November 5, 2017

Nang Chong Stories : Herbal Duck Noodles

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Herbal Duck soup is made usually from 8 Treasures pre packed ingredients, or just from an assembly of handpicked dried herbs selected by a very discerning grandmother.

So many memories would come to mind when I look at a picture of herbal duck noodles.

Firstly I would remember my maternal grandmother's choice of her own herbal duck soup ingredients which would include (all in Foochow pinyin), dong gui, tong seng, ern jor, geiu ji, poh wong, hwai sang, hoo jiu. Once you give this list to the Chinese medicine shop keeper, he would immediately and quickly assemble them together and throw you a pink paper wrapped packet. Geiu ji or goji berries are good for our eyes and would sweeten the soup. Years later my grandmother would not be able to man the kitchen because she became blind, but she would always encourage all of us to use a lot of goji berries in our cooking.

Secondly, I would always remember her wanting to make the soup very thick, or Kaw. In the olden days, Grandma paid a very small sum like $2.00 for a very "thick soup". She would normally indicate that she needed a THICK soup ingredient, or Kaw for her big home grown, organic, free range duck of more than 3 kg. The soup would be dark because she would use thick soy sauce to salt and colour the soup. The resulting soup from the