October 24, 2010

A Toast to the Greatest Man in My Life!

Albeit having entered early adulthood, sometimes, this 23-year-old needs to unmask the pensive and often stern look on her face. Every so often, she loves acting silly in front of the people she trusts the most. It feels good to just open herself up and be a little girl again.

(On a Thursday evening, in the family hall, with the television turned on. The daughter seated herself next to her father, who was trying to watch the newscast in peace. There was some distance between them.)

Pei-Lin: Papa, can I disturb you for just a few minutes? Let me talk, please?

Father: (With a slightly irritated and dismayed look) Alright …

Pei-Lin: Papa, why not I treat you to a dinner this Sunday?

Father: I don’t need you to treat me.

Pei-Lin: (Feeling a bit upset) Why!? I’m using my own money to treat you this time around. Anything wrong with that!? You know your Big Day is coming soon …

Father: (Eyebrow raised) It doesn’t matter. Turning 60 or 61 … Everything will still be the same. THAT day will be just like ANY other day. I’m still me.

(The daughter chuckled while thinking to herself: “Yea, you ARE still my dad … A 61-year-old man! Heck, my father is getting old!” A few seconds of silence followed.)

Pei-Lin: (Staring at the old man) Can I give you a hug, please? Please? Please?

Father: No! Don’t you give me that goofy, misty look! You’re giving me goose bumps! Goodness, you’re already a big girl!

(In spite of his resistance, the daughter, feeling rebellious, gave her father a hug and said: “I love you! I can’t believe you’re turning 61! Do you know you’re old?”)

Father: ENOUGH!

(Feeling happy and satisfied, the daughter giggled and fled upstairs, yelling “good night!” Then, off she went into her room and slammed the door shut.)


These days, that’s how my dad and I would usually talk to each other: Our conversations are marked by heavy use of facial and body expressions, brevity, soberness, and intervals of silence. Reminiscing my younger days, I realized today’s are a far cry from yesterday’s.

My dad has an obsession for China. He’d cajole little Pei-Lin. The next thing was to find this father and daughter sitting next to each other, watching documentaries on Chinese history and culture together. There would be a long discussion about China every time … until the daughter finally lost her patience and ran away. (Haha!)

Little Pei-Lin & the Greatest Man in Her Life
1988
The older my dad gets, the more lenient of a parent he’s becoming. Compared to what I had — that is, the physical-punishment-with-no-computer-and-only-two-hours-of-TV-per-day era, my youngest sibling receives more liberty, and less supervision and coaching in his studies. Sometimes, I’d say to myself, “Wow, Papa HAS loosened up the House Rules!” (Or maybe the rules don’t exist anymore!?)

Now that he’s officially entered his 60s, I can’t help but to shake my head and admit that he’s slowly becoming like my late grandpa. He’s been caught many a time dozing off before the TV or while reading the paper. He’s been spotted munching on what I label as “highly commercialized junk food” that's loaded with additives. He’s inherited those “innocent” traits from my late grandpa! Goodness, my dad is also becoming an aged urchin!

Fish Congee, Served With Fried Shallots & Chopped Fresh Scallions 魚粥與炸油蔥和蔥花

When I think of my dad, I think of rice congee (粥). Rice congee is his favorite food; he can down two big bowls of it in one sitting. And because in our region, rice congee is usually associated with the Teochew (潮州人), this seemingly odd trait of my Cantonese (廣府人) father has always intrigued my Teochew mom and her family. She once told me that when my dad paid his first visit to the in-laws, my late maternal grandma, being a pure Teochew immigrant from China herself, prepared a big pot of plain rice congee and a few side dishes to go together as a meal. According to my mom, it’s a very Teochew way to serve guests. Sure enough, he was and is worthy of his name as a "粥桶" (loose translation: bucket for storing rice congee), which really means a rice congee junkie. Her family witnessed him washing down the meal with bowls of the rice congee. They were impressed. (Haha!)

Sadly, although I do take rice congee, I’m never a fan of Teochew rice congee, which is, to me, merely cooked rice that’s served in almost-murky water. No wonder in the predominantly Minnan Taiwan, rice congee is known as "稀飯" instead, which literally means “thin rice.” The same goes to my dad. We prefer Cantonese-style rice congee, which is neither too thin nor too thick; however, mine is always thicker than his!

