Mom raised two glorious children, my 5’10 brother and 6’1 me, with her delectable home cooking. We rarely had deep-fried foods, but Mom still managed to make the both of us clean our plates at every meal. Quite the feat, don’t you think?
Father was the deep-fryer of the family. Whenever he had a craving for fried chicken, fried chicken it would be at dinner.
At this point, I should probably inform my Western readers a fried chicken dinner – the American variety featuring juicy chunks of thigh and breast, and yet more juicy chunks of thigh and breast served up with wedges and coleslaw – or any Western-styled take-outs were unheard of at our household back then (and probably now still). Rice was the staple at the Yaps – as is the case at every other Chinese, Malay and Indian family in Singapore – and fried chicken would merely be one of the side dishes.
Ahhh, rice. Featured at every lunch and dinner… If it isn’t bowlfuls of plump white fragrant grains scooped out of an electric rice cooker, it would be porridge.
I suppose the three races – Chinese, Malay, Indian – really aren’t that different after all. Our skin colour may differ, and the use of spices and style of preparation would too, but, fundamentally families, regardless of race, sit down to a full rice-cooker and chomp down on kung pao chicken, sambal udang or mutton korma. Slurp!
Mom’s forte was gravy-ed dishes: curry chicken, pork ribs-and-potato stew, vinegary pig trotters, vegetarian hotpot. Her curry chicken was the star at every single one of our extended family gatherings when ah-gong (grandpa) was still alive.
Curry chicken still makes an appearance every now and then, though it would be prepared by the live-in maid ever since mom lost her sight – and somehow, it just lacks that je ne sais quoi…
Alas, I developed my fondness for cooking a little too late and have not managed to glean any of mom’s secret recipes. And I do mean secret, for she always glosses over the details when asked to share, “You know lah, a pinch of this, a pinch of that, use your discretion. Use low heat at first, then switch to high heat just before serving.”
I’m guessing some things are irreparable. Like moving out of the house at age 24, and begging to return at age 33 – broke, but arrogant and unrepentant still.
I’m sorry, mom.
I’ll be back for dinner on winter solstice. I hope to taste your curry chicken once more.