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Optimizing Lunar New Year leftovers

By SHARWIN TEE, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 03, 2022 5:00 am

If your family is anything like mine, you would prepare a ton of food to celebrate the Lunar New Year and then have some dishes or ingredients left over. Rather than throwing them in the oven or steamer for a reheat, you can take these and put them to good use in new dishes.

Tikoy trouble?

Probably the ingredient you will have the most left over would be tikoy (nian gao), particularly if you receive a couple of boxes as gifts.

During the New Year celebrations, you probably dipped it in egg and fried them. You then wrapped some up in spring roll wrapper and deep-fried them. If, despite all that effort you still have some lying around, I’ve got the perfect way to prepare it.

Just slice a small tikoy into quarters and then slice each quarter in half to make it thinner. Then, heat up your waffle maker and apply some salted butter on the surfaces.

Cooking tikoy in a waffle iron provides a unique texture experience.

Once hot, place your tikoy slices into the waffle iron, close it up and cook them for five to six minutes. What you will get is a waffle that’s crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. It will be one of the most amazing textures you will ever experience, I promise.

Meanwhile, the salted butter plays well with the sweetness of the tikoy, giving it the sweet and savory flavor we all crave for. You can also use a panini maker or even a hot grill pan; just make sure to press on the tikoy with a heavy weight to get the crunch we’re looking for.

Top the tikoy waffles with ice cream (I think cheese ice cream would be best) and a sprinkle of sesame seeds and you have a brand-new dessert or brunch using what should have been boring leftovers.

I wish I could take full credit for the creation of this dish, but I actually got the idea from watching K-drama star Rain on his Netflix show The Hungry and the Hairy.

Dumpling difficulty?

Dumplings, fish or squid balls, and kikiam are all delicious and in high demand during the lunar new year celebrations, but what happens after? Usually, you’ll end up with “loose change,” maybe three pieces of one, six pieces of another and two of another. It would be pretty difficult to serve such odd numbers. The solution? Give them a warm bath. No, make that a hot bath.

Making homemade hotpot is easier than you think.

Creating a hotpot broth is the perfect solution, not only for dumping all the leftover dumplings, fish balls and the like; it’s also a great way to use up vegetable odds and ends. There’s got to be some cabbage, mushrooms or radishes left over and those can go into the soup as well, right?

Just combine a 2-inch-by-2-inch square of kombu (dried kelp) and one liter of water and bring it to a boil. Let it simmer for 5 minutes and then shut off the heat and let it marinate for 10 minutes. You can then season that with salt or soy sauce and you’ve got a great base for a hotpot.

To enhance the experience, you can also create a dipping sauce. Just combine minced garlic, green onions, soy sauce, sesame paste or oil to your taste.

Fruity foibles?

Fruit cocktail is a great way not only to use up leftover fruits but also to preserve them.

It’s always a good idea to have a bunch of round fruits (12, if you can help it) and of course, you’re going to have a fruit surplus after the Lunar New Year. If you already have fruit cut up, it’s great to make a homemade fruit cocktail.

You can juice some oranges or a combination of orange and other citrus fruits to get about one liter of juice. Then bring that to a boil, combined with a few slices ginger, a piece of star anise and enough sugar to taste. Once the mixture cools off, you can add this to a bowl of any of the fruit slices you have left over for a refreshing and healthful snack or desert.

I venture pretty much any fruit will go well with this citrus-ginger syrup, including melons, mangoes and grapes. To make it extra-delectable, why not top it with some ice cream? I volunteer some avocado ice cream to add a touch of creaminess to the dish.

Carb concerns?

Fried rice is the king of dishes that optimize leftover ingredients.

Since we’re talking about handling leftovers, the dish that is the king of utilizing leftovers — fried rice — must not be forgotten. It’s a great way to not only use rice left over from the previous day, but also leftover meats like asado, roast duck, shrimps or even meats from stews.

To add a little nostalgia, why not revive the classic pineapple fried rice? If you believe, like some others, that pineapples bring luck (since its Hokkien name literally translates as “luck come”), you can add pineapple chunks, leftover meat and rice with some butter, eggs and leftover veggies.

Just toss all of the ingredients in a wok or kawali, and that’s a brand-new dish, using up all, if not most, of your leftovers.

Sacred start

Kesong puti ice cream on tikoy waffles is an excellent dessert.

Everyone loves to talk about making a “fresh start” whenever the new year comes along and I think that goes with the kitchen and the pantry as well. Nothing gets your creative cooking juices flowing than using up leftovers and cleaning out the ref and the pantry.

With all that freed-up space in your kitchen, you can then begin buying fresh new ingredients to start another wonderful year of cooking for yourself and your loved ones. Now, that’s what I call a delicious start.