It has been a fascinating journey of trying to recreate my Mum's noodle recipes: Assam Laksa, Penang Prawn Mee, Ipoh Kai See Hor Fun and recently, her version of Mee Jawa. Her laksa still awaits.
Auntie Ruby was exceptionally good with noodle dishes. I think her recipes were gathered and improved out of her many years of cooking in canteens, restaurants and hosting parties. She must have known some "makciks", possibly learning from the Malay cooks in the Muslim section of her canteen, as her Malay recipes are "sungguh sedap."
While her written recipes are helpful, taste memories played an important part in inching it closer to how she made it. The first batches are always for my family and when they give the thumbs up, I know one of Auntie Ruby's dishes has been recreated.
Chicken Sunday, September 21, 2014
It uses cilantro roots (coriander roots and stem) - which typically a Chinese home cook will discard, using only the coriander leaves. Waste not, want not, once you start cooking Thai dishes you will begin to appreciate the the flavours and texture from the roots and stems.
Auntie Ruby Saturday, September 20, 2014
If you have been following my blog closely, you would have noticed that my recipes do change with time, often with improved techniques or changes in ingredients.
That is the advantage of a cooking blog compared to a static cookbook. I think in this day and age, the best is to use both. And yes, I am working on my cookbook, often at a pace slower than I like due to lack of inspiration, energy or just simply the busyness of life and work.
Auntie Ruby Monday, September 15, 2014
So, what was the first dish I cooked?
I was very young. I can hardly remember the details. It was at the canteen in the Guinness Stout factory along Federal Highway (it is still there).
My Mum ran the business at the three canteens there - Western, Chinese and Malay. Much of my primary school years were spent working and hanging around there. The Western one had an air conditioned room and caters mostly to expatriate management staff. The cook was a Hainanese man. My Mum called him Ah Chek and I called him uncle.
Bee Hoon is a "stand by me" friend which every Chinese home cook should get familiar with.
Like pasta for Italians, it is a staple which is useful for different occasions and can be cooked in many ways.
Here in Singapore, it seems you you can find fried bee hoon everywhere: wakes & funerals, parties, catered buffets spreads and hawker stalls. I must have eaten a lot of bee hoon growing up, second only to rice. It actually is made from rice and that may explain it’s staple appeal to Asians.
It is easily available in most global world cities. Dehydrated like pasta, it can keep for months in your larder. Quick and easy to cook, it is also a favourite party dish as it can be served as a stand-alone dish, vegetarian one or to accompany another meat dish. It can be served at room temperature. Unless it is a soup recipe, it will still taste good if you serve it many hours after it is cooked.
If you love pork, you will love Sio Bak: the Chinese way of roasting it.
The meat is cut into bite size cubes and you use a pair of chopsticks to dip it into some sauces. The skin is crisped, crackling and flavourful and the meat is moist and tender.
I have been to some Western restaurants (Michelin-star, mind you) offering roast pork belly as a dish and I have to say that using a knife and fork to eat a slab of of it just does not make culinary sense. The crackling skin cracks apart when knifed. I have seen versions where the skin is offered separately. Why separate the perfect marriage of the layered skin, fat and meat, which offers a burst of different flavours and texture in a bite?