My daughter and I have been making plans to cook together on Sundays so that she can learn to cook some of her favorite dishes.
But we’ve been saying this for years with no clear action plan.
Earlier this week, my nephew asked if he could come visit. He is a long lost nephew whom we only got to meet five years ago when he was 22 years old. And he has never been to visit us before. We’ve seen him at major family functions such as my mother-in-law’s 85th birthday party but he has never been to visit.
Last week Sunday, my mother-in-law returned from Hong Kong, laden with some beautiful goods that can only be made well in Hong Kong. It’s not that we can’t get the same goods in South Africa, but the quality of the Hong Kong goods is far superior.
I was delighted with some of the goods and had planned to make a Chinese winter dish that I hadn’t made for years for dinner one day in the week. But the prep time is long and I just never made it home from work on time. So I postponed the making of the dish to this weekend.
And decided to invite my nephew to Sunday lunch.
And decided to teach my daughter how to cook the dish.
Killing three birds with one stone 😂
Historically, the Chinese have preserved all kinds of food items when they are abundant and in season. Examples of this are preserved duck eggs, dried pork sausage, dried shiitake mushrooms, dried shrimps and dried salted fish. There are many more but I’m sure that you get the idea.
A small amount of any of these preserved items add an enormous amount of flavor to almost any dish.
And so it is with a dish we call Lo mai fan – or sticky rice dish.
The main ingredient in this dish is glutinous rice. My mother-in-law taught me to add a small amount of white rice to ‘loosen’ the glutinous texture. Then it is up to the chef to add his/her chosen preserved ingredients, or treasures as I call them because each ingredient is incredibly expensive and some hard to come by.
Today I added a little of many treasures; dried shiitake mushrooms, dried scallops, dried shrimp, preserved pork sausage, preserved liver sausage and preserved pork. I also made my own stock with chicken, fresh root ginger and bone marrow and then blended the bone marrow into the stock to give the rice more flavor.
I always serve this dish with a thin soup. Today the soup was made with chicken stock, baby pak choy (Chinese cabbage) and fish balls (another Chinese specialty).
Now how was this ‘teaching my daughter’?
She washed, chopped and sliced every ingredient for the dish! She asked me afterwards what had my contribution been because she had done everything! That’s the best way to learn, I explained. And given that I hardly ever make this dish, she needs to remember what she did in case I never make it again.
I also taught her how to make a bread and butter pudding. Many pull up their noses at this pud, but it can be decadent. We made ours with a good soft white bread, lots of fresh cream and with blueberries instead of raisins. And then served the hot pud straight from the oven with cold pouring custard.
It was another gloriously warm winter’s day and we ate out on the patio.
My nephew says he thinks he’ll visit every Sunday 😆
Until next time ☕️