We often read in the newspapers and the blogosphere about ‘neighbours from hell’. Thankfully, my family are quite blessed to have wonderful neighbours. For example, every festive season, one of our neighbours, Mrs Yong, who is an excellent cook, never fails to send over some of her special dishes. Thus, even though nobody in our family can cook, our children are not deprived of the traditional Chinese dishes that their parents used to enjoy in the kampong days.
One of my favourites is a dish called Suan-pan-zi (算盘子) or Abacus Seeds (pictured above) which we got to enjoy last night at reunion dinner. This, if I am not mistaken is a Hakka dish. It is not easily available at the food centres in Singapore. I once bumped into an old friend at a food centre in Ang Mo Kio Ave 4. Apparently, she had made the trip all the way from Bedok to enjoy this dish. I know of another stall at the Shunfu food centre near my former working place in Jalan Pemimpin that sells this dish. Nevertheless, I assure you that those you find at the food centres are no match for my neighbour’s.
The Suan-pan-zi gets its name from the pieces of ring-like yam that look like the beads of an abacus. It is an auspicious dish because those who eat it will have a roaring business in the year ahead. Their abacus which is traditionally used to tally your earning will not stop ‘clacking’. Other ingredients in the dish are minced pork and dried prawns. Of course it is best eaten with freshly pound chilli.
The photos below show two other dishes that our neighbour sent over last night. I am afraid, I do not know about the significance of these dishes as far as Chinese New Year traditions are concerned.
I end with a note of advice to those readers who are good cooks; such as Aiyah Nonya. Cook a bit extra and pass them to your neighbours. This is the best way to promote good neighbourliness; something which seems to be sadly missing in modern-day, highly stressed Singapore society.
Here’s wishing all readers a blessed Chinese New Year.
Related post: Five things I do not miss about Chinese New Year
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