Tuesday, February 1, 2011
ABC Wednesday: Cake, cucumber, Chinese New Year.
This was a special cake I made for my oldest daughter when she turned five. Last year, I was teaching Little Red Riding Hood to my five year old students. I made them the hood, and they wanted a basket. The cake would made a good ensemble for Red Riding Hood to take to her grandma.
The first time I came to New Zealand in 1978, I saw these long cucumber. I was pleasantly surprised at this 15 inch long cucumber. They have softer skin and seeds.
Recently, I saw this other cucumber. It is white and is an apple cucumber. I bought one for this post. Why is it called an apple cucumber? I have no idea, it doesn't shape like an apple, nor does it taste like an apple. The skin is tough, and the seeds are like an matured cucumber.
I think of many years ago, when my mum would buy matured cucumbers to make her pickled Achar. Mum made the best Achar during the Chinese New Year. We kids, took turns in peeling shallots, pound the chillis and dried shrimps in a pestle and mortar.
Tonight, is Lunar New Year's eve, I am having a steam boat dinner, I am all nostalgic. Traditionally, this Chinese New Year is a time of reunion. My daughter is coming home for dinner.
In 1907, my dad's grandfather left China for Borneo. During this century, five generations have been born, and our taste of food has evolved round the food of the region. While we eat predominantly Chinese food, our favourite is Thai. When we do eat out, we go to our favourite Thai restaurant at Ponsonby.
We like the sweet sour spicy Tom Yum Khong, a prawn soup. They come in different utensils, and twice, they came in the above containers.
I was delighted to see a replica of the steamboat my mum had. This Mongolian fire pot, a donut-shaped brass or stainless steel pot is like a moat of a castle. It has a central funnel to hold hot coals or charcoal that sitting on a grill. Every now and then, mum had to replenish the burning charcoal, and we children would have to move away and be very still. This photo is a replica, the food was already cooked, The heat inside was more a decor.
The other black one looked more like the Mongolian soldier's conical hat. This was flamed to be the origins of the steam boat. The soldiers inverted their metal hat and cooked their food with it. I bet they hurdled round the fire as the winter can be bitterly cold.
Let's eat Steamboat may incur a Huh??? look on your friends' faces. What is a steam boat?
Remember Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan and Marco Polo? During the time of the Mongolian Statesmen in Chinese history when the Great Wall of China was built, the fierce nomadic soldiers spread terror to China. Legend has it that the soldiers wore a metal hat, when it was time to cook their meals, they simply inverted their hats and used them to cook their meals. From them, came the Steamboat.
When I was little, my parents had a traditional steamboat. It was like a donut with the chimney in the middle. Mum would drop burning charcoal into the chimney, and on the donut ring, she had boiling soup. Thin slivers of meat of all sorts, vegetables, mushroom, tofu, noodles are quickly cooked. We used little basket like ladles to scoop up the food we like. Then we drank the delicious soup which is packed with all the goodness of the meat and vegetable stock.
Eating steamboat is a lengthy process. It is a good time for parents to tell children stories of the old, especially when we had left our home land. It would not suit people who are poor and have to rush through their meals to go and work.
These days, the cumbersome charcoal steamboats have given way to electric or gas ones. The chimney is gone, and it is more like cooking on the table. I am a person of nostalgia. I lament for Mum's steam boat. Steam boat has also evolved, in Singapore, some restaurants were serving runny rice porridge instead of soup to cook your morsels of meal and veg in.
Gong Xi Fa Cai: We wish you a prosperous New Year. It is the year of the rabbit.
1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999
People born in the Year of the Rabbit are articulate, talented, and ambitious. They are virtuous, reserved, and have excellent taste. Rabbit people are admired, trusted, and are often financially lucky. They are fond of gossip but are tactful and generally kind. Rabbit people seldom lose their temper. They are clever at business and being conscientious, never back out of a contract. They would make good gamblers for they have the uncanny gift of choosing the right thing. However, they seldom gamble, as they are conservative and wise
None of my immediate family or my siblings are rabbits. I can't tell you if the above is true. Besides, we have become Christians and do not believe in this.