Thursday, 26 September 2013

Dishes my mum cooked: A tribute

MY favourite was chicken wings stewed in black sauce. The sauce can be made in advance -- black soya sauce, dried orange peels, and I can't remember what else, went into the pot. The sauce could then be put into the fridge where it would gel into a kind of jelly. The next time mum wanted to stew chicken wings, the whole pot would come out from the fridge. Put in chicken wings and put to simmer. Add some chestnuts too if you wish. Hey presto -- TV dinner ready. Best thing in life? Watch Bugs Bunny Show on Saturday evenings while chewing and sucking chicken bones. Rice mixed with the black sauce would be good enough actually.

The sauce could be used for stewing belly pork too. Mum said the longer you keep the sauce, the tastier it would get -- after so many meat have left their flavours in it.

Another mum's specialty was simple but tasted great. Minced pork stir-fried with tomato cubes and spring onions. Yet another was sliced bean curds (toufu gan) stirred fried with pork slices, tomatoes and spring onions. In those days (60s & 70s), the toufu gan had bright orange coloured skin. But these days, they are just white. Green peas fried with minced pork, sometimes as an omelette, was another of my favourite.

Her pork chops were great too. You use the back of the knife to tenderise the meat slices. Then you coat each chop with bread crumbs before frying. Sometimes, she would make a sweet-sour sauce from tomato ketchup to pour over the pork chops.

Vegetables? They were mainly choi sum (we are Cantonese) or chye sim (Hokkien) stir-fried plain. Garlics were smashed and fried till fragrant with a slice of ginger or two. Then add the cut choi sum. (Pluck them into smaller bits instead of cutting with the knife would make them tastier, said Mum). Sprinkle salt. Pour in a bit of water. Cover pan with lid. Simmer for a while and the dish is ready.

Steamed minced meat with cuttle fish bits or tung choi (preserved vegetables) and salted fish. Ahhhh!

Steamed chicken with slices of ginger. Yummy.

Soups? Toufu cubes boiled with  tomatoes and salted vegetables, sometimes with meat balls added. Lotus roots with pork ribs. Loved biting into the lotus roots and seeing their silk strands pulled -- like spider webs. Also common were pork ribs boiled with "wai san gay zee" soup. Not sure what wai san ( a kind of white tree bark) is in English. But gay zee is wolfberries in English.

Once in a blue moon, there would be pig brain soup. I loved to prepare the brain -- you need to pick the veins out by using a satay stick.

When Christmas comes around, mum would roast a chicken. Very easy. Rub light soya sauce over whole chicken. A bit of dark soya sauce too. Add Chinese wine. Finally, glaze with honey. Leave it to roast in the oven. Heavenly!

The roast chicken made a re-appearance for Chinese New Year -- with more dishes added, like steamed prawns (with shells intact), sweet-sour pork, and a soup. If no roast chicken, the soup could be rather elaborate -- chicken stuffed with gingko nuts and lotus seeds, then stitched up before throwing into the pot of water with a few slices of ginger.

And steamed lap cheongs (Chinese sausage) of course! A bit of the oil mixed with white rice -- and just a slice of lap cheong. Awesome.


Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Conjuring: 3.07

At my rented room in Dairy Farm. The little clock
that went awry is next to the table lamp.
INDEED, it was rather a scary movie. But I think I was more scared by the reviews in the papers -- and by the accounts of the people making the movie -- than by the actual movie.

Anyway, the movie reminded me of the time when I was staying at a rented room at Dairy Farm. There was nothing eerie about the house at all. It was a bright, cheery house. My landlord was a very nice chap who had decorated it with pride -- giving it a contemporary feel. Nothing went slam in the night, or loud banging at the door... or anything. Least of all, a hidden cellar.

But one morning, I woke up to find that my little alarm clock had stopped. I couldn't remember the time it stopped, but definitely not at 3.07 (not that I could remember, and I do hope it wasn't 3.07!). I thought the battery had gone and reminded myself to get new ones. I came home only to remember that I haven't gotten new batteries.

But there wasn't any need for them after all. I looked in surprise at that tiny clock which showed precisely the same time as my watch. I held it against my ear, and I could hear its faint ticks. Certainly even if it decided to start ticking again (maybe its mechanism got jammed for a while) the time would be off.

I asked my landlord whether he did anything to my clock. He said he didn't know I had an alarm clock in the first place. Why should I need an alarm clock when his cat acted as one? (It would climb up the cupboard near my bed and then jumped onto my chest, at 6am everyday.)

When I told him how the clock had "righted" itself and with such precision, he said this gave him goose pimples. There was only my landlord, myself and a cat living in the house.

Anyway, the clock continued as though it had never stopped a moment. It didn't need a change of battery at all -- till some years later -- a clear case of flat batteries.