No birthday celebration – yup, that’s my dad – a very simple man to please indeed! This fish rice congee is dedicated to him: a simple comfort food that’s so dear to his heart stomach. And, to the greatest and most influential man in my life:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PAPA!

Fish Congee, Served With Fried Shallots & Chopped Fresh Scallions 魚粥與炸油蔥和蔥花
Sorry for a not-so-relevant picture this time -- thanks to my itchy hands and brain that modified the recipe! Hehehe ...
Teochew-Style Fish Rice Congee 潮式魚粥
Adapted from “Reviving Local Dialect Cuisines (sic),” by Pang Nyuk Yoon   改自《回味籍貫菜》。彭玉芸著

Note: As the name of the dish implies, the original recipe is meant to be Teochew. But to suit our palates, I’d altered it so much that mine wasn’t Teochew anymore. (Haha!) I’ve actually forgotten how far the recipe was taken to; therefore, I’m not sharing mine over here. Nonetheless, I’ll include the original version. Cooking is a live science. So, adjust the recipe to suit your liking, especially when you yourself also aren’t a fan of the watery Teochew rice congee. (Haha!)

(A)
400 g thick slices of narrow-barred Spanish mackerel (ikan tenggiri batang) – with its scale removed of course; washed to clean thoroughly; drained well
Enough salt – to taste
Enough cornstarch – to taste
Enough water – amount adjusted as necessary

300 g jasmine rice, a.k.a. Thai fragrant rice 泰國香米
500 mL water

(B)
2 L chicken or fish broth
½ Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp granular chicken or anchovy bouillon 雞或魚粉
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp sesame oil 麻油
1 tsp ground white pepper

(C)
30 g ginger – peeled and shredded
Enough Chinese celery 芹菜 – chopped
* I skipped this. *
Enough scallion(s) – finely chopped
1 stalk lettuce
* I skipped this. *
1 small piece of toasted edible seaweed 紫菜 
* I skipped this. *

Enough shallot(s) – peeled and sliced thinly
Enough cooking oil – for deep-frying the shallots
  1. Toss (A) together and set aside.
  2. Rinse the rice; drain. Then, transfer it into a deep kettle/saucepan and add the 500 mL water. Bring them together to a boil over high heat. Now, lower the heat to medium and cook till the rice grain has “swollen.” Remove the kettle from the heat; drain well. Set the rice aside.
    * You can water your plants with the batches of water used for washing and cooking the rice. By then, the water should carry more nutrients that are good for your plants. Just make sure that the water is completely cooled before use. You don’t want to scald your lovely plants, do you? *
     
  3. Combine (B) together and pour into a deep kettle/saucepan. Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Add the marinated fish slices and “swollen” rice, bring to a boil once more.
  4. In the meantime, heat up a small skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in enough oil to the hot skillet and wait briefly to have the oil heated up. Add the sliced shallots and fry till golden brown and crisp. Turn off the heat; dish out, including the oil used for frying the shallots. Set aside.
  5. To the kettle of congee, turn off the heat to stop boiling it. Dish out the congee and some fish to be enjoyed along. Top everything with (C), as well enough fried shallots (炸香蔥頭片) and shallot oil (蔥油) from step #4. Serve immediately.

36 comments:

Jess @ Bakericious said...

Pei Lin, 我喜欢你和你爸爸的相处方式!my husband sure to die for such treatment and closeness from my daughter when she grows up!
I like eating porridge with pickles but my favourite is still 皮蛋瘦肉粥,I can eat a big bowl :)

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Pei Lin, you should feel very blessed and lucky that you are able to relate to and communicate with your father like this. May you always have this with your father for many many more years to come.

Honey Bee Sweets said...

Happy Birthday to your Pop. :) You are such a dear sweet girl, I bet your dad's just too traditional to break the "wall" and return that hug to you. But I can sense his love for you, talking to you for hours. I think I already "run away" from my dad after 20 mins of talking, lol! ^_^''

hanushi said...

I love the conversation between your dad and you. Really very heartwarming...

Happy birthday to your dad!!! :)

ICook4Fun said...

Happy Birthday to your DAD Pei-Lin. I grew up eating this type of Hokkien rice porridge too which I hate. I still prefer the soft smooth watery kind that we get from the restaurant.

wendyywy @ Table for 2..... or more said...

