With its balance of fruit and acidity, cognac makes an ideal partner to just about any dish. Through the experiences of food and travel blogger, Tommy Ooi, Hennessy explores the ways in which its signature cognacs elevate the traditional flavours of must-have Chinese New Year dishes.
For Tommy Ooi, Malaysian food and travel blogger, life’s pleasures come in the form of a good meal shared with his loved ones. Born and bred in Penang, the 34-year-old recounts some of his favourite memories of Chinese New Year celebrations, which mostly take place at the dining table, where his family would engage in the tradition of the reunion dinner.
Tommy poses a question that highlights the significance of drink and dish coming together, as upheld by Hennessy: “What’s a dinner without drinks?” It is simply a natural pairing. With a dinner that lasts from sundown all the way to midnight, drinks become more than just a complement to fine food — it is also a means of connecting with the family. Hennessy cognacs make for a good fit at the reunion dinner, both in terms of flavour and its simplicity, able to last through the conversations and the cornucopia of food.
“I always feel that the reunion dinner is much more important than the first day of the New Year itself,” Tommy muses. “For the reunion dinner, we are bound to go back to our hometown — it’s mandatory even. There is no excuse that you can’t make it back home; the family wouldn’t allow any sort of excuse.”
Tommy marks the reunion dinner as an all-important event for all of his family, and so it is the one time that he is able to meet just about everyone — even people whom he had not previously known to be part of his family. The dinner can vary from household to household, but some of the favourite homely dishes that he had grown up with, as part of his mother’s cooking, include hot pot or several dishes of Chinese cuisine.
As a cognac with depth, Hennessy is great paired with just about any kind of dish. Classic dishes served at Chinese New Year such as steamed fish, soups and poon choi — a mesh of assorted meats, vegetables, abalone, seafood, and dried mushrooms — are distinctive in that they are aromatic, with mild spices, and diversified enough that it comprises the five key flavours: salty, spicy, sour, sweet, and bitter. With a smooth cognac like Hennessy X.O, the taste marries both the rich and subtle flavours beautifully.
Hennessy has also partnered with Grand Imperial Group to offer a complimentary bottle of its signature cognac Hennessy V.S.O.P that comes alongside the Chinese New Year menu. The exclusive set menus that cater up to 10 people, feature a range of exquisite culinary creations from the Iberico Spare Ribs to Boston Lobster. You will not only indulge in the distinctive tastes of the signature dishes but also the artistic touches of its presentation and ambience.
Post-reunion dinner is when the festivities would often begin, a separate occasion in itself. This is when the red packets would be handed out, amidst chatting and catch-up sessions — a much more relaxed atmosphere compared to the dinner.
“The staple dish of Chinese New Year in my home was hot pot. It’s a convenient dish,” Tommy reminisces of his childhood. “With a hot pot, you could have twenty or thirty side dishes, and all you’d need is the broth. Besides hot pot, we also had clay pot style cooking, the ‘one pot’ clay pot, prepared by my mother, as well as other dishes to add — vegetables, dumplings, meat and so on.”
According to Tommy, Hennessy cognacs are versatile enough to make it an ideal partner for the equally diversified flavours of both traditional and modern foods enjoyed during Chinese New Year. The flavours of candied fruit and subtle, lightly spiced tones of the Hennessy cognacs provide perfect harmony to the palate, complementing the thick gravy and soups that are a prominent feature of dishes at Chinese New Year.
To learn more about Hennessy and its signature cognacs, visit its official website.