Holiday Festive Food with Rita

To celebrate the festive season, we’ve partnered with some of the very best home chefs in Australia to show you how they do family celebrations in delicious style.

Rita Hsi’s home cooking is inspired by her cultural background in Taiwan. Celebrating the Chinese New Year with delicious food and family each year, read on to see how Rita shares fond memories over food – as well as her delicious fish recipe.

I was born in Kaohsiung in the south of Taiwan and came to Australia in 2001 when my daughter was five years old. I wanted her to remember her cultural background and heritage, so I taught her to speak and write in Mandarin.

I was a bit lonely when I arrived in Australia, because I left my friends behind. I joined the Taiwanese Women’s community when I arrived for support, we got together and shared dishes for dinner. I’m still friends with women I met there.

My family celebrates Chinese New Year, which falls between January 21 and February 20. When my parents were alive I went back to Taiwan each year to celebrate. We’d get together as a family, eating and giving money. Traditionally parents give red pocket money (hóngbao) to children as a symbol of good luck.

We have a special tradition for eating fish on Chinese New Year, because fish represents abundance. On the eve of Chinese New Year we deep fry a special fish dish, but we only eat a really small bite so that we have the leftovers for the next day as this will give prosperity for the new year.

I learnt this recipe from my Mum, I used to watch her cooking, but I didn’t practice at the time. When I got to Australia, my friends taught me how to make more recipes – so whenever I had a cooking question, I called my friends. 

I’m teaching my daughter to make this meal, so she can pass it along too. For the holidays this year I’ll celebrate at home with my daughter and our dog.

Rita’s Taiwanese deep-fried fish recipe

  1. Buy fresh fish – you can choose any fish but it must be able to be steamed. Perch & Barramundi are good. 
  2. Prepare shallots, chilli, ginger by finely chopping them. 
  3. Slice the middle of the fish and place the shallots, chilli and ginger inside.
  4. Place the fish in a steamer and place in a pot of boiling water. Add two spoons of fish sauce in over the fish steamer. Put slices of shallots, chilli & ginger on the top to garnish.
  5. Boil half a cup of oil in a pot until it’s hot and pour over the top of the fish.
  6. Steam for 10-12 minutes, and serve with a delicious side.

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