My father won't even let me sit on his lap when I turned 11. He said I'm big girl oredi and shouldn't be like a little girl who would always smother him with kisses and hugs. I think ur dad is melted from within when u did that.

pigpigscorner said...

aww you are such a sweet girl. Happy Birthday to your daddy!

edith said...

Happy Birthday to your dad.

I love your fish porridge!

jess @ j3ss kitch3n said...

i love the way you interact with your father! my father would not even listen to me for the time of the world sigh.. well i guess that applies to the older generation of guys hehe but you are definitely lucky!

Little Inbox said...

Pei-Lin, the little girl, hehe...so cute and so sweet of you!

Abbi said...

Happy birthday to your dad!

DG said...

So envy of you, you still have the picture of younger time, it is lovely picture. Happy belated Birthday to your dad, both of you are blessed with such closeness relationship.
Btw, I also love eating porridge and raw fish too :)

Elin said...

Pei-Lin...you are so blessed to have a wonderful dad :)

Happy Birthday to your dad and many happy returns of the day ! Age is not important...hahaha he told you he is still the same meaning he is always young at heart :)

Weng said...

Hi Pei-Lin, this story is so touching for me. Growing up in a typical Chinese family, my parents and I do not express much love to each other. All we do is discuss about daily stories, eat together as a family and nothing much heart to heart. Saying I love you to your own parents seem to be so strange after years of not doing it.

After I moved out from home and study abroad, I miss my parents alot. Although all these years we never really get to the emotional level, we know that we care for each other. I begin to say more touching things and say thank you to my mummy more often.

Thank you Pei-Lin for your story and Happy Birthday to uncle yea :)

petite nyonya said...

you look so much like yr dad! happy birthday to uncle & may he enjoy great health always.

faithy, the baker said...

Happy Birthday to your Dad..and you looked so cute then! Not sure if i like fish porridge but i certain like plain porridge. :D I like anything plain..LOL!

Ju (The Little Teochew) said...

Happy birthday to your dearest dad. You're a wonderful daughter, Pei-Lin.

Meldylocks and Her Three Bears said...

Hey, you are still SOOO "little" when you are with your father ok?
And I envy you for that...my dad and I ar...not even half of your kind of closeness la.

crustabakes said...

Thanks for sharing the story. i totally enjoyed it. Happy Birthday to ur Dad!

homeladychef said...

一碗鱼粥,满满的幸福。

Hearty Bakes said...

Happy belated wishes for uncle. Wishing him a great year ahead with bundances of joy and blessings.
Heartwarming reading your post Pei-Lin. Enjoy & treasure such moments with your dad.

Siukwan said...

佩琳,

祝佩琳爸爸身體健康,生辰快樂!還有,如果妳來香港也要通知我,勾番妳隻手指尾先!

我也喜歡吃粥,可是祗喜歡吃綿綿的廣東粥,生病或是冬天時吃,特別舒服可口。早幾年因為我脫了兩顆智慧齒,差不多兩個星期都祗能吃流質食物,所以才成為煲粥專家。

ps. 除了妳生日跟我相公都是同一天,我也有一個小秘密,殊~殊~~其實我的中文名字和妳一樣都是叫佩X的。

Ellie (Almost Bourdain) said...

Pei Lin, happy birthday to your dad! You are so blessed to have such a great relationship with him. Craving for this porridge for breakfast now!

Quay Po Cooks said...

I love Hokkien porridge and I can die for raw fish! Your father and you are both blessed, you have each other. You both sure love each other a lot!

mycookinghut said...

My dad is Teo Chew and guess I got it from him that I love congee too :)

Pei-Lin@Dodol and Mochi said...

Thank you so much for the well wishes! My dad is very pleased!!! We're extremely sorry for such a late reply! Life has been terribly busy over here. I was down with high fever a few days ago, too.

@Jess L.: I'm sure your daughter will grow up to be a filial child under your guidance and with lots of TLC from you two. Sadly, I don't miss century egg much. LOL! I prefer salted duck egg.

@Shirley: Yea, in fact, my dad and I just had a conversation briefly in a similar manner before I left for work this morning. LOL!

@Bee Bee: Hmmm ... I've always considered my dad 70 percent Chinese and 30 percent Western. He's WAY more liberal than my 100-percent Chinese mom. LOL! Just that he doesn't hug me anymore since I turned 18. Haha! Which parent doesn't love his/her children? I won't run away ... If I do, it'd be due to my impatience!!! HAHA!

