Category Archives: food

If Yan Can Cook, So Can I

If there was any one person who has made light work out of a Wok, he was Martin Yan – whose “Yan Can Cook” series made its debut many years ago. 

His contagious, affable chatter in heavy Hongkong-accented English  — while his hands performed the deft cutting, chopping and stirring work — deeply endeared him to his audience.

The climax of each show was undoubtedly that rhythmic “chop-chop-chop-chop…..chop-chop-chop-chop…” rapid-fire slicing action on the chopping board, which always drew a huge applause from his audience.

He is something of an inspiration for me, each time I have to cook a meal.  Cooking is not something I am good at nor love to do. So, to survive each session, I would subconsciously provoke myself – if Yan Can Cook, So Can I”

Don’t ask me for recipes – I just follow my feelings

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In An Eggshell, A Century Passeth In Weeks

Today’s memory replay takes me back to the late 50s.  Grandma and my parents were relishing on some “egg-shaped” things, which they said had been soaked in horse urine. Yucks!

When these “pi dan” (皮蛋)were sliced into pieces using a thin string, I saw the grayish “yolks” which sometimes looked like mud and, the outer jelly-like covering which had a dark brownish colour.  As for the smell…oh..please !!! No amount of intimidation or persuasion could get me to eat them.

It was decades later that I had the courage to try them – thanks to encouragement from my wife.

There is a lot of information online, on making “pi dan”.  But the greatest puzzle is how they became known as “century eggs” in the West, when the process of making them takes only weeks or at most a couple of months.

Can’t Beat Them, Eat Them !

Please fasten your seat belts and get ready to puke !

Mice and rats are prolific breeders and have since time immemorial been the bane of human kind. They compete voraciously with us for food and also they spread many diseases.

So how to beat them ?  My dad told me that in his youth days, people used to hunt for freshly-born baby rodents (less than a day old or so) and then eat them alive, just like that, or else dipped in a sauce or wrapped with a large banana split.

Folklore maintained that those pinkish, hairless and blind newborns “were effective for treatment of asthma and a good general tonic for the human body”.

I learned that in China, this practice of “pest control” is still popular.  Anyone else game for this squeaky “delight”?

Mama’s Mee, Ya ?

Mamma Mia, Here I go again,  My, my, how can I resist you ?” No, I could not, though I was slow to succumb.

Today’s memory scroll takes me to that old-time classic fried yellow noodle that was the specialty of Indian Muslims. It was my late mum’s favourite. 

Her particular delight was found at the small garden-like annex adjacent to the old Cathay Cinema in Penang (now Mydin Stores).  On many occasions, a trip to a movie at Cathay invariably culminated in a plates of fried Mamak Mee for her.

Penangites stake claim that they have the best Mamak Mee in the country but there is no lack of contending claims from elsewhere. Over the last 3 decades my taste buds have been tuned to the Singapore style, but I think the Penang version/s are still the best.

 

note : opening line is a pun on ABBA’s hit song “Mamma Mia”

Tough Cookie With Rock-Solid Reputation

I recall a delicacy which I used to eat with relish in my  young days in the kampong in Butterworth. 

90% of my neighbours were of Indian (nearly all Tamil) ancestry.  During the Deepavali festive season,  they would send their children over to my house with plates of goodies – among them was a kind of very hard ball.

These required a hammer or a batu lesung* to shatter them into smaller chunks.  Even then, it took some strong jaw muscles and very robust molars to pulverize the smaller pieces into minuscule bits that can be savoured by the taste buds.

I think these are called Kallu Urundai.  It has been donkey ages since the last time I saw them,  let alone ate one.  Alas, now my teeth may not be able to handle them anymore.

*batu lesung = a mortar & pestle set (in Malay)

The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Eggs…

Or one could call it the best thing for cutting hard-boiled eggs into slices.  I remember we had one of these simple kitchen aids at home…a long time ago. 

It was a simple, yet effective tool.  The thin, highly-strung steel wires cut through an egg neatly, without messing up, yielding  slices with uniform thickness – a result that could not be achieved using a knife.

But somehow, we lost it and more interestingly, never missed it or found an another occasion to use it.  Why is that so? I wish I know.

My guess is that these days, food is plentiful, appetites have  bloated and people live to eat. No one would be happy with mere slices – thus, only a whole egg or maybe even two, would satisfy gastronomic expectations.  Thus, the slicer was gradually assigned museum status.

Broiler-Vs-Broiler

While tidying up my store room, I uncovered this 2-decade old kitchen appliance that we have not used for a long long time. It has become a monumental testimony of my wife’s happy hours in many episodes of culinary Broiler-vs-Broiler drama in the kitchen.

The machine is a table-top broiler, which we used to broil chicken (aka ‘broilers’) for dinner. It is a pretty amazing piece of machine, though quite simple in concept.

Those were the days. However, now, as age catches up with us, we find it too tedious to do the broiling, and troublesome to clear up the oily aftermath. Moreover, as the Empty Nest syndrome sets in, the incentive to get embroiled with cooking diminishes rapidly.

If we want roast chicken, simple — just head to the supermarket, grab one from over the counter and start biting.