True story. I am the youngest in the family of six children. Many would have said the youngest child is always the spoiled one, but if that’s the case, then my parent sure have a different way of showing their affections. In their eyes, I am still a twelve year old boy who needs to be nagged and lectured by, my fear of being told off by them has become a defense mechanism and that’s why I seldom tell my parents what I am up to with my life here in Australia. Two years ago, when I told my parent that I was going to be on a TV show, I don’t think they understood what I was trying to achieve, I am pretty sure it broke their hearts even further by not able to become the son they’ve always wanted me to be – a successful businessman who is married with kids, living a stable life. A thousand questions were thrown at me when I broke the news to them, “What are you doing on a TV show? Do you get paid? Is that a job? What’s wrong with your computer job? It pays well, right? What do you mean cooking? You never cooked at home, you don’t know how to cook!”
Ah Ba (dad) and Ah Ma (mum) own a hardware store for over 30 years. They have always been their own boss, working seven days a week in the store to keep the business going, to feed eight mouths in the family, to honour the “LAW” name in the town and the locals looked up to my parent. Every day after school, all the kids had to help and run the family business. It was hard labour, carrying heavy paint tins, tonnes of bricks, bags of cement powder, not to mention the stocktake and looking after the customers, I hated it. Despite my parents want hardware store to keep running for generations, they never (kind of) force the children to inherit the business. To this day, my parent are still working in the hardware store, and they are in their mid 70s.
That’s why I can understand why they will never agree with my action of choosing my own path of an unstable life, working as a freelancer with unstable income, a slave behind the wok with no direction, no goal, no money and no future. I grew up in a very typical conservative Chinese family, men are the breadwinners, women are the ones who should stay in kitchen. That old fashioned thinking just doesn’t make my parent any happier to know that their son actually wants to work with food in a kitchen.
The introverted personality runs in the family. It is not my family’s custom and behaviour to show affection towards each other, there is no “I am proud of you, son”, no “I love you, son”, no “My mum is also my best friend”, no hugs, no kisses, never. So I always admire families where they can share love so freely and openly. My father used to say this Chinese proverb to us during dinner time, “Object is dead but human is alive”, basically telling us to make judgement by using our common sense, if you can’t then may as well be a block of brick with no brain. It is also his way of telling the children that as parent, they do not have to tell us how proud they are, but we simply should have figured that out ourselves. So when my mum asked me to send more cookbooks back home, I knew that I do not need them to tell me how proud they are, because they are already expressing it indirectly by sharing my cookbook and showing it off to friends and relatives. Words are not necessary anymore.
Even though Lunar New Year is just around the corner, unfortunately I will not be able to go back to Malaysia to reunite with the family this year. I know it is not the best solution but all I can do is a phone call home to wish them Happy Chinese New Year, it will just be a normal catchup and ask them where they are going for the CNY dinner banquet. I definitely have inherited my family’s gene as I am also very awkward when comes to expressing myself in real life, whether giving or receiving compliments or sharing compassion, I am not very good at it.
This time of year is always very nostalgic and bittersweet for me. Since I’ve been living abroad for over 17 years, it makes me missing home and my parent even more. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve decided to bake some festive cookies for the Lunar New Year, a few of my favourites to remind me of my childhood and my family. I actually wasn’t planning to write a post about it, because two of the three recipes were already posted on this blog a while ago. I have only decided to put this post up last weekend as I thought it is the right thing to do to share a few recipes along with my family story with you all, just like what my parent would do with my cookbook. I guess this is my way to express my gratitude and respect towards my parent, there will be no “I love you, Dad”, no “You are the greatest mum I could have asked for”, it will be just a few simple recipes to share with you all…
…because I am my parent’s son.
To all my readers, and all the parents out there, I would like to wish you all a Happy Lunar New Year. Gong Hei Fat Choy, be the new year filled with happiness and prosperity!
Kuih Bangkit (Makes about 80 cookies in different sizes)
(recipe adapted from Nyonya flavours cookbook)
500g arrowroot flour
3 pandan leaves, cut into 5cm lengths
3 egg yolks
150g caster sugar
250ml thick coconut cream
1. Fry arrowroot flour, cornflour and pandan leaves in a wok over low heat until the flour is light and leaves are crispy, about 30-45 minutes. Set aside and leave to cool completely, then sieve into a mixing bowl, discard the leaves.
2. In a bowl of a food mixer, whisk yolks and sugar on high speed until thick and pale. Turn speed down and add coconut cream gradually, whisk until all sugar has dissolved.
3. Change whisk to a beater on the food mixer, turn the mixer on low speed, add flour into the mixture one tablespoon at a time until it forms a soft pliable dough. Remove bowl from mixer, now knead the dough by hand and keep adding a little bit more flour at a time until the dough doesn’t stick to the fingers, then it is ready.
Note : You will have excess flour left for dusting the mould.
4. Lightly dust a wooden Kuih Bangkit mould (as pictured) with the remaining flour then shake off the excess. Press just enough of dough into each of the designs on the mould. If is too much, just pinch off the excess and flatten it with your thumb until the dough is level with the mould. Place a clean tea towel on a chopping board or benchtop, and knock the wooden mould on top to dislodge the cookie doughs.
5. Place the cookies on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Repeat until the tray is filled with cookies.
6. Heat oven to 150C, and bake the cookies for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely before storing them in airtight jars.
Note: – If you do not have Kuih Bangkit mould, you can just roll the dough to about 1cm thickness and cut into different patterns using cookie cutters.
If you can’t find arrowroot, you can substitue it with tapioca flour, but the texture will be slightly different.
Kuih Loyang – Recipe Here
Nastar Roll / Pineapple Tart – Recipe Here