai For Your Lunar New Year Feast
Despite its humble beginnings — the stories range from poor villagers pooling together food to feed an emperor, to fishermen feeding the fleeing troops of a politician — poon choi or pen cai has evolved into the height of decadence and abundance at Chinese New Year.
Its name translates literally to “basin cuisine” and the dish is said to have originally comprised radish, dried eel, pig skin, squid, pork, and bean curd. As anyone who’s ever dug into a steaming pot of pen cai knows, it is today defined by the layers of luxury ingredients that give it resounding flavour.
Here are a few versions of pen cai that you can add to your festive table.
Pot of Goodies from PUTIEN
One reason to order pen cai from Putien is the addition of doutou clams from its namesake prefecture, which makes it into this year’s Pot of Goodies (from $218, feeds four). Eleven other ingredients go into it, including abalone, prawns, fish maw and sea cucumber. Every takeaway order of Pot Of Goodies comes with a complimentary box of Putien’s Mazu Mee Sua, while stocks last.
Additionally, there’s now a frozen Pot of Goodies that you can order online well in advance. To make heating up simple, it comes in a stainless-steel pot which you can warm over a hot stove.
IMAGE: ANDAZ SINGAPORE
Pen Cai from 5 ON 25
Braised over eight hours, the Pen Cai (from $398, feeds four) from this Chinese restaurant at Andaz Singapore comprises 12 delicacies including six head abalone, fish maw, sustainable tiger prawns, king scallops, roasted pork, roasted duck and dried oysters. The gravy that all this is braised in is resultingly flavourful and laced with a mix of earthy spices. Only available for takeaway, with 24 hours’ notice.
IMAGE: ORCHARD HOTEL SINGAPORE
Fortune Pot Pen Cai from Hua Ting
Created by award-winning chef Lap Fai, Hua Ting’s Fortune Pot Pen Cai (from $368, feeds five) brims with shiitake mushrooms, live prawns, dried scallops, abalone, fish maw, dried oysters, roast duck and roast pork belly. It comes in a luxurious-looking red container that brings its name to life.
Harvest Pen Cai from Yan
Eighteen ingredients come together in this Cantonese restaurant’s Harvest Pen Cai (from $340, serves five). They include six head abalone, sea cucumber, live prawns, dried and fresh scallops, pork tendon, soy-marinated chicken, cod fillet and roast duck. The mix is simmered in a clay pot to yield deep, delicious flavour.
Abundant Fortune Pot from Shisen Hantan
Not only does this Abundant Fortune Pot brim with all the requisite delicacies, but it also comes with deep-fried tofu puffs, drunken chicken wings, dace fish balls, pork knuckle, deep-fried fish puffs, and Chinese sausages. For $516 (feeds six guests), it is part of a set that includes salmon yu sheng, fried glutinous rice with Chinese sausages and crispy Sakura ebi, and Shisen Hantan’s signature chilli sauce.
IMAGE: INTERCONTINENTAL SINGAPORE
Abundance Treasure Pot from Man Fu Yuan
Rock lobster and Kurobuta sausage are part of this Abundance Treasure Pot’s ($498, serves five) 18-ingredient list, which also include five head abalone, fish maw, goose web and sea cucumber. Other things that make it stand out from the crowd are Japanese flower mushrooms and pork liver.