Childhood memories of Chinese New Year have always featured elaborate homemade banquets on the eve of the New Year followed by a day witnessing the roaring of firecrackers and drums as the lion dance parades through masses of crowds in Sydney's Chinatown.
This year however was different. I had taken on an ambitious project with Asian Home Gourmet at the City Of Sydney Chinese New Year festival markets (12 - 14 February 2010), to present a line-up of delicious kitchen demonstrations on a live stage, and hence wasn't home when families across the globe were reuniting with a feast.
Lots of love goes out to all the friends and fans who stopped by. If you missed it, you can check out a snippet of the action at the kitchen demonstrations here:
So my lovely parents agreed to celebrate a week in advance and decided that we take a year off from our usual banquet of seafood delicacies.
Instead, we would have a simple kind of Chinese New Year, celebrating with a decent sized suckling pig, served Vietnamese DIY style which I think brilliantly showcases the cultural background of my family (both my parents were born & raised in Vietnam with a Chinese Teochew heritage - while my siblings and I were all born & raised here, in Sydney).
Whole roasted suckling pig from Good Luck BBQ House
The delicate crunch of crackling on a whole roasted suckling pig
While I adore a slow braised abalone or a rich lobster stir-fry, nothing quite gets my heart pumping and my mouth drooling as much as the glossy delicate crisp layer of crackling on a juicy tender suckling pig.
Suckling pigs often need to be pre-ordered from local Siu Mei establishments (Asian BBQ Houses) weeks in advance if required during popular celebratory occasions such as Chinese New Year. Otherwise, I think three days is the general rule of thumb. The suckling pig is 2 - 6 weeks of age and are roasted whole with a generous rub of five spice powder, red and white vinegar, Chinese rice wine, garlic and maltose. The cost of a suckling pig is only confirmed once it has been cooked and weighed and will generally cost between $200 - $300.
Pieces of suckling pig - crunchy thin glossy crackling with juicy bites of meat
Deep-fried buns are the perfect accompaniment with suckling pig
Ours was ordered from Good Luck BBQ this year as they were much more flexible on our last minute timings than Emperor's Garden.
We served this with deep-fried buns which are crunchy on the outside and fluffy within, a crisp jelly fish salad fragrant with sesame oil, a zesty fresh lotus root salad, lettuce leaves, an array of garden mints, banh hoi (woven rice vermicelli noodle sheets), hoisin sauce and nuoc mam (fish sauce).
Our simple feast, a fusion of Vietnamese and Chinese
Traditional Chinese New Year treats: candied fruits in a circular tray and dried abalone
While a whole suckling pig is usually reserved for the main course of a celebratory banquet, you don't really need an excuse to buy just a cut to treat yourself today. So here are two of my preferred Asian BBQ houses where you can buy/order the best roasted suckling pig in Sydney:
213-215 Thomas St
Haymarket NSW 2000
Phone (02) 9281 9899
Good Luck BBQ House
Shop 18, 24-28 Hughes St
Cabramatta NSW 2166
Phone (02) 9724 0661