Pei-Lin@Dodol and Mochi said...

Thank you so much for the well wishes! My dad is very pleased!!! We're extremely sorry for such a late reply! Life has been terribly busy over here. I was down with high fever a few days ago, too.

@Gert: It seems like porridge originated from any Minnan dialect groups is watery ... LOL! I heart my Cantonese congee!!

@Wendy: Wah, yao mou gam ar? 11 too early lar ... My dad would still scratch my chins with his mustache when I was 11. HAHA! Aiya, he's immune to that already lar ... My jwit jiu ... Kakaka! But he loves me I know. =D

@hanushi, Ann, Edith, Siew Lay, Abbi, Ju, crustabakes, Pei Pei, Jessie, Ellie: Thank you! =)

@Jess: Haha! You and I are from the same generation and similar culture. I'm sure he'd listen to you once in a while lar ... And at least your boyfriend listens to you mah ... Haha!

@DG: You don't have photos of yourself from the olden days!!?? I don't believe you. LOL! Thank you very much though. Hmmm ... We have a funny way to interact. Outsiders wouldn't know that they are my parents and vice versa. =)

Pei-Lin@Dodol and Mochi said...

Thank you so much for the well wishes! My dad is very pleased!!! We're extremely sorry for such a late reply! Life has been terribly busy over here. I was down with high fever a few days ago, too.

@Elin: Haha! I told ya ... He's an aged urchin!!! Anak tua yang suka bermain-main ... =_=""" ... Aiya ... You and your hubby also are young at heart mar ... LOL!

@Weng: Haha! We also do the same: chatting and having meals together. My parents are reserved, typical Chinese parents. But I'm rebellious, remember? That's why I'm behaving as such. LOL! So hor, you can say lar PL berkulit tebal .... HAHA! Seriously, leaving home and staying alone makes you appreciate your family even more. After all, no matter what happens, they're the only ones who will always be with you thru the thick and thin. Take care so much, K? You've struck an admiration and respect in me for you. Gambateh!

@Joslynn: Yea, you can say I look so like him! Actually, I look more like his mom ... I'm his mom's exact imprint!! LOL!

Pei-Lin@Dodol and Mochi said...

Thank you so much for the well wishes! My dad is very pleased!!! We're extremely sorry for such a late reply! Life has been terribly busy over here. I was down with high fever a few days ago, too.

@Faithy: No lar ... You've got your preferences and taste buds lar ... LOL! Sometimes, plain does go best!

@Melody: Haha! Aiya ... We're from different generations mah ... If I'm of your age, I might have been married and given birth to become someone else's mom and wife. LOL! Different generations have different stories lar ... LOL!

@Siukwan: 我嚟香港玩的時候會同妳講!就勾手指尾喇!係啊係啊!我都至喜歡食綿綿的廣式粥!以前係美國的時候,我都好經常係秋天及冬天時食粥架!遲點就輪到我甩智慧牙。。。唉~到時我就要變成BB仔日日係渡食粥~好!我們這兩個佩佩要緊守呢個秘密!=)

@Quay Po: Glad you like this type of runny congee ... I do take ... but am never a fan of it. =)

@Leemei: Haha! The Teochew are usually the congee lovers ... LOL! I agree!

zmm said...

Your dad is funny and cute...
:)

Su-yin said...

Lovely tribute to your dad. He must be very proud to have a daughter like you!

Pei-Lin@Dodol and Mochi said...

@zmm: Thank you so much! Will let him know. Haha! He can be ... However, my family is more of reserved type of people who are on the shy side ... Quieter than others I should say. ;)

@Su-yin: Haha! He is having a headache to have a rebellious daughter like me. HAHA! Thank you so much, buddy! =D

KY said...

Hi, came over to your blog from Food-4Tots. This is such a sweet post. And the photo of you and your dad is touching too. I commend you for saying "I love you" to your dad. I find it too awkward to say it to my parents although I can say it in emails!

Quay Po Cooks said...

You are such a sweet daugther!

tea_austen said...

What a lovely post for your father--and the congee looks delicious!

Pei-Lin said...

Hey, Tara! Thank you so much for dropping by and the kind words! I'll visit with you and Lian on your site soon. I love reading your words. =)

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