Preparing their own ‘treasure pots’

Rena Lim

THE STAR – Lunar New Year celebrations will be different this year, with many households seen buying canned items and mushrooms in their last-minute festive shopping.

At the Batu Lanchang market in Penang, dried food sellers took note of shoppers’ favourites like canned abalones and mushrooms to make their own poon choi (a smorgasbord of seafood and vegetables).

Dried food store owner Goh Kar Seng, 80, said many of his customers, mostly the Cantonese-speaking community, were buying more of such ingredients compared to previous years.

“We believe many people are looking for ingredients to make their own poon choi this year.

“This may be due to the confined festive celebrations. Usually the Chinese will eat out and order poon choi at restaurants.

People shopping at Batu Lanchang wet market in Penang, Malaysia. PHOTO: THE STAR

“But due to the ‘no dine-in’ policy under the movement control order (MCO), many may opt to prepare their own version of the popular ‘treasure pot’ dish at home, ” he said yesterday.

Poon choi is a traditional Cantonese festive meal served on a giant platter made with over 10 different types of dishes such as abalone, prawns, sea cucumber, radish, scallops, mushrooms, broccoli and more.

Goh said they were expecting people to buy other items like dried fish maw that usually gets sold out fast during the festive season.

“We stocked up on fish maw and have plenty of good, golden yellow and whole fish maw.

“But this year, only a handful from the Hokkien community are buying fish maw to make soup.”

A seller of steamboat ingredients noted slower sales this year despite the crowd.

“Many customers usually buy essentials to stock up for the reunion dinner but this year, they are buying less of these items.

“It could be due to the dampened mood for Chinese New Year.

“Since many are not going to be meeting up for reunion dinners during the pandemic this year, they are not preparing a lot for the steamboat meal,” said the seller, who wanted to be known as Yong, 45.

She said some of her customers had bought steamboat items like fish balls, meatballs and dumplings as early as mid-January.