31 July 2006

Public Service Announcement

When in Bangkok, beware of their food. Eat cautiously i.e. choose hygienic sources of food.

This applies to all ingestible products, even ICE.

Ice, ice, ice. Mango Freeze, Frappucino, Lemon Freeze, Ice Milo.

25 July 2006

Childhood food

What is the one dish from your childhood that is unforgettable? Is it that steaming hot dumpling that your grandma makes at home during each dumpling festival?

What is mine? I remember the childhood meme I did quite a while ago that listed five of my most memorable childhood food. They were really only a few of the numerous that I remember from the days when the size of my hips were not an issue, and when I didn't have to tip toes to reach the handlebars in trains and buses.

Those were the days when family gatherings were frankly a little overwhelming. I was at waist level of most of the people there and the dinner table had food of gargantuan proportions. Whole ducks (I still can't let go of my perfect duck), chopped up into big pieces. Big, bright orange prawns with long feelers and protruding black eyes. Big, stainless steel, AMC pots of soup. The kitchen was basically a danger zone for anyone with feet size smaller than 5.

But then of course, I could very well be making all this up in my little head. It would not be surprising for some parts of my memory to be glazed over, being replaced by other images possibly influenced by residual images from one of Catherine Lim's short stories that I had to read for Literature in secondary school.

My memory really is failing me, but thankfully what my brain neglects, my palate makes up for in the realm of food.

Just a short while back, I went over to my grandma's place for dinner. She had prepared fish head curry, braised duck and chicken, fried prawns, and a whole variety of vegetables. All the familiar, homecooked, wholesome goodness covered the marble table and I tucked in voraciously.

After stuffing myself, an odd sight greeted me. My uncle was standing in the kitchen in front of a bowl and beating some eggs vigorously. Now that's actually something I've never seen before. In fact, other than my dad (on the very rare and desperate occasion), I've never seen any of my uncles cooking. We are still a traditional family at heart, I guess.

Later, he revealed that he was making a steamed egg custard, following my great-grandmother's recipe. My aunty then recalled very fondly and twinkly eyed, that he used to make this steamed egg custard very frequently in the past, during their dating days.

Although this steamed egg custard is a 'family heirloom' so to speak ( especially since my dad firmly declared it the best he had ever eaten in his life), I must admit that I had no recollection of ever trying it. I did not have the faintest idea of how it would taste and only heard about it through my dad.

It looked and felt absolutely foreign, until I sat down and scopped a porcelain-spoonful of the custard and slurped it down. In that instant, it hit me. I definitely had this before. I could definitely identify this familiar flavour. Even though it triggered nothing in my mind, my palate was screaming 'I REMEMBER THIS!'

And so it became my childhood food. Perhaps when I was still teeny, with gangly arms and legs, running around chasing my younger cousins, there was a day that I stopped to gulp down a bowl of that wobbly delight. But whatever it is, I know I have had this before. Sweetened with rock sugar, and with a bright yellow hue, I missed this. And I didn't know how much I missed it until I had it again.

Unfortunately the photo I shot was horrible and unsalvageable. Thankfully, my uncle gave me the precious recipe. I love that the timing is decided by the burning time of a single joss stick. It makes me feel connected to my great-grandmother.

My childhood food that became so only more than a decade later.