On the Trail of the Phoenix – Apom Berkuah
I love watching cooking shows on TV when I was young. Apart from learning through observing my grandmother, mother and aunties cook and helping them in the kitchen, part of what I know on traditional cooking came from these wonderfully made TV programmes, especially those on Channel 12 which later became Art Central. That was way before the time of reality cooking shows like Masterchef where drama seems to take centrestage instead of the food. And it was easily 10-15 years ago as even Arts Central has now become part of history to make way for “Okto”. That was when my TV watching days were over.
Almost 10 years ago, there was a series of TV programmes featuring Peranakan culture and cuisine. Most memorable were “The Ways of the Matriarch”, “The Cook, His Food and the Dishy Nyonyas” as well as “On the Trail of the Phoenix”. It is the last after which the Peranakan dishes presented in this blog were named as It was through these TV programmes that I’d learnt much about the intricacies of Straits Chinese cuisine and its preparation. One of the most impressionable dishes being showcased was Apom Berkuah, I remembered vividly the contrasting swirls of blue from juice extracted from bunga telang against the ivory colored fluffy rice cakes. After all these years, I’d finally gotten a chance to make them myself. Truly sedap!
桂花酒釀芝麻汤圆 Glutinous Rice Dumplings in Osmanthus Sweet Broth
Yes its the time of the year again…a time for reflections, a time for revelations and a time for new resolutions. As the end of the year draws near, one can’t help but look back at what has happened over the last 12 months. This is the time of year when people relax, unwind, preparing for the holidays and festivities to come. However, this is also the time of the year when the rains visit us again, the skies are grey half the time and sometimes, our moods follow as well.One of life’s many ironies.
Today we celebrate the winter solstice, 冬至. This is an important day on the Chinese lunar calendar as it marks the coming of winter proper. This is when families prepare themselves for the harsh cold to come. However, Singapore knows no seasons. But my family, being rather traditional, celebrates the day with offerings to the gods, most symbolically in the form of tang yuan, 汤圆 glutinous rice dumplings. When we were young, preparation started early in the morning, as my mother would knead the dough from scratch as my sister and I pinched off pieces from it, rolling them into balls, getting ready to dunk them into a hot pot of boiling water. Another pot looked on, exuding a sweet jaggery and gingery aroma from the broth that was bubbling along. Being Hokkiens, we enjoy tang yuan in hot ginger broth sweetened with raw brown sugar. My mother accentuates that we daun pandan. I remember being told by my grandmother when I was young that we had to eat the number of tang yuans (kueh ee she called it) in accordance to our age! Her little “ploy” to make us children eat more I guess!