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'Lo hei' to these Chinese New Year delights

By MILLIE AND KARLA REYES, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 25, 2024 5:00 am

MILLIE: We had a very busy season and I realized we were working four months straight without a day off. It was time for R&R and we remembered we won a free night’s stay at a recent Christmas raffle. We decided to meet up with my best friend Verne and her husband Hector, who was celebrating his birthday at Nobu, City of Dreams.

Karla and I checked in next door at Nuwa and we were both surprised and quite impressed as we approached the reception and were greeted by Miriam: “Welcome, Ms. Reyes! We’ve been waiting for you!”

We both wondered how in the world they knew who we were when we had never been to Nuwa. We figured Edward, the bellhop who met us at the entrance, must have checked our luggage tags. I must say, the staff are very observant and well-trained, as it leaves a very nice impression!

One of Crystal Dragon's specialties, steamed rice roll with a crispy layer filled with seafood

Karla and I went to lunch at Crystal Dragon and the restaurant manager, Kok Wen Gio, suggested we try the sneak preview of the specialties for the new lunar year prepared by chef Chan Choo Kean. Not all the dishes were readily available, but we chose a few interesting dishes, which will be offered starting Jan. 25 until Feb. 12.

For blessings and good fortune, indulge in Crystal Dragon's Lunar Year Prosperity Abalone Yu Sheng Salad.

For starters we had refreshing Yu Sheng Salad, which symbolizes blessings and good fortune. When served at the table, they follow the ritual of mixing and tossing the various ingredients in the air as you shout, “Lo hei!” It is believed that the higher you toss, the happier you will be. The salad is composed of julienned strips of assorted fruits and vegetables with abalone as the star ingredient. It was very colorful and served with baked salt shaped like a dragon. The ritual is said to bring good luck, abundance, harmony, and good health to your family, friends, and loved ones.

Sea Treasures Broth with sea cucumber, crabmeat, and dried scallop

Next came Crystal Dragon’s Sea Treasures Broth served in a beautiful white ceramic soup tureen. The broth is rich, thick, and very flavorful with strips of sea cucumber, crabmeat, and crispy dried scallops. It leaves a sticky feeling on the lips but is so tasty that I ended up finishing the generous serving.

Wok-fried prawns coated in oats and tossed with a roasted sesame dressing and fruit salad with pomelo

KARLA: We were also able to try one of their bestselling dishes, the rice roll with a crispy layer, stuffed with seafood. It was served by pouring a light soy over the rice roll and peanut sauce on the side. Mom and I enjoyed a spin on the hot prawn salad: plump and juicy wok-fried shrimps, coated in oats and tossed in a roasted sesame dressing with pomelo then topped on a fruit salad.

Wok-fried fragrant rice with Chinese liver sausage, lap cheong, and mushrooms

The last dish served before dessert is, of course, a rice dish: wok-fried fragrant rice with crunchy Chinese liver sausage, lap cheong, diced mushroom, and crispy rice to add texture to the dish. It's really a simple rice dish but I never say no to lap cheong and even had a second serving.

Chilled coconut cream, mango yolk and latik

To end the meal, I ordered the chilled coconut creme with mango yolk and latik crumbs, while mom, being an avocado fan, ordered the crispy avocado kataiffi roll. 

MILLIE: The executive chef Danny Khoo Teng Jin, who oversees the kitchen operations of all the Chinese and Asian restaurants operated by City of Dreams Manila, came by our table to greet us and we learned that the new lunar specialties will also be offered at Red Ginger from Feb. 8 to 18. 

Crispy kataiffi roll filled with mashed avocado 

We were also informed that, to usher in the Year of the Wood Dragon, there will be a Lion and Dragon dance at the City of Dreams main driveway on Feb. 10 at 5 p.m. So I guess that’s where Karla and I will be to count our blessings and celebrate the Year of the Wood Dragon, as we look forward to tasting the other delightful culinary offerings.