New dishes at Jasmine Restaurant, New World Makati Hotel

The Chinese New Year celebration goes on and on here in Singapore. It's pretty much similar to how us, Filipinos, celebrate Christmas! People would take time out from work to go on long vacation leaves, others would go home to their hometown, others would just stay in town and spend time with their family. However, what we notice is that in most of the Chinese restaurants here, even in small neighborhood eateries, families would gather around the table to toss shredded vegetables and seafood as they shout out their wishes for the coming year. This is called Loi Hei (in Cantonese), Yu Sheng (in Mandarin) or Prosperity Toss (in English). This is a practice commonly done in Singapore and in some parts of Malaysia.

loi hei singapore
Last Monday, I had the chance to experience my first loi hei with my new colleagues. We headed to a Chinese restaurant in Clarke Quay and were presented with a plate filled with colorful vegetables like carrots, radish, red peppers and a lot more. The highlight of the Yu Sheng salad was the addition of some fresh raw fish similar to a sashimi, fish roe and wanton chips which symbolizes gold nuggets or money. All together, we stood up and using our very long chopsticks, we began tossing the ingredients up in the air. The higher the better. We surely made a mess but hey, it that's gonna bring us luck for the Year of the Snake, it's worth a short (or a toss).

Back home, Filipino-Chinese families do not practice the Loi Hei instead we go out and have dinner in any of the finest Chinese restaurants in town. In order to attract luck and prosperity, we eat all the good stuff such as noodles for long life, abalone for prosperity, our favorite Buddha Jump Over the Wall soup for good health and wealth, steamed fish and sticky glutinous desserts to bind the family together. I always look forward to Chinese lauriats and I really do not get tired every this over and over again.

A few months ago, Paul and I were invited by our friends over at New World Makati Hotel to try a couple of new dishes created by Chef Wong Kam On of Jasmine Restaurant. If you remember my first entry on Jasmine, where I was able to try Chef Wong Kam Chung's specialties from Shanghai, China; then this time it's his equally talented brother who prepared dinner for us that evening. How lucky can we get!

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Dinner began with a special Dimsum Basket filled with three yummy items -- Shrimp Har Gao (hakaw), Chicken and Abalone Dumpling and Scallop Dumpling. To be honest, give me even the classiest dimsum and yet my heart stays loyal to hakaw. Nothing against all the other dimsum and dumplings in the world but me and my hakaw...we're THIS tight. :) Anyway, Master Wong's hakaw was really delicious! I love the soft silky wrapper filled with a big piece of juicy shrimp.

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We also had the Chicken Salad with Jelly Fish and Black Vinegar Sauce. Here, you'll get to taste three different flavors -- Salty, sour and spicy. We enjoyed the perfect combination of the salty shredded chicken meat mixed with the slightly spicy Jelly Fish and all these sitting on top of the sour Black Vinegar Dressing.

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The next dish was my personal favorite. When dining at Jasmine, make sure to order the Deep-Fried Prawns with Orange Sauce. I love deep-fried prawns and the bigger the prawn, the happier I get. This is perfect for those who wants a citrusy punch in their savory dish. It was so good and it was definitely everyone's favorite that evening.

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After the prawns, we had the Pan-fried diced beef tenderloin with Barbecue Sauce. This was once again one of Chef Wong's specialty and we enjoyed the tender bite-sized beef with crunchy croutons and covered with sweet barbecue sauce. Pair this with a bowl of steamed rice and it would make a perfect lunch already.

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Around this time, we were all starting to feel full already but Chef Wong wasn't done yet. Out came the Bailing mushroom, Shrimp mousse in White Sauce. At least a lighter dish allowing us to have our veggies. I love how well-balanced most Chinese lauriat menus are. You always start with a mix of meat and seafood then soup followed by one chicken dish, one pork, one beef, one or two more seafood, a vegetarian-friendly dish, some carbohydrates and of course you end the meal with sweet dessert.

I love Bailing Mushrooms! It's light brown in color and are so easy to bite into compared to the shiitake. The shrimp mousse was packed very well and the white sauce, oh another sauce that we happily scooped over our rice.

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The next dish was not part of the menu but I guess we were all very good girls and boys that evening that Chef Wong decided that he'll spoil us some more. We had the Braised Pork with Steamed Buns, this is something we all grew up having since we were all little and personally, I really love the comforting feeling it gives as I bite into the tender, melt-in-your-mouth pork sandwiched inside a soft cuapao-like bun. I like mine also with a little kiam-tsai (salty vegetables) to make it even more "gourmet".

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Lastly, instead of noodles, we had a bowl of Fujian style fried rice. It's no secret that I love fried rice and this is one of my favorite kind together with my Mommy's very own homemade fried rice with hotdog and shrimps. What makes this unique is that it comes with a thick sauce which you have to pour over the rice before serving. It's filled with all the yummy things that you normally find in a good bowl of fried rice. I love Jasmine's version and will definitely go back for more of this.

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Finally, we got to the last course of our very long dinner -- DESSERT. I stepped out for a while and when I got back to the table, I was surprised that there was a giant Sesame Ball on the table. It was really big! Around the size of a soft ball! I thought it's filled with lotus paste similar to all the other sesame balls in the market. We were surprised that it was, in fact, empty. Yes, it was hollow inside and while it was delicious when eaten on its own, we just have to jazz it up by asking for some vanilla ice cream. It was a good thing that the kitchen staff of Jasmine was game enough to give in to our request and believe me, it was one of the best pairings made. Therefore, don't forget to ask for a scoop of ice cream and it really makes a difference.

I really enjoy dining at Jasmine as we always get to go home with a happy and satisfied tummy. I'm glad that Chef Wong is here in Manila which means we can be assured of enjoying authentic Cantonese dishes in Manila.

*photo credit: Paul Ang (food shots)

Jasmine Restaurant is located at the 2nd floor of the New World Hotel, Esperanza street, corner Makati Avenue in Makati City. Call them at 811-6888 local 3338 for reservations.

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