Monday, March 29, 2010

The Kitchen God has returned and the Tee-Kueh already hardened

The favourite story with the sending off of the Kitchen God on the 24th day of the 12th Lunar Month was the offering of the Tee-Kueh 甜糕 (Hokkien) or Nian Gao 年糕 (Mandarin) to sweeten his mouth or got his mouth stuck with the sticky Nian Gao that he would not say much. The kitchen used to be the place of gossips, quarrels and scoldings (if you can imagine the communal kitchens in the old houses in Chinatown).

In the good old days, when the Nian Gao is made through natural process, after a week, it is as hard as a rock. In tropical Singapore, sometimes, it got mouldy. But it did not matter as you might see Grandma washing the hardened Nian Gao and putting it in the sun. It should not be put to waste.

And so, it was time to use a chopper to slice the Nian Gao into thin square slabs. I loved to just chew on those slabs of Nian Gao. Sometimes, it is still a little moist on the inside.

Grandma would make a dough from some flour, water and perhaps, an egg or two. Whipped them into a sticky mixture, somewhat more dilute as your would see the stalls selling the Pisang Goreng (banana fritters), Grandma then would dip the sliced Nian Gao into the dough mix, making sure that it is covered and then into the kuali (wok) of boiling oil. Ah, the aroma .. but one must be careful not to eat it after it has been taken out of the kuali, hot and nice. That is sure to get scalded lips and probably stucked teeth.

Once it cools down a little, with Chinese Tea or even Kopi-O (black coffee), the fried Nian Gao fritters make good tea. For hungry kids like us .. this was heaven-sent! Ah, we had them because of the Kitchen God!