My mum passed away when I was five. I cannot really remember much about her as she spent most part of her last days away from us seeking treatment everywhere and was in and out of hospital. But I can still remember the Hakka “Lei Cha” dish that she would take effort to prepare for us on days when she was feeling better. The way she grinded the tea leaves and mint in a mortar, the combined aroma of tea, nuts, sesame and the many different types of vegetables finely chopped and fried to perfection will always stuck in my memory.
|Grandma's Lor Mee Stall|
Grandma took care of us when my mum was sick and after she had passed away. I used to help out at her “Lor Mee” stall along the five-foot-way (Covered pedestrian walkway on the ground floor of shophouses that were commonly seen in Singapore and Southeast Asia in the last century) at Blanco Court, North Bridge Road. It is a no brainer why Lor Mee became one of my favourite local dishes. Whenever I have a bowl of the sticky yellow noodle, I will think of Grandma and that part of my growing-up years.
When I was in Junior College, there was this mushroom and shredded chicken hor fun stall at Bedok South Food Center directly across our school (No prize for guessing which JC I was from) that I used to patronize almost every day. The rice noodle was delicious and the serving portion was huge. It was a very simple dish but I went back many times during NS days and even after that to reconnect with that part of my life. The stall had since moved or ceased operation.
|When was the last time you had this?|
And most recently my little boy came back home from the day-care center with some sweets from his friend’s birthday party. It was very sweet of him to offer me one of those “Big Rabbit” milk candy. I was very excited as I unwrapped and ate it. I had not had a “Big Rabbit” candy for nearly 30 years and certain memories quickly came back as I carefully peeled off the thin edible “paper” wrap made of sticky rice. I ate the “paper” and candy separately – the exact same way I used to eat them 30 years ago. I was transported back in time to the back alley of the shophouse where I had hours of fun everyday with the kids from the same neighbourhood. I thought about the bicycles parked along the alley and the various games that we played.
The point I am trying to make is food connects. The taste, smell and texture of food can be extraordinarily evocative, bringing back memories not just of eating food itself but also of place and setting. Food is an effective trigger of deeper memories of feelings and emotions, internal states of the mind and body.
For this reason, I always insist on having meal together with the family as much as possible. On the same note, I will try to cook for the family at home (aka Restaurant 2706) on weekends and expose the kids to different food culture. One day when I leave this world, they can still connect with me and my wife through food. I am very pleased whenever Ashley requests to have her favourite seafood Risotto for Sunday dinner, Audrey wants her pork ribs and Ashton’s favourite for now is the sous vide beef cheek.
With all these in mind, I started this little blog of mine as my life journal to note down the recipes that I have tried, the wine that we savour, the gatherings that we all come together, the holiday fun that the family has enjoyed. As the kids grow up and we grow old, we can all look back at these posts and say, “Hey, the best way to cook beef cheek was still Daddy’s way!” or “That was one of the best wine that we had shared..”.
Even when I am gone, my children and their children, my loved ones and my friends can continue to connect with me through this space.
Chef and Sommelier
Chef and Sommelier