Festive Homemade Pen Cai Recipe

Festive Homemade Pen Cai Recipe

Eat Your Way to Huatness with this Homemade Pen Cai Recipe

Ushering the Chinese New Year means bringing people together to enjoy a feast. Besides Yu Sheng, steamboat and a galore of seafood, fish maw, abalone and other perennial Chinese dishes, Pen Cai has been making its way to our tables during the Lunar New Year reunions.

Pen Cai (盆菜 in Mandarin) or Poon Choi/ Pun Choi (in Cantonese) is a literal translation of “vegetables in a pot”. These days, instead of just veggies, we see many delicacies added into that communal pot of ho leow (Hokkien for good food). Hello, seafood, meat, root vegetables and more! Huat better way than to fill our bellies as we celebrate a New Year of abundance!

Instead of buying ready-made Poon Choi from restaurants in Singapore (which can cost about $300 for a 4-6 pax portion), how about a DIY version and customise it to your family’s palates? It will be friendlier on the pockets too.

Key tips to achieving that flavourful pot of treasures is to know where to buy fresh Pen Cai ingredients and cooking it with lots of love. Fret not, TADA Fresh Market knows where to get all the ingredients you need from our wet markets in Singapore! Just order online and wait for your grocery delivery – so convenient!

Homemade Pen Cai Recipe (serves 4-6 pax)

Ingredients to prepare




Cooked Ingredients Available from the Market

*request for the stallholder to chop the meat for Pen Cai making


Other condiments to prepare

  • 1 tablespoons Shaoxing Wine 绍兴酒  (Hua Diao Jiu 花雕酒)
  • ½ teaspoon Dark Soy Sauce 
  • Cooking Oil

For Garnishing



Steps to cook Pen Cai:

  1. Drizzle Shaoxing wine on prawns and steam with some sliced ginger until prawns are cooked. Set prawns aside and keep the prawn broth.
  2. Blanch broccoli and carrots in a pot of boiling water until carrots are about 70% cooked. Remove carrot and set aside. Place broccoli in iced water immediately to retain its bright green colour. Drain and set broccoli aside. Discard all water.
  3. Place Chinese cabbage and daikon in a separate tray/plate and steam on high heat for 10 minutes. Drain and keep vegetable broth.
  4. Steam fresh scallops, dried oysters, and shitake mushrooms for about 10 – 15 minutes until oysters are soft.
  5. Blanch Yoshihama Mini Abalone in a pot of boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes, then set aside.
  6. Heat up pan with cooking oil and pan fry fresh yam/taro until slightly brown and set aside.
  7. Using the same pan, add dark soy sauce, sea cucumbers, fish maw and tau kee. Simmer for 10 - 15 minutes until sea cucumbers have softened and tau kee are nicely darkened. Set all aside.
  8. Using the claypot, add some cooking oil to sauté garlic and remaining sliced ginger until fragrant. Pour in all the collected broths into the pot and allow to simmer. Add in oyster sauce/abalone sauce and mix well.
  9. In a pot, combine all the collected broths, including the abalone broth. Add the chicken stock and oyster sauce/abalone sauce and stir over low heat. Gently mix in the corn starch solution while stirring the soup to allow liquid to thicken.
  10. Assemble ingredients in the claypot – refer to assembling notes below.
  11. After assembling, place claypot back on stove, pour in the gravy till it fills about 80% of the claypot*. Cover and let it cook for 20 - 30 minutes over medium heat.
    *Do not fill it beyond 80% as the gravy may overflow during cooking.
  12. After cooking, bring the remaining gravy to a boil in a separate pot and pour over the ingredients until it fills the claypot. Before serving, garnish with wolfberries on the top and it’s ready to serve!

Preparing this delicious delicacy is pretty straightforward. When it comes to impressing your guests, the presentation makes this dish extra palatable. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you layer up that goodness!

How to assemble a delicious pot of Pen Cai at home

Layer ingredients in this order starting from the bottom:

  1. Chinese Cabbage, Tau Kee, Daikon, Tau Kua and Roasted Pork Belly, 3/4 of the Baked Fish Maw.
  2. Place Fat Choy, remaining Baked Fish Maw, Shiitake Mushrooms, Yam and Dried Oysters in a corner. Close the lid and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Arrange Yoshihama Mini Abalone, Tiger Prawns, Fresh Scallops, Roasted Chicken and Roasted Duck, Broccoli and Carrots) neatly on the top layer.


Ingredient and cooking hacks from TADA Fresh Market:

  • Use a round claypot or casserole with about 1.5 to 2 litres capacity. A round-shape symbolises reunion as family and friends get together to celebrate Chinese New Year.
  • Our Yoshihama Mini Abalone are airflown from Japan and contain zero preservatives.There are 8 mini abalones in each can - do keep its exquisite abalone brine to add oomph to your flavourful dish!
  • Our fresh Sea Cucumbers are available in a portion good for a family of 6 – 8 pax. Using these fresh options instead of dried or frozen Sea Cucumber means you can skip washing and soaking them to save time!
  • Using pre-roasted meats like Roasted Pork Belly, Duck and Chicken adds better taste to this dish and saves you time from preparing them from scratch too!
  • Grab this value-for-money CNY Dried Essentials Bundle which includes Dried Scallops, Dried Oysters, Large Dried Chinese Mushrooms and Dried Shrimps for just $25!

We hope you enjoy making this homely potful of braised goodness this festive season and tucking into its rich flavours with your loved ones!

Love getting fresh ingredients from Singapore’s popular wet markets but lack the time to head down to shop? Order your groceries online via TADA Fresh Market, Singapore’s largest wet market delivery partner!