Singapore Revisited Log 5.5: The Heiress

I came from a Hakka family (though I was never taught to speak the language). Unlike traditional Hakka families, our extended family had not been exactly a close knitted one. However, there was something we were always proud of, our traditional food. My grandmother did Hakka food tremendously well. One of my favourite items was Yong Tau Foo. If there was anything a small kid enjoyed during Chinese New Year other than ang pao collection, that would be feasting on my grandma's Yong Tau Foo on the first days on Chinese New Year. The soup was always rich with natural flavours brewed from bones and soy beans, further enhanced by involving cooking some of the meticulously stuffed delicacies. The stuffing was a pure divine combination of hand beaten fish paste, minced pork, laced with finely chopped water chestnut and laced with a right hint of salted fish bits. 

Over the years, Grandma perfected the dish with suggestions and feedback from the family. By the time I tasted my first Yong Tau Foo "outside" during my early teens, I swore I swore, "What the fuck was that?!" Till today, I found nothing offered out there that comes close to Grandma's. She was the platinum standard.

This is shit
Gradually, Grandma decided to pass down the recipe to one of her 5 sons. Fourth Uncle took up many years of apprenticeship under Grandma and became the main chef during Chinese New Year with Grandma being the supporting cast. He added his style to the dish and carried on the tradition admirably.

On my return to Singapore, I was invited to 2nd sis's to dinner. Like every member of my family, I love my 2nd sister. She is one of the most positive and inspiring person I know. I have to count my blessings I spent most of my early life under her good influence. There isn't any doubt I would have turned out worse if 2nd sis did not set a good example and took a lot of effort taking care and guiding me.

To my surprised, 2nd sister prepared Yong Tau Foo for dinner. Although I had not made my debuting attempt at the dish, I knew it well enough to understand how much effort was required to put up a single meal. That was why these was done only on special occasions. That was why the commercial versions were pure shit. Though nobody mentioned a word, I was sure every attending family member appreciated 2nd sis's attempt to put that together. Due to the traditional values and meaning behind that dish, that meant a lot to me.

With that, 2nd sister became the heiress of our proud recipe for my generation. In truth, there wasn't any recipe. All three chefs from different generation cooked their version with the same principals but differing styles. That was because such a dish required a lot of thoughts and heart. The result would always be distinctive and unique.

Brilliant brilliance

Over the years, I always thought I would be the first person in my generation to attempt our family traditional dish because it was obvious I was the "cooking person". When I was meddling with huge woks, 2nd sis could not even open canned food properly. Motherhood, of course, changed that. She is now a competent cook that puts her maid to shame on the stove any day. Yet again, I was very proud and impressed with 2nd sis's spur constantly learn and improve. She remained a source of my inspiration.

Will she be the next?
Most importantly, there was finally somebody who took up the knife and carried on with our family dish. It would be such a pity if decades of knowledge and refinement wasn't properly passed down to later generations. With constant practice, 2nd sister would be able to attain the level of her predecessors and even surpass them. That would be the responsibility of the heiress of the recipe.

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