Tradition in a pot, Latest Makan News - The New Paper

Tradition in a pot

Celebrate Year of the Rooster with Cantonese dish

The Year of the Rooster is around the corner, and it's time to indulge in delicious delicacies to celebrate this joyous occasion.

Traditional Chinese New Year favourites include roast duck, bak kwa (barbecued pork jerky) and pineapple tarts.

Another prominent Chinese New Year dish is pen cai.

This Cantonese dish is served in wooden, porcelain or metal containers for communal consumption.

As reported in The Wall Street Journal in 2009, pen cai originated during the late Song Dynasty when the emperor fled from Hangzhou to the area around Guangdong province and Hong Kong to escape Mongol invaders.

The locals served their best food in large wooden basins to feed the emperor and his troops.

Pen cai is also associated with the early settlers of Hong Kong's New Territories, who were driven south by barbarians between the 13th and 17th centuries.

The dish initially comprised vegetables, pork and chicken.

But it now includes beef, lamb, duck, abalone, ginseng, shark's fin, fish maw, prawn, crab and dried mushrooms.


Pen cai consists of layers of different ingredients and is traditionally eaten layer by layer.

Chinese radish, pig skin and bean curd are at the bottom.

Pork and dried mushrooms are usually in the middle while meat, seafood, abalone and sea cucumber are at the top.

Dried noodles with egg are often added to symbolise a crown.

Architect Darren Low, 29, said: "My grandmother said pen cai is important as the layers are symbolic of five familial aspects such as gratitude to ancestors, teamwork and unity, respect for family lineages, equality, and approval of marriage."

Pen cai is also part of Chinese New Year menus at Wah Lok Cantonese Restaurant at Carlton Hotel Singapore and Silk Road restaurant at Amara Singapore.

Wah Lok will serve pen cai and festive delicacies from now until Feb 11 while Silk Road restaurant will offer them until Feb 11.

For inquiries about Wah Lok, call 6311-8188/6311-8189 or visit

Call 6227-3848 for menus and reservations at Silk Road.

For details about other eateries at Amara Singapore, call 6879-2607 or visit

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