Sunday, 11 December 2011

Paper-wrapped Chicken---A Tribute to a Friendship

“A friendship that lasts for a quarter century is something to rejoice about!” someone once said to me. I guess I’m a lucky man then, for I have several friends who’ve shared my ups and downs for well over 25 years. One of these friends, I met during my army days. Her name is Annie.

Annie and I worked in the same army camp, in different buildings; but we were as good as only desks apart. We chatted often through the army’s intranet system, and met daily for lunch. Annie was unfailingly friendly, chatty, and helpful, and always lent a hand to anyone who needed it at the camp.
She was, basically, a generous soul; and a hit with the guys---straight or otherwise.

To straight guys, she was the girl you’d want to bring home to meet Mom; to gays, she was the fag hag we all adored. In fact, one of Annie’s most sought-after ‘services’ was to pretend to be the ‘girlfriend’ of her many closeted gay friends whenever the need arose---which was pretty often!

So, Annie, I, and a few other army mates, grew to be close friends. We would spend weekends at her flat, playing mahjong, watching videos and---as we would say in the 70s---‘talking cock’. Annie lived with her folks, and we all got along very well, especially at the mahjong table.

Annie was a wiz in the kitchen; and she made sure everyone in the house---family and friend---was well fed. Annie and her family weren’t well off; she would take on ‘sidelines’, like privately promoting household appliances and beauty products, to bolster her salary so that she could help out with her family’s expenses. Yet, the way she cooked and fed us every week, you’d think her mattresses were stuffed with dollar bills.

And so, we went through life together, as any group of old friends do. Romance, heartbreak, career, marriage, children, mid-life crises…

Of life’s rollercoaster of joys and sorrows, Annie and I shared more than 30 years’ worth, even though at times our communications were reduced to little more than an exchanged sms on a birthday or festival, especially when we lived in different countries.

Annie is today happily married and lives in a lavish, beautiful home. She is the proud mother of two delightful teenagers to whom---I’m surprised, but happy, to say---I’m more good buddy than aloof ‘uncle’, despite the formidable age gap!

Today is Annie’s birthday, and I’m dedicating this dish to her, and our friendship. It was a dish she always cooked for us during those far-off weekends at her home. Sadly, she refuses to cook it for us anymore, not for anything else, but because she has forgotten this humble recipe even as she has added many newer ones to her cooking repertoire!

Happy birthday, Annie!

This 100-year-old dish originated in Guangdong, China.
The original wrapper was rice paper, like that used for Chinese calligraphy.

Paper-wrapped Chicken

Chicken                                    600 g, chopped into 8 pieces
Dried mushroom                  8 pieces
Oyster sauce                           ½ tbsp.
Chinese wine                          ½ tsp
Ginger juice                            ½ tsp
Light soy sauce                      ¼ tsp
Honey                                      ½ tsp
Salt                                            a pinch
Sesame oil                              ¼ tsp
Pepper                                    a dash
Spring onion                         8 x 4 cm long
Baking paper                         8 x 22 sq cm
Oil                                            4 cups

1.              Marinate the chicken with all ingredients for at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight.
2.             Oil the baking paper. Place the paper diagonally in front of you, and the chicken, mushroom and spring        
             onion horizontally, and wrap.
3.              Heat oil to 375 degrees Celsius, fry chicken for about 15 minutes or until well cooked.
4.              Drain well and serve.

For those who are health conscious, you could bake the paper-wrapped chicken at 220 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes.