February 13, 2013

Stories From My Childhood, Part 1

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View from the Sky Park at Marina Bay Sands

Happy Lunar New Year y'all!!! (And happy Valentine's Day if you celebrate it!) Chinese New Year has always been a tasty and food-filled tradition for me and this year hasn't been any different. Most of my childhood memories are closely associated with food, and growing up in a food obsessed culture, it's not hard to see why.


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From top: Beef Kway Teow in soup, with tendon, tripe, meatball and braised beef pieces, and Beef Noodle in thick gravy, with salted vegetables and braised beef pieces

Every Sunday afternoon my mom would bring me to music class, and on the way there, there used to be a really popular Beef Kway Teow stall which had queues going around the block. As the class was at 1pm, we would often visit that stall for lunch, and I would always top off my Beef Noodles (dry) - with it's thick gravy, fragrant toasted peanuts and crunchy salted vegetables - with extra chilli sauce with its tangy undertones and capsaicin kick, and cinchalok - which is an incredibly tasty condiment made of salted krill, chilli, shallots and plenty of lime. A taste bud explosion, I love the combination of the silky noodles drenched in thick gravy, textured with tender pieces of beef, and punctuated with the high notes of chilli and cinchalok.

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Hawker centres are often a crazy maze of people driven by hunger. Besides the dozens of stalls - some selling similar food - vying for your attention, you have to navigate getting a table, not losing your dining companions, and making sure that your table does not get commandeered by other, louder groups.

So why go to a hawker centre? Often the food is wayyy better (and cheap! $3 is often enough to get you a meal), and really, isn't good food meant to be paired with the appropriate atmosphere?

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From top: Chee Cheong Fun, Fried Yam Cake, Fried Carrot Cake

Although these lovely morsels aren't anywhere near to all of what hawker centres in Singapore have to offer, these are certainly some of my must-haves when I visit home.

When I was little, my mother used to put me in a pram and take me for a walk to Seletar Market. There, there was a friendly matronly lady who, upon seeing that I liked the Fried Carrot Cake (Cai Tow Kuey), used to have a plate ready whenever my mother wheeled my pram to a table. Fried Carrot Cake is so named because of the little pops of diced salted radish that give the dish its characteristic taste. Add in fried egg, and diced rice cakes and there you have it! It comes in a white version and a black version, with the black version having the addition of dark soy sauce and sweet soy sauce. Unfortunately the market has since been torn down in favour of high rise apartments, but I still remember it fondly as a big part of my childhood.

When I was older, I attended a kindergarten that was part of the childcare programme organized by my mother's workplace. The building that my mom worked in was located conveniently near Amoy Street Food Centre, where a middle aged man with a round belly and a white singlet dished up the first food that I was truly addicted to - Chee Cheong Fun. A rice flour mixture is first steamed into thin sheets of noodle, then rolled. Usually served with a sweet, thick sauce, I now prefer to unravel the rice noodles and toss it in a mixture of soy sauce and sesame seed oil. The silky noodles carry the hint of salt from the soy, and the fragrance from the sesame seed oil. These plain rice noodle rolls are sold in most Asian stores in Australia as well, if you fancy steaming them and dressing them yourself at home. =)

Food, to me, is a great conveyor of memories, and these are foods that give me constant (and enjoyable) flashbacks.

What are your childhood favourites?

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3 Comments:

At February 13, 2013 at 8:12 PM , OpenID lateraleating.com said...

Great post, you brought up memories from my childhood, too. I remember fondly the buttery cupcakes and the smell of cafe con leche (coffee and milk) my aunties, granny and I had after every visit to my granny's doctor. I also remember two dishes my granny used to prepare: aguadito (soup with rice, coriander, chicken and mussels) and a blended liver soup (I know... I like liver, I'm weird).

 
At February 14, 2013 at 10:38 AM , Blogger Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

Great post. We don't realise how much our lives actually revolve around food. I was born and raised here in Sydney so our usual spots to eat out was Cabramatta - so very lucky im a local. Other than that, Grandpa was a chef and taught my dad how to cook. As biased as this may be, but I think my dad is such a great cook. Having a big family we quite often ate at home and dad loved feeding his 4 children and his wife. Today, he loves feeding his 7 children, 4 grandchildren and wife..

 
At March 19, 2013 at 7:23 PM , Blogger SingaporeMemoryProject said...

Dear Miss,

On behalf of the National Library Board (NLB), we would like to invite you to pledge your blog to the Singapore Memory Project as part of efforts to collect memories that are already manifested in existing online channels.

The Singapore Memory Project (SMP) is a national initiative to collect, preserve and provide access to Singapore’s knowledge materials. Spearheaded by NLB, the SMP aims to build a national collection of content in diverse formats (including print, audio and video), to preserve them in digital form, and make them available for discovery and research.

By pledging your blog to SMP, you are affirming that every memory matters. Whether your posts are an account of your daily life, or an expression of your thoughts, the SMP hopes to find a home for your memories so that it can help build towards an understanding of Singapore. You will also receive a badge that you can display on your blog in recognition of your contributions.

Contributors to this blog pledging initiative will be listed on Singapore Memory portal’s blog pledging webpage. All blogs pledged to SMP will archived using NLB’s web harvesting software, in addition to images of each blog’s landing page.

If you are keen to pledge your blog to SMP, simply fill up our response form at this following URL: http://singaporememory.simulation.com.sg/Public/Pledge.

You may find out more about this initiative at http://www.iremember.sg/?page_id=2822.

We are looking forward to your contribution.

Simulation Software & Technology (S2T) Pte Ltd
583 Orchard Road #14-02 Forum The Shopping Mall S(238884), Singapore
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