"Yes...dear...otherwise the gooden needles will disintegrate and you have nothing to chew. Tying a knot in a beautiful way also shows you have good working fingers and that you are well taught at home...who knows a potential mother in law would come by and pick you for your handiwork!!" My grandmother was right all the time except for this lesson. Let you into a secret then why I said this.....Well I did do my knots well (and may be not that well) and no Foochow mother in law came by to pick me. LOL.
That's how we grew up with Grandma - a lot of fun and a lot of homely wisdom. She was a fabulous cook and was absolutely neat in her work. Although she was a child bride she was not brought up by a mother in law but by a loving and caring older sister in law (the older sister in law of Lau Kah Tii and the grandmother of my cousin Timothy Lau). My great grandmother decided to end her life one month after giving birth to my grandfather.
In the past the female members of a Foochow family learned the norms and values from each other in a close knitted extended family. In my case my grandmother's two sons and in laws lived with her. Later one daughter moved back to the main house to live. My grandmother would bring my sister and I to her big family house for our holidays in the countryside. The older ones caringly taught the younger ones. Whether it was in Fuzhou or in the Rajang Valley.
For the Chinese, the lily as a plant has a long history. It has been food and medicine for a couple of thousand years. Known and used in the Shen Nong Classic of Materia Medica, there are many varieties and many parts of the plant used. Most familiar is the use of the tiger lily whose flower buds, before they open, are a common food ingredient. Tiger lily buds are found in dishes such as Moo Shu Pork where they are always partnered with the cloud ear fungus.
We foochows call these lily buds king cheng or "golden needles.' These buds are cooling vegetables and they give any soup or stir fry a sourish and appetitising taste.
Dried lily bulbs can fall apart if overcooked. We usually put them into a pot last like 15 minutes before taking the soup off the stove. As for stir fries the lily buds can be put in together with the other vegetables. Fresh lily buds can be stir fried for a few minutes.
Golden needles are used in three of my favourite dishes. Dian bian hoo a Foochow rice snack is heavily peppered and made a little sourish by the addition of dried lily bulbs. A favourite home cook dish is the evening soup my mum used to prepare : slivers of pork boiled with lily buds and dried black fungus with some fish balls thrown in for a sea food taste. We also have another dish of prawn and pork(chicken) stir fry with these two - dried lily bulbs and dried black fungus. Snow peas are also added to give this vegetable a really nice colourful combination.
But for today...tying up lily bulbs in knots remind me of my grandmother and her wonderful tales of old.