It’s upon us again – the haze, thanks to our neighbor, Indonesia, where, as everyone knows, the burning of forests and plantations is underway to clear the land for new crops.
In Singapore the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) has hit record levels of 400 and above -- conditions considered potentially life threatening for the weak and the elderly. Our government appears to be doing its level best: raising vehement protests with its Indonesian counterpart and urging it to action, and pressing into effect precautionary measures at home. But somehow we still see workers made to labor outdoors without masks, and the rest of us scrambling to buy rapidly depleting -- if not completely depleted -- stocks of masks. Meanwhile, the Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare in Indonesia, Mr Agung Laksono, blames the crisis not on human action, but on Nature, and accuses Singaporeans of being “like children, in such a tizzy.” As yet, no end is in sight.
In my family, we had several home recipes to “cleanse” our lungs and prevent cough whenever we were exposed to smoke and haze. One of the most common and economical was a dish of stir-fried chives and soybean sprouts. These days soybean sprout has become scarce in the market and so we use bean sprout as a substitute.
We often used fritillaria (川贝) too in our soups and drinks. This pearl-like herb is a key ingredient in many Chinese medicinal concoctions meant to “cleanse” lungs and prevent cough. In the recipe below, loquat is paired with fritillaria, but since loquat is not in season now, I have replaced it with apricot.
Stuffed Apricot with Fritillaria
Fritillaria 20 g, crush if necessary
Candied persimmon 2, diced
Water ¼ cup
Rock sugar 30 g
Water ¼ cup
Rock sugar 40 g
Dried osmanthus 2 g
11. Blanch apricots and remove pits and peel.
22. Mix fritillaria, candied persimmon and Seasoning A thoroughly. Steam for 20 minutes.
33. Spoon fritillaria mixture into the core of apricot with syrup, and steam for another 15 minutes.
44. Boil Seasoning B (except osmanthus) until it turns into syrup. Add dried osmanthus and stir
thoroughly. Turn off the heat.
55. Pour syrup over steamed apricot and serve it hot or cold.