"Honey, do you ever wish I were more like your family?" I ask Mr NQN as I watched his family in their purple flowing, barefoot finery dancing around the grass. Hippy I am not alas, and I am quite keenly aware of that.
"Nope" he said firmly. Then he paused and added "I wish you liked the outdoors more though...or sport."
"Oh I'm sorry, yes I don't" I said stroking his arm sympathetically. Indoors having afternoon tea is really my idea of heaven rather than bush bashing and removing tics afterwards (his favourite past time-the bush bashing, not the tic part).
"You're slowly getting there. You might not be aware of it but you're slowly getting to appreciate the outdoors" he said, surprising me. "I reckon by the time you're 95, you'll be just about right!" he smiled cheekily.
I have to admit that often, I really am my parent's child. In instances like food, I revert to Chinese or Asian food at least once a week and feel as though something is missing if I don't. This dish is perhaps not as well known to many as it is a family type of dish. I don't often see it at restaurants and the closest thing is those khaki coloured lotus wrapped dumplings you see propped up at the counter of Asian grocery stores. This version that I've made is slightly different from my mother's in that I used whole pieces of chicken-she uses strips and glutinous rice but since Mr NQN doesn't like glutinous rice and I had chicken pieces, I made those adjustments. I know it's not the most photogenic dish at all, so please don't be put off by its lack of aesthetics.
I know you might be thinking that that's a long list of ingredients but they're really things that you can find easily at the supermarket or you may already have. A lot of it is measuring the sauce which imparts the rice and chicken with so much flavour. After a bit of browning, you mostly set it to simmer, stir once and then eat. I find it hard to resist eating this while it is hot because I love it so much.
And needless to say that my family all feel that it is best enjoyed indoors ;)
So tell me Dear Reader, do you cook a lot of dishes that you grew up eating? Or is what you cook and your cooking style different from that of your parents'?
Chinese Chicken & Rice
12 shiitake mushrooms, fresh or dehydrated (rehydrate in 3/4 cup of boiling water for 20 minutes)
450g/1 pound chicken pieces, skin on
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablesponns shao xing cooking wine
2 tablespoons kecap manis
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
2-3 tablespoons oil
2 cups of rice (jasmine, basmati or whatever one you fancy)
500ml/2 cups chicken stock
3 Lup Cheong sausages, sliced diagonally
Buyer's tip: you can buy Lup Cheong sausages at the supermarket in the Asian foods aisle or at Asian grocery stores. They come in pork and duck liver varieties, I use the pork.
Step 1 - Rehydrate mushrooms if using dehydrated ones. Then marinate the chicken pieces in a bowl or a large zip lock bag for 10-15 minutes in a mixture of oyster sauce, light soy sauce, shao xing cooking wine, kecap manis and dark soy sauce.
Step 2 - Heat a cast iron pot or heavy based saucepan with a lid on medium to high heat. Add oil and drain the chicken from the marinade (reserve the marinade though) and brown in two lots so as not to overcrowd the pan. Set aside on a plate. Add a little more oil if needed and add the ginger and garlic and fry for a minute until just getting fragrant.
Step 3 - Wash the rice under cold water two or three times and drain. You can also do this part in a rice cooker. Add to the pot with the ginger and garlic and then add the mushrooms plus 1/2 of the dehydrating water, all of the marinade ingredients, rice, chicken and chicken stock. Simmer gently for 15 minutes. Then add the Lup Cheong sausage and stir the rice around so that the rice on top gets cooked. Simmer gently for another 15 minutes until rice is done.