I survived 2 months of festivities with a belly full of content and I'm glad I'm finally giving my stomach a break now. It started off with X'mas where it's always the time of the year when everyone wants to throw a party and we have not been left out. Then came the New Year and the Chinese New Year, where despite the so-called economic slowdown, almost every Chinese household that I know had at least one 'Lo Sang' do. They insisted it's for prosperity throughout the year. Well, John and I had our fair share of 'Lo Sang' too - mostly, invitations from friends. Last Saturday, we had 4 invitations that we had to turn down a few. But the feeling of being invited is extremely extremely great. Great to have not just aquaintances but friends who remember you and would want you to be around. Oh my God, we feel so blessed!!!
Now that the Chinese New Year feasts are all over, I'm beginning to yearn and reminisce some forgotten food of my childhood...
Ice balls! Yes, I remember watching the ice-ball man as he placed an ice block on a wooden slab in which a sharp blade was inserted. Then he would scrape the ice block over the blade to collect a whole mountain of ice shavings, and using his bare hands (I was too young to bother about hygiene), he would compress and shape them into a huge ice ball. Lastly, some 'gula melaka' (brown sugar) syrup would be lashed on the ice-ball and I would slurp and suck away the ice, tossing the ice ball around and squealing with delight because of the cold. So what if it was 'unglamour' - it was memorable. Nowadays, the ice-ball men have all disappeared.
Tink Tink Candy
Another of my favourite was this 'Tink Tink' candy. It was called 'Tink Tink' candy because the candyman would hit 2 metal objects that gave out the 'tink! tink!' sound. This candy is really hard and gooey laced with lots of sesame seeds in a round tin try and the pieces had to be knocked out using 2 chisels so that everyone could perpectually hear the 'tink! tink!' sound. Those days, I could get about 5 or 6 pieces for 5 cents!
Wheel Of Fortune Ice Cream
Then there was this ice-cream man that cycled with a big ice box and a roulette wheel attached to it at the back of his bicycle. I would quickly fork out 5 cents and got myself a spin at the wheel - if the wheel stopped at the arrow pointing number 10, wah..I'll get 10 scoops of ice-cream! If it stops at 0, then too bad, I won't get any ice-cream. Usually, I'll get at least 2! Those were the days...fun!
Nanny's Homemade Kaya
On special occassions, my nanny would make her tradisional homemade kaya and I love to observe how dozens of eggs were beaten together with coconut milk, brown sugar, pandan leaves (juice) by hand. This mixture has to be heated in a perfect temperature and stirred slowly and carefully until the jam turn smooth and creamy. Doing this requires some patience and skills in order to get good results. Sometimes if the amount of ingredients or the temperature is not right, the jam will turn out lumpy and not smooth. Oh well, something like that!
When the kaya is ready, I would spread the thick creamy jam generously on a toast or cracker and hmmm...delicious!
Nowadays, I hardly eat kaya cos' no other kaya taste like Nanny's homemade. Believe me, her kaya is really rich and so fragrant that one could taste the eggs and coconut milk that went into it - a huge contrast from the sweet and gooey stuff with lots of preservatives that are sold in the supermarket today.
I write with nostalgia as nanny is 96 years old this year. Although she is still healthy and very alert, she has already stopped cooking. The last time I had her homemade kaya was 2 years ago and was glad that I ate until my heart's content!
Nyonya Kuihs Galore
Although I'm not an ardent fan of nyonya cakes, I enjoyed observing how nyonya kuihs were sold back then. The Nyonya Kuih man would walk around carrying a long wooden pole slung over his shoulders (he definitely must have strong shoulders). At the end of each pole was a 3-tiered container (like a treasure chest) containing an array of colorful Nyonya kuihs displayed inside.
These days nyonya kuihs are sold everywhere; at the morning market, night market, supermarket and hawker stalls but they can be rather expensive now especially if they are sold at the malls.
Ice Kacang or ABC
Few days ago, I persuaded John to accompany me to a hawker stall at Brickfields last week where we had our most refreshing dessert. By the way, ice kacang is just fine ice shavings packed with red bean, corn, black jelly, peanuts, green chendol, all drown in fresh coconut milk and lashings of brown sugar syrup. Here at the Brickfields stall, we added fresh coconut meat as our topping. Some other stalls normally offer a scoop of ice-cream. Hmmm...glorious!