When I was growing up, besides the other fabulous food and snacks and angbaos, what I looked forward to the MOST on the first day of Chinese New Day was the chap chye borne out of my grandmother’s kitchen.
Most kids who grew up in a Chinese family would have grown up with chap chye in some form. There are plenty of ways to make chap chye, and they all differ in taste – some are made with stock, some have taojio (salty fermented soya bean), some add flour, some add belachan, some make it soupy, some make it thick.
The one made by my grandmother was a meatless version. My dad said eating vegetarian chap chye on the first day of Chinese New Year represents a cleansing of the system, the welcoming of a brand new year. Something like that.
Despite its origins being a vegetarian dish, there are plenty of recipes that incorporate prawns, dried shrimps, pork belly, sotong. So whatever makes you and your family happy! =D
The Peranakans have their own methods, the Cantonese have their own dish origins, the Hokkiens seem to have their own secret theories too. But to me, it matters not the origins of the chap chye, but the taste of childhood.