August 10, 2013

Nang Chong Stories : Grandmother Lian Tie's Clam and Chien Mien or Dried Noodles

One of my mother's fondest memories of her own mother's cooking was the noodles cooked with tinned clams. In the 1950's , freshly made noodles were only available in Sibu town and perhaps only during the festive seasons. There were no stalls specially meant for selling of fresh yellow noodles, or yew mien or even kampua.

So most people depended on the sun dried noodles which they would buy in katis and then keep in tins until their stock ran out.

Amoy Canned Food or Amofood was a famous brand in Sibu in bygone days. The Fujian people, including the Ming Chiang dialect group of Foochow people, my people, love the taste of clams in their soupy noodles. Families usually bought Dao Da (Amoy Food) tinned food as a standby for occasions or guests who dropped by without notice especially when we did not have only own farm animals. We Foochows are very hospitable. And normally we would cook something for our visitors before they leave, so that they would not be hungry on their way home. Perhaps this kind of hospitality was due to the fact that in Ming Chiang District in China, our ancestors used to walk for hours before they reached their home if they went to visit some relatives in another area.

This is a special memory in my mother's life, after her third sister passed away in the early 50's.

Whenever my mother brought us to visit grandmother Lian Tie, who for many years looked after Penghulu Chang Chung Ching's children after his wife, my mother's third sister, passed away, we would have the Dian Sin (snack) before going home to Kerto by the evening boat.

Trying to make this memorable photo pretty by adding sunflower. Will do better next time..
The daughters are standing left to right..Hung Hee, Hung Ding, Hung Toh, Hung Chuo and Hung Yung. Grandmother Lian Tie is very small and she only wears Chinese Samfoo, which she stitched herself. My maternal grandfather was a good tailor.

Grandmother Lian Tie was a good cook but she did not have much to offer especially when our uncle Chung Ching was a government officer, and there were many motherless children to look after. She had to stretch the proverbial dollar . Food was simple on the table most of the days: cangkok manis soup, a bit of fried eggs. Chicken was rare unless it was pay day. So when guests came, the sun dried yellow noodles with tinned clams were just fabulous.

My mother said, all eight children (5 of them and 3 of us) and the two adults, mother and daughter, would partake of their bowl of noodles with gratitude . God was kind to provide for the children and for the adults.

When my Third Aunt passed away in 1954, it was a terrible blow to my grandmother and all the sisters. Grandmother had to change her role of a retired grandmother, to an active nanny and housekeeper. For many years she took care of my cousins in Race Course Road, government quarters or Ching Hoo Chuoh until my uncle, remarried. They were aged from 1 to 8!!

Grandmother Lian Tie had to be very resourceful as carer of a large brood of young grandchildren.

The Clam Soup Noodles thus replaced the Chicken Soup Mien Sien when times were not good. My mother said it did not really matter. What was important was that my grandmother was able to enjoy a good meal with a daughter and lots of grand children around her.

Recipe :

Ingredients : one cake of dried noodles for two persons;2 cans of clams enough for 10 people, sawi (2 bundles), some ikan bilis, pounded, lots of Bombay onions.
 Preparation of noodles : boil the noodles in a large pot of water, until soft. Drain and cool.

1. Fry all the sliced onions, add clams and fry for a while
2. Add water and bring to the boil
3. Add the softened noodles, then add the sawi/yew chair
4. Add some soy sauce. Serve.

We loved the soupy noodles. Mum still thinks about this noodle every now and then. I have to make a great effort to find the Amofood canned clams for her.

My grandmother would have been amazed by a photo of this bowl of fresh clams from Oman (Photo courtesy of Norina )

Modern twist of the noodles with clams

Praise God!!

(I will cook this dish one of these days and take photographs..on condition that I can find a can of Amofood Clams, which are not so easily available nowadays)


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