Have you ever tasted a dish and feel nostalgia and sentimental about it? Possibly remembering how you enjoyed this particular dish with your family or friends? Or when reading a recipe or a book it has evoked similar feelings and sentiments?
I was reading this recipe book – Nonya Heritage Kitchen by Ong Jin Teong, and reading about his family history, the utensils they used in their kitchen for weights and measurements, such as rice bowls, cigarette tins, and cups, and about the family recipes. These items really resonated with everything I am familiar with.
Thinking back … I had personally used most of those utensils before in my own family kitchen, or seen other people using them. On every page there was something that reminded me of my childhood days spent with my family in the kitchen and enjoying the dishes with them.
Then when I flipped through this page about ice balls…
Those were the good old days of days of enjoying fun time with cousins, roaming the streets of Penang, enjoying the ice kachang and ice balls on one of the famous streets – Swatow Lane. My grandfather would bring us (the grandchildren) there, and we would order either ice kachang or ice balls. The balls were very compact and heavy; they were drizzled with red syrup and we would suck all the syrup from the balls so that all that was left with a plain white ice ball. By that time, our hands and lips would have been covered with a trial of red colouring stain from the red syrup.
When I saw the picture, I could not remember whether there was the string on the balls, but overall, it was a sweet memory spending time with my cousins and grandfather. I also remember behind the ice kachang stall, there was this fish shop, which my grandfather would visit as he had a large fish tank full of fish.
As I poured through the pages, I could still see so many more familiar photos and stories. There is always a beautiful story behind all your favourite dishes.
So when you step into your kitchen tonight, when preparing the dish that you are planning to cook and share with your family, what’s your story behind this dish?
Why are you cooking this dish? Who taught you how to cook this dish? Were you helping that person prepare and taste test the dish? What conversation did you have with that person when cooking this dish? And the memories of sharing them with your family?
Every dish has a story, what’s yours?
Check out Nonya Heritage Kitchen by Ong Jin Teong
Another book by Dr. Ong Jin Teong