My grandmother used to tell me stories. Her voice often filled with emotions and eyes lit up as she talked through them. Why wouldn’t they be as they were adventures of her own life.
A resilient and resourceful woman, she took on a small business selling mixed vegetables and rice once upon a time. Few years back, she would be a helper/nanny to a young caucasian girl (she cared a lot for her and kept a photo of this girl in her drawer). She recounted climbing up roofs, running away from the police when she worked in an underground casino. She steamed savoury yam cakes and made her own chill sauce so that she could make some money and stay at home to supervise her young children.
As a working mum now, those stories replay in my head with a deeper meaning and feel to it. It’s quite different of course. She was pretty much a single mother to 3 kids and work is… survival. They needed her income. Yet her dedication to her family, and love and plain determination to make it work shone through and spoke to me. Those are values.
In my head, I wondered what would she say if I tell her stories of Asher enjoying day care. Charming the socks of his carers with his smiles, protecting his toys, and participating in painting activities? I wondered what would she say about not cooking a Chinese soup every other day, or at times struggling to keep a house as clean as what she would do. Sometimes, I can hear her in my head, empathising with me. Other times, letting me know how spoilt I really am because she did not have a choice and she managed.
My skills in steaming a whole chicken (and chopping one) are still under development. That was HER signature dish. This time though, I tried poaching a whole chicken and I loved it. Tender, juicy and full of flavour. I wished I could tell her what I have done and listen to her advice on how can I make it better.
Hainanese Chicken Rice
1 1.6kg free range chicken
few stalks of spring onion. Reserve a a few and tie into a knot.
1 knob of ginger sliced. Reserve 2-3 slices.
4 garlic cloves
drizzle soy sauce or coconut aminos
drizzle of shaoxing chinese cooking wine
Method: Cut some fat off the chicken. Place it aside. Blitzed up spring onion, ginger and garlic in a food processor. Stuff chicken with the mixture. Rub chicken with some salt, oil, wine and drizzle of soy/coconut aminos. Bring a large pot of water (big enough to fit the chicken completely) to boil with the reserved ginger and spring onion. Submerge chicken into the stock. Bring it back to a simmer. Switch off the heat and leave the chicken in the pot for a good 1-1.5 hours.
1 cup of rice (we use basmati rice but you can use jasmine).
Few slices of ginger
Method: In a cold pan, cook chicken fat till it renders. You can sauté some garlic with it if you like. Wash rice. Then put the usual amount of water. Place fat and ginger in rice and cook accordingly.
3 chili padi
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp of grated ginger
1/4 of lemon juice
Method: Put everything in a food processor and blitz it up!
When everything is ready. Chopped up the chicken. Drizzle more sesame oil. Serve with veges, rice and chill.