March 26, 2016
Sibu Tales : Ngu Hiong Dong (5 spice sausage)
While we were growing up, Ngu Hiong Dong sold in the restaurants, like Hock Chu Leu,was a luxury. The people of Sibu could order and buy them from Hock Chu Leu and other restaurants during the festive seasons . Those days take away was not fashionable as the frugal Foochows would think it too expensive. Food should be made at home and would be very much cheaper.
However according to local reports then, the best were made by the Cantonese family known for their excellent dishes . Their restaurant was called Capitol Restaurant and today after two generations, it is called New Capitol Restaurant, serving fusion Chinese food. Actually a Teochew friend said that NHD is Teochew in origin. But many of us from the Fujian origins also claim we have it in our culinary history.
Two kinds of skins were available in those days, caul oil and bean sheets. We only had these fragrant NHD when we attend wedding or birthday banquets in Sibu at Hock Chu Leu and in the villages when there were home prepared banquets. I have always thought that it is a difficult dish to make. First mackerels must be bought, the fresher the better and then "beaten or slapped in a basin" Today a blender does the trick. My sister remembers that she was the "beater of fish flesh" in those long ago days when mum made her good NHD.
My mother and relatives often come together to share recipes. And we don't really remember any one not teaching a newly acquired recipe to their loved ones. Mum believes that the more people you teach the more love would be spread around.
However, today, most women in Sibu have learned (by asking questions, through tiral and error, and reading cookery books) how to make Ngu Hiong Dong for the festive seasons and as more and more inferior quality, commercialized Ngu Hiong Dong, were sold in Pasar Malam. It has turned full circle. Food made at home is the best, not those sold in the shops or restaurants.
Whenever I see Ma Ka or mackerel in the fish market I would think of how our mother would make the fish go a little further by making this delicacy.
An update on the mackerel roll or Five spice Roll, add an additional sheet of Nori, and perhaps add a little more chopped onion and garlic....Our imagination can bring the traditional 5 spice Roll to another level.
But my memories of Ngu Hiong Dong have always been very special and positive.