Thursday, July 12, 2007

Miscellaneous Food: Home Cooking (Chinese)

Okay, I will admit it. Remember how you used to sneak out after school to go hang out at Orchard (well, Junction 8 for some privledged students) with your friends? It wasn't that many years ago that the most cool thing to do was hang around Far East in school uniforms, eating your whipped potato of freedom at the KFC.

I must have skipped classes, practice, tuition. But I never stayed on or out until dinnertime. And this had nothing to do with my rebellion. It had everything to do being from a Cantonese family that always had a pot of good soup boiling on the stove..and with my Peranakan nanny, who was a live-in distant relative with the most excellent culinary repetoire. When my brother and I were younger, she minded us during the day and when we got older, she retired to just cooking for the family.

When I say cooking though, I mean that she made curry rampa from scratch, filling the house with a stinky and pungent aroma and the constant roaring of the blender. She dried her own peanuts and salted fish and during the New Year, she made covered jam tarts, snipping out little pineapple quills.

I wasn't allowed in the kitchen for most of my early childhood and when I was older, she watched over my work on the cutting board with more prejudice than a TV chef and made annoyingly loud declarations "Aiyah! How can, all uneven, different cooking time, lousy taste!". Sometimes I took to avoiding the kitchen door, if not, I'd be called in to slave-pick the heads off beansprouts or some other menial task.

She never once said that you cook for a man (and I don't know if you all realize how unusual that is for an Asian woman of her age and educational background), or to be a good housewife, always that I should study hard, get a good job and be famous and great one day. And that I should learn how to follow the recipes and the old traditional ways, because "who will cook for you, those dishes you like so much, when I am gone".

Going home to dinner was always a no-brainer and to be honest, I never understood why other kids stayed out that late. Dinner at my house is a big thing, always a family, friends and conversation thing and till today, I far prefer to have friends home then to deal with going out to eat.

For all the people who are away from home- including my brother in the UK and Umami in Paris (thank you, thank you!) who are missing a home-cooked meal. My family can scarce afford her rich curry chicken, sour fatty pork and fishhead curry that often these days but these are the Chez Liew dinner dishes that still make a regular appearence!

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