Where taste and tradition meet

I don’t read Chinese but I’m sure the Chinese versions of the Lunar New Year set menu names planned at Hop Sing, bode well for Good fortune, Blessings and Prosperity.

A large serving of Pacific Clam Yee Sang at Hop Sing
While waiting for my media friends to join me for lunch at Ponderosa Golf & Country Resort, I study the menus from its English translations – and notice how the chef is keeping close to tradition and planned the menus with high-value and auspicious ingredients, typical of what is expected for Lunar New Year celebrations.

Looking back, I realise that the Chinese, who traditionally developed mainly in an agricultural economy, rarely had the privilege to eat meat or seafood except on special occasions like the Lunar New Year or at wedding banquets.

The Chinese have worked hard to establish themselves but while they may have prospered economically, many still have the practice of eating humbly throughout the year.

A table setting fit for an Empress!
It is only on auspicious occasions like the Lunar New Year that they splurge on grand banquets as they believe that it augurs well for greater prosperity in the coming year.

My thoughts about the traditional Chinese are, if driving a Mercedez Benz is the status symbol of having ‘arrived,’ then being able to afford to eat sharks’ fins on special occasions mean they have indeed prospered.

Even though many may have chosen to refrain from eating sharks’ fins, this is a typical mindset which stills persists.

And since businessmen in this part of the world, started the tradition of eating Yee Sang or raw fish salad at the dawn of the Lunar New Year, most Chinese celebrations during this season will kick off with a prosperity toss of Yee Sang.

From Feb 1, Hop Sing will serve three varieties of Yee Sang: salmon RM40+ (small) RM80+ (large), pacific clams RM50+ (small) RM100+ (large) and abalone RM88+ (small) RM168+ (large).

As our friends arrive, we are ushered upstairs to Hop Sing where a banquet table is laid out for us, spread with a Red table cloth and matching Red table napkins.

Making the Hong Kong style Steamed Garoupa
look better on camera: "Smile!"
But what is most eye-catching are the set of a golden long-handled spoon and pair of ebony chopsticks with golden tips, resting on a golden spoon and chopsticks stand!

When I sit down and take a closer look at the flatware, I’m impressed that this resort restaurant is still using crockery that bears the name of their golf resort!

Our gracious hosts, general manager Ivan Teo, and MarComm Consultant, Yvonne Loh, warmly welcome us to Hop Sing and tell us very bluntly, “Just eat and enjoy, don’t need to write a review!”

“Well, this is a rather refreshing change,” I think to myself as I sit back to enjoy a leisurely meal in the company of media friends, both local and from across the causeway.

My portion of Ho See Fatt Choy with a seafood ball!
But being who we are, the camera inevitably comes out when the food is served and I’m tasting and asking questions about the dishes – all happening quite spontaneously.

I don’t know the auspicious Chinese name of this dish (because I didn’t ask my bi-lingual friends for help to translate!) but the boneless fried chicken in a light batter, topped with strips of fish crisps, is decidedly different and I like it.

I know there is indeed a skill to timing the steaming of a large fish and when the Hong Kong style steamed garoupa is served, it’s both tender and succulent – perfectly timed.

Here, the timeless tradition of serving the auspicious Lunar New Year vegetable dish, “Ho See Fatt Choy” is taken to new heights by the addition of another interesting ingredient – seafood balls!

Golden Sand Deep-Fried Prawns - so crispy you can eat it all!
I’m curious to see what the chef is doing to create Golden Sand Deep-Fried Prawns and when a platter of crispy whole prawns are served coated in a find dusting of “sand” I ask my friends if they can figure out what it is.

Yes, we are quite sure it’s not oats or cereals. Maybe its old-school bread crumbs or biscuit crumbs but this “sand” is all good. In fact, it’s non-greasy and so tasty that even the crunchy shells can all be eaten!

The convivial company and “Too Much Information” jokes keep the friendly banter going throughout our meal and all too soon, the last course is served: A double Chinese pastry platter.

Delicious, freshly-made chin-toi, sesame seed balls
stuffed with sweetened red-bean paste [Centre]
And because one of the two pastries is ball shaped, it does not help in purging the off-beat jokes…

But the freshly-made chin-toi (Cantonese) sesame seed balls stuffed with sweetened red-bean paste are simply dee-lee-cious!

Speaking of round shapes, to the Chinese this shape is considered the most auspicious as it is the shape of heaven and the element of gold!

We can go on and on about interesting Chinese traditions and the auspiciousness of every shape, colour and name of ingredients used during the Lunar New Year but we have to save it for another time. Maybe over yet another tasty, home-cooked style meal together at Hop Sing?

Hop Sing, the Chinese Restaurant at Ponderosa Golf & Country Club, is on level one of the main clubhouse. Located at No. 3 Jalan Ponderosa 1/1, Taman Ponderosa, 81100 Johor Baru, Johor.

For reservations, Tel: +607 – 354 999 Ext 255, +6017 – 718 8018, or email: enquiry@ponderosagolf.com. For more details on Lunar New Year menus and resort promotions, visit website: ponderosagolf.com

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