Monday, 6 August 2012

#CookForFamily: Preserving Heritage with Mui Choy

I received an email from a local blogger, Daniel Ang to participate in this #CookForFamily. Without hesitation, I agreed. This event resonates strongly with what I truly believe in – the importance of home cooking and the need to preserve our food heritage.

As the saying goes, the family that eats together stays together. And helping to make this event more meaningful is, I hope, my little way to encourage families to rediscover their handed-down recipes and bring them back to the dining table. The history of the family table is inseparable from the larger culinary history of a people – and therefore needs to be loved and preserved.

The recipe I am featuring was one of the earliest I learnt; a neighbor of mine taught it to me. A typical housewife in her 60s, she would go to the wet market for the freshest ingredients, dispense with her household chores, prepare lunch for her children, and then settle down to listen to Rediffusion for the afternoon. I had learnt not to approach her until she finished her chores.

So this is what I would do: I would follow her to the market in the morning; gather all the ingredients I would need, and wait for her to finish all her chores. When she sat down in front of the Rediffusion box, I would bring the ingredients I had bought to her.

At each commercial break, my neighbor would impart the necessary instructions to me. I would dash to the kitchen after each set of instructions and cook. For the finishing gravy, I would bring her an empty bowl and different types of sauce bottles. Like a pharmacist, she would mix and stir the sauces under my ever-watchful eye. Once done, I would rush back again to the stove for the final assembly.

It was a time of fun that I remember and cherish. Like most people of her generation who were not very demonstrative of their feelings, these generous little cooking ‘lessons’ were my old neighbor’s gifts of affection to me.

Braised Mui Choy with Chicken Feet

Mui choy                     350 g
Ginger                          4 thick slices
Sugar                           2½ tbsp
Chinese wine              1 tbsp
Light soy sauce           1 tbsp
Dark soy sauce            ¾ tbsp
Lard/Oil                       5 tbsp
Meat stock/water        1½ cups

Braised Chicken Feet
Chicken feet                400 g
Dark soy sauce            1 tbsp
Salt                               ½ tsp
Water                          1½ litre
Oil                               2 cups

1.    Soak and rinse mui choy thoroughly. Squeeze mui choy very dry and dice it about 1cm thick.
2.    Marinate mui choy with sugar, light soy sauce, and Chinese wine for 30 minutes.
3.    Using a dry wok, fry the mui choy until the vegetable becomes dry. Add oil and continue to fry at medium heat for another 5 minutes. Pour stock and deep-fry chicken feet and simmer for 30 minutes.

Deep-fried Chicken Feet
1.    Marinate chicken feet with dark soy sauce and salt for 30 minutes.
2.    Blanch chicken feet in boiling water for 5 minutes.
3.    Remove from water and drain thoroughly.
4.    Deep-fry chicken feet until the skin turns brown and crispy.
5.    Drain the chicken feet thoroughly.

Note:   Mui choy is a preserved vegetable originating from Mei Zhou, a province in Canton where Hokkiens and Teochews meet. Nowadays, this preserved vegetable is exclusively produced in Hui Zhou. There are two types of mui choy: sweet and salty, as the vegetables are dried and heavily soaked in either salt or sugar. Each type of mui choy is used for a specific cooking purpose. The colour of mui choy should be light golden, with a slight scent to the vegetable.

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