Friday, July 22, 2005

Growing up with Food

Some of us who think back into our childhood tend to remember some things more vividly than the rest.
When I do get nostalgic, I often think back to my days as a kid growing up in a shophouse in Upper Serangoon road which my late grandfather built before WWII.
It actually had an underground shelter and I was told that it could bearly fit the entire family with the kids during the war.
Due to the MRT line construction, the shophouse had to be demolished which broke my granny's heart.During my early years visiting and living in the shophouse, i remember my uncle running the shopfront selling fruits. Needless to say, he would always pass us tons of fruits that were in season.
My late grandparents loved durians and they shared their love with their family!!!
My visits to my grandparents', would start by greeting them properly, them sitting us down in the kitchen, and feeding us durians!
Unfortunately i never got the opportunity of understanding the types of durians and how they vary in taste.
As far as i can remember, i used to like the durians with very yellow flesh and has a touch of bitterness to it.
They were divine and i well & truly overate on them as a kid! Now, i'm sadly not touching that fruit no more.With my grandparents, it was our family tradition to have weekly sit-down dinners and my late grandmother used to prepare some dishes of hers i never got enough of.
Both my grandparents were Hainanese who migrated from Hainan to Singapore. One of Singapore's favourite dishes is the Hainanese Chicken Rice which is an adaptation from the Hainanese Wen Chang Chicken. It is 1 of the 4 signature dishes in Hainan. The other 3 are; Jiaji Crab, Hele Crab and Dongshan Mutton.My grandmother reared her own chickens and made her version of the Wen Chang Chicken which was delicious! She used to roll the rice that has been cooked in the chicken stock into small balls. According to my grandmother, that was how some of the Hainanese would serve the rice, which was rolled into balls while the rice is still piping hot! Sadly, she passed on before i got the recipe.
I was asked by my significant other, whom i will refer to as "GL" for Green Lantern (actually it was his dad who asked...) being Hainanese, if i knew how to prepare Hainanese Chicken Rice, well, not the authentic Wen Chang Chicken, but, yes i have a recipe to share...coming soon! :)Another one of my grandmother's favourite dish which became my favourite as well is her yummy Pork Belly cooked in Dark Soy. For this dish to taste as superb as how she does it, you have to buy the Pork Belly (commonly known to us as "San Ceng Rou" in Chinese and "Kong Bah" in Hokkien) with generous layers of fat.
I spent a fair bit of my secondary school years at my grandparents' place for dinners and i managed to watch her cook this up once. Apparently, the secret ingredient she adds in is sugar. The recipe as follows:

Pork Belly with Dark Soy Sauce

Pork Belly, a standard strip from supermarkets is about 20cm piece,
Superior dark soy sauce
garlic chopped finely
ginger sliced thinly into strips

Boil some water and blanch the pork belly to remove initial layer of pig oil that gives the strong "piggy" taste. Then cut into 2-3cm thick pieces. Lightly salt the blanched pork belly
Stir fry the ginger in oil till slightly brown and fragrant
Throw in the garlic, fry till slightly golden brown
Add in the pork belly, stir fry on high heat for about 2-3mins
Pour in some dark soy sauce, not too much, just enough to be able to simmer the pork belly in. Turn heat to low.
Add in about a 1 1/2teaspoons of suger. Mix well.
Allow to slowly boil on low heat stirring it occastionally, reducing it slightly to allow the sugar to caramelise in the dark soy for approx 5-8min.

Till today, i still feel Granny makes the best Pork Belly with Dark Soy, even my mother cant make the meat taste exactly like how she used to prepare it.Steamboats, like any other Chinese family, is a must-do during Chinese New Year. As a kid, this is the one thing i looked forward to (apart from the ang paos!) every single year. To me, it was an excellent chance for the family to sit together at a round table, cook, eat, drink, chat & bring in the new year together!Imagine sitting in a small shophouse in the make-shift living room area (as the kitchen is too small to accomodate my entire family) with 2 big round tables, 3 fans blowing at us to keep us cool and the tv switched on to the new year variety programme. I treasure those dinners and hold them very dear to my heart. Sadly, we stopped having our Chinese New Year steamboat dinners for now, after both my grandparents passed on.Now, we all get together for Chinese New year for dinner but pot-luck style. I think i shall take the initiative to host and prepare a steamboat dinner for my family for next year's Chinese New Year


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