September 3, 2014

Sibu Tales : Making Siew Muai and telling stories

Mid Autumn Festival is also known as the Moon Cake Festival. What would most mothers prepare for this festival?

Moon cakes are usually bought in the shops.Very few mothers know how to make moon cakes, although many have attended courses on moon cake making.

  A Chinese Festival usually has some special delicacies like Shiau Mai(Mandarin), or Sio Bee(Hokkien) or Siu Muai(Foochow), fried noodles, mee sua, chicken soup, steamed fish, meat balls, spring rolls, bah kui, etc.

Most Chinese women can make Siew muai from scratch.

There is a story about its origin. In China two sisters were married off. One married a rich man and one married a poor man. One day it was time for the girls' father to celebrate his 7oth birthday. The poor girl thought of how great gifts her wealthy sister would bring to her father. And she felt very sad about the situation. What could she bring?  However upon thinking for a long time, she realised that some of the best things in the world could be wrapped up nicely and be presented as a kind of flower.

So she decided to put the best food together, like minced meat, a bit of minced prawns and fish, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts. She created a wrapper to bundle the precious food in a lovely parcel. That was the birth of the Shiau Mai which every Chinese knows.

When her father received a platter of shiau mai from his lovely younger daughter, who also presented him with a poem to commemorate his birthday, he realised how smart his daughter was. The culinary innovation has now spread all over the world as a precious legacy of China: a lovely gift of the best food in the world wrapped in a small parcel, like a precious jewel.

The lovely parcels are usually the first dim sum food served in any dim sum outlet.

Finely grated carrot or fish roe can be used to colour the top of the Shiau Mai to bring gold to the diner.

The finely fashioned Shiau Mai is a delight to behold. Each mouthful reminds the diner of all the precious elements in our lives.

We are thankful we have such a wonderful legacy from a smart woman.

A good way of celebrating the MAF is to have a table outside in the garden lighted by lovely and romantic lanterns. Delicacies like Siew Muai, and other finger food can be placed on the table. Moon cakes of course will be the dessert. And it would be story time after all the good food.

I will always remember how my Uncle Pang Sing and my Grandma Lien Tie swap stories, sitting on the Lan Doh, with the cool breeze blowing at our faces. We would not know whether it was the moonlight which was brighter or the pressure lamp.

Good Chinese tea can be free flow...and as the evening unfolds, light music can be played as every one looks up to the sky and enjoy the moon shining just for this special  night.

Peace be to the world.

Happy Mid Autumn Festival.

(Ref :
1. Yong Gien Huong (See Hua Daily News)
2.Foochow Folk Lore Expert is Huong Ping Kui of Fuzhou City)


Small Kucing said...

ooo so this is the story behind Siew Mai . Interesting. Yea they do look like flower

Ensurai said...

Yes..we got the story in Fuzhou when we went to visit the Foochow Folk Lore Expert, Mr. Huong.

Anonymous said...

I love Foochow siow bee. I think they add turnips (as alternative to bamboo shoot or water chestnut) unlike thise of the cCantonese Siew Mai. In Kuching, you can get Foochow siew mai all day at a shop in Padungan steamed hot at RM1 apiece.

Ensurai said...

There is a difference between Foochow Siew Muai and others. We have water chestnut, prawns, and fresh fish paste besides minced pork..and very little fat.

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