White cut chicken is so very close to my heart.
When I grew up in the early 70s in Southern China, we lived simply on limited resources. Earning a first prize in school meant a lot to me, as the prize was typically a pencil with a rubber at the end, a real luxury. I would jump for joy if I received a prize of a few new exercise books as they were frequently out of stock at the shops.
My father was a university graduate and a mechanical engineer. The year that I was born, he was ‘redistributed’ to work at a factory 150km away from home. Those days, 150km means a 5 hours journey on a train. My father’s monthly salary was about $60 yuan (approx USD10 based on today’s exchange rate). He kept $30 yuan for himself and sent the rest to us. My mother was a factory hand whose monthly salary was $37 yuan (approx USD6 based on today’s exchange rate). Once a year, our Singapore uncle sent us a little money. My mother would buy some fabric, sew a new piece of clothing for me on my grandmother’s old sewing machine. Our Singapore uncle was very kind to us – he had a large family to support and he was not well off himself.
At the end of each Chinese Luna year, my father was entitled to a 10-day holiday to spend Chinese New Year with the family. As a special treat for the New Year’s Eve family dinner, my father always brought home a farm chicken which cost around $10 yuan. He had to save up for months to buy the chicken. My grandmother carefully slaughtered and poached the chicken, then served it at the Chinese New Year Eve dinner. The chicken was shared among the whole family – grandmother, uncles, aunties and us.
There were only a few pieces for each of us. Grandmother was entitled to the chicken’s bottom, a delicacy. I was the first grandchild born in the house and was entitled to one of the wings – another delicacy. How delicious it was, our once a year white cut chicken feast.
Over the years in Australia I had many white cut chicken dishes – some were delicious, some were cooked without care. I started cooking my own version of the boneless white cut chicken, and my friends always enjoyed the dish.
This recipe is a modern fusion of Chinese & Vietnamese – gently poached juicy tender chicken breast fillet on a bed of fresh Vietnamese style slaw.
Recipe is as follows: Read the rest of this entry »
Vegetables & melons are popular food in China – bok choy, choy sum & cabbage are some of the most common vegetables.
While I was a little child, we lived in a terrace house with my extended family including uncles & aunties. My grandmother was responsible for cooking dinners for the whole family. To supplement the food coupons, my grandmother raised a coop of chickens on the roof top terrace. Before I was old enough to go to school, every afternoon I went to the market with my grandmother to collect left over green vegetables. We brought the vegetables home, chopped them up on a huge wooden chopping board, and fed to the chickens. While she was chopping, grandmother told me stories, so many stories. One of the stories was about me – while I was still a crawling baby, I crawled up to the roof top terrace, helped myself to the egg storage urn, cracked every single egg and smeared the eggs on the stairs.
That was not the only time that I was naughty – I remember when I was little, bored and feeling mischievous, I put some rice behind the door to the roof top terrace. I peeked through the gaps, waited till the chickens started pecking on the grains, suddenly opened the door – chickens were flying everywhere! The naughty little girl laughed and laughed. My grandmother was always very kind to me and never punished me.
Some days we were lucky enough to collect some good vegetables, and grandma cooked them for dinner with a little oil, a dash of soy sauce and nothing else. Soy sauce was always cheap and no coupon needed.
Here is my version of a simple soy bok choy, with fond memory of my wonderful grandmother.
Easy method is as follows: Read the rest of this entry »
Thai food always brings back memory of a pink restaurant where I worked for a few years during my university days.
The restaurant was owned by a kind Vietnamese couple – An the husband and Ly the wife. Ly looked after 3 young children and worked in the tiny kitchen every night. An was a full time engineer who managed the dinning room and delivered takeaway food.
When they spoke about their past, I could see Ly’s eyes sparkled, and warm smiles on An’s face. In the old days back home, Ly was known as the ‘Saigon rose’ for her exceptional beauty, and An was a young, well educated officer working for the American army.
I learned to cook some wonderful dishes from Ly. One of my favourite was a ‘xa ot’ dish, meaning lemongrass and chili.
Here is my version of a xa ot chicken.
Easy method is as follow: Read the rest of this entry »