Thursday, September 08, 2011

Nyonya Cuisine: Snacks + Starters...

In these little eats, we see the Nyonya at her inventive best from tasty little morsels to whet the appetite to more filling meat dumplings, the snacks and appetisers are an imaginative pallet of colours, shapes and flavours. The Paiti or Top Hats as they are popularly called, have been featured on the starters menu in many a swanky "modern food" restaurants and is a dish open to many interpretations. No, I didn't do that myself. I don't have the mould for the top hats but I do really enjoy sinking my teeth into one. Introducing the main ingredient for Nyonya snacks... yam bean. Isn't that called a turnip? Well, I have very limited vocabulary for vegetables and fruits. Too limited that most of the time I refer them as plants, a forest of leaves for the herbivores. Do you know that the first time I was holding that yam bean, mind you, I was holding a potato peeler and peeling away in such a way that when my hubby saw me doing that, he was rolling on the floor, laughing away. Then, he showed me the right way to remove the yam bean's skin. It's by just tearing the brown skin using your fingers. It was so easy but you can't blame me. Out of so many books that I've read, there's no one that describes how to remove the skin of a yam bean. How was I suppose to know? I never learn that in school either. So much for learning all the living skills and scoring a string of A's. As shown above, were all the ingredients needed to make spring rolls. I took at least an hour just to chop the chicken meat, prawns, shiitake mushrooms and to grate the carrots and yam bean. Grating a yam bean was like running a cross country run. In less than 2 minutes, you will be breathing heavily, sweat pouring out of you like there's leakage in your water system. You'll be drenched in your own sweat after grating one whole yam bean and those who said the food was not tasty, I would feel like grating that person's skin from the head to the toe. After all the hard work, it must be very delicious. Then came the mixing part where you have to put everything in a wok. It's so heavy that I could hardly lift up the spatula. It was like strapping your arms with dead weights trying to stir it around so that the ingredients will mix perfectly. I have had a fun time wrapping the spring rolls in the spring roll wrappers. Then, when I put into the hot oil to deep fry them, I was imagining how crunchy it would be. To my horror, the first one came completely loose and the fillings were floating in the oil. I realized that the skin was too soft and my hubby bought me the wrong spring roll wrapper~! This was not meant to be deep fried but to be eaten raw. I ended up with fresh vegetable rolls with spring rolls' fillings. Wrong skin, wrong ingredients, but tasty all the same. Next will be Loh Bak. That's rolling all the meat and yam bean plus a few more ingredients into beancurd sheets. By now, I'm a professional roller. I just need a few minutes to roll. This beancurd sheet was bought in Tesco, pre-packed. I wished I have bought the beancurd sheets from the market. That beancurd sheets wasn't crunchy at all. All in all, the taste came out perfectly. Well-seasoned meat with five spice powder will never go wrong. Have you imagine how laborious is it to prepare all the good food? I think the Nyonya probably live their lives in the kitchen or the sewing room.

No comments: