It is always nice to be coming back home to Penang. My birthplace. To visit my mother and family. This time I am back in Penang for a short visit of 9 days. I wish I had arrived in Penang a couple of days earlier, because I have just missed another festive celebration in Penang – The Mooncake Festival. In most Asian countries, it is known as Mid-Autumn Festival, or Moon Festival or Zongqui Festival. It is an extremely popular lunar harvest festival. It falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of Chinese lunar calendar, which typically falls anywhere in the month of September or October in the Gregorian calendar. This is the night when the moon is at its fullest. This year, it falls on the night of 12th September, which was last night. But, the public event was held on Saturday night, the 11th September, which I just missed.
This morning I woke up at 5:45 am. I just opened my blinds and curtains and there it was – a full moon still visible and looked very calm. The weather in Penang is surprisingly mild and cool in mid twenties degree Celsius in the morning and evening with a nice light sea breeze since I arrived here. Unfortunately, the views are covered by haze. It was reported that the haze was caused by illegal forest logging and fields burn-off in Malaysia’s neighboring country, Indonesia. I was told by my sister that it was worse last week! Not a good place for people with asthma.
Yesterday, I told mum that I will drop in for dinner at her place. My mum is tiny. She is the loveliest person I ever known. She is still healthy and bright. Always cheerful and happy even she has only one eye sight working. She is a very compassionate person and cares for others. She is also an excellent home cook. She believes in simple food. She is cooking less dishes as she gets older, and buy some from nearby stalls where she lives, to supplement her own cooked dishes.
Last night, my mum made 3 dishes and bought 2. She made a braised fried fish cutlet pieces with thin slices of fried tofu, a herbal ginseng and goji berry chicken soup and an omelette. The other two she bought from a little coffee shop nearby were chicken and potatoes curry and Chinese roast pork. Mum will always made a pot of soup to go with our dinner meal. It is healthy and helps cleanse the body after a big meal. Mum doesn’t know this. But I am going to share her own recipe of the fish and tofu dish. I watched her cook this dish. It was hard to believe that she was so calm when she cooked. Almost effortless. So simple and yet it was tasty and delicate. I believe how a person cooked is usually channelled through the food.
To make mum’s fried fish and tofu dish.
* 2 stalks spring onions
* 1 clove garlic
* 2 small Asian red onions or shallots
* 1 fresh red chili
* 3 pieces firm fish cutlet pieces (previously pan fried)
* 1 firm tofu (previously pan fried)
* 1 teaspoon taucheong (brown bean paste)
* Slice the spring onions diagonally
* Chop the garlic finely
* Slice the fresh red chili diagonally
* Slice the onions or shallots into small sections
* Add a bit of vegetable oil in a hot skillet
* Toss in the spring onions, onions or shallots, red chili, garlic
* Add one teaspoon of taucheong
* Fry gently until fragrant
* Toss in tofu. Flip tofu a few times with the other ingredients
* Toss in fish. Let rest. Add a bit of water to slowly simmer all ingredients and mix through.
Mum’s cooking is that simple. No added sugar or salt or pepper in this dish. The slight saltiness comes from the taucheong. I must try this recipe when I get home. Mum’s cooking is always in a small portion. I told her that was such a small dish, and that mine usually would be 2 or 3 times her size!