February 8, 2016
Sibu Tales : Pork Knuckle and Dried Squid Soup
In Western Culture, the better cuts of pork were for the upper class and the poorer cuts like belly pork,trotters, tails, heads were for the lower class. Even food did not enjoy egalitarianism!!
This was not so obvious in the Chinese society which would normally include the whole animals in the menu. Perhaps a difference could be found in that the poor would eat more greens and less meat, while the rich and upper classes ate more meat,seafood, exotic food etc. That was in the past. Today with political, economic and social development, food has become more universally available.
The Foochows have always been very frugal in food and have devised grand recipes for all cuts of the pig.
Pork knuckles and trotters for example have been used by coolies, wharf labourers,rubber tappers, farmers to make a nourishing soup to energize their bodies. With dried squids and Chow Yi Char (a herbal fragrant root), the bony and poorer cut of pork is transformed into an awesome dish fit for kings!!
In my family, whenever my later grandmother desired some pork knuckle soup, my father would go to the butchers to "carry back" guan tii kah, we knew that it would auger in an awesome dinner with this special brew. It was usually done over slow fire for more than 3 hours. Grandma would also always say that having this soup would energize us and make us more willing to move our feet and work hard! So motivating.
My mother would always have a good stock of fragrant root and dried squid in the food safe. I would always remember how my parents bought these in Sibu. My father was a man of habit and careful spending and he planned his shopping and visitation well.
A visit to Chew Hock Choon in Bank Road was in the offing before my parents visited Grand Aunt at the Methodist Primary School. They would give her some of the squids as Ming Neng (or gift). It was good to visit relatives with my parents.
Recently I went to Minqing, Fujian and enjoyed this soup several times at different places. The soup was not exactly the same, but it was welcome warmly by all with lots of aplomb.
The fragrant roots kept us rooted to Fujian.
(Written First Day of Lunar Year of the Monkey 2016)