First Meal of the Lunar Year (Hoi Nin Fan) 開年飯Cooking

Hoi Nin Fan (First Meal of the Lunar Year) 開年飯

Today is the second day of the Lunar Calendar and is also the day where Cantonese will have our “Hoi Nin”. In our tradition, “Hoi Nin” means start of a year and “Hoi Nin Fan” that is the meal for “Hoi Nin” also signifies the start of a new year.

For those doing business, they will usually have various dishes with auspicious names, for example: Steamed dried oyster with black moss, steamed shiitake mushrooms in oyster sauce etc. For normal people like us, our “Hoi Nin Fan” is much simpler. We usually have some more dishes as compared to our daily life and we will treat this as a gathering where we can share and dine with our dearest family.

For the past few years, “Hoi Nin Fan” were prepared by my elder brother who is a very good home cook. With my recent attempt to make Lo Bak Gou for the Chinese New Year celebration, I proposed to take up and cook the “Hoi Nin Fan” this year.


做生意的,開年飯會選擇一些好意頭的菜式:例如 “髮菜蠔豉”、”冬菇生菜”等。而一般人的開年飯則較簡單,只比平常豐富一點,目的是讓一家人團聚,共享天倫。


Subjected to my limited cooking skills, I will only prepare the following dishes for the “Hoi Nin Fan”:


  • Braised Shiitake Mushrooms in Oyster Sauce 蠔油炆冬菇
  • Braised Ox-tail with Red Wine  紅酒燴牛尾
  • Steamed Pomfret with Black Bean Sauce  豉汁蒸黃𩶘䱽
  • Fried Broccoli with Fatty Beef  西蘭花炒肥牛肉
  • Green Radish, Carrot, Corn & Pork Soup  青紅蘿蔔粟米豬𦟌湯
  • Poached Chicken  白切雞 (外賣)

Chinese New Year is the most important holiday for us.  Most of the shops & restaurant are closed during the holiday and will only return to service on the fourth or fifth day of the Lunar calendar. This arrangement also applies to stalls in fresh market and usually only one or two stalls selling fresh pork and vegetables will be opened  to provide us with fresh fishes and vegetable for the “Hoi Nin Fan”.

I have already bought all my required ingredients on the Chinese New Year eve and just leave the Pomfret and pork to today.


Since braised ox-tail with red wine requires more preparation, I cooked it yesterday to save time.


Braised ox-tail with red wine 紅酒燴牛尾
Braised ox-tail with red wine 紅酒燴牛尾

For braised Shiitake Mushrooms and soup that both requires slow-cook, my wife and I started to cook them early this morning.


Braised Shiitake Mushrooms in Oyster Sauce 蠔油炆冬菇
Braised Shiitake Mushrooms in Oyster Sauce 蠔油炆冬菇
Green Radish, Carrot, Corn & Pork Soup 青紅蘿蔔粟米豬𦟌湯
Green Radish, Carrot, Corn & Pork Soup 青紅蘿蔔粟米豬𦟌湯

Ingredients and other prior preparation works for the rest of the dishes are also readied in the afternoon.


In the evening while I’m wondering how to handle and ensure the Pomfret is properly cooked, my savior (my elder brother) arrived. With some simple tricks, the Pomfret is cleaned and steamed to exactly what it should be.


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My elder sister also arrived with her family. Bringing with them a traditional chinese vegetarian dish.


A cheerful Hoi Nin Fan 一頓愉快的開年飯
A cheerful Hoi Nin Fan 一頓愉快的開年飯

Together we eat, chat and have a wonderful “Hoi Nin Fan”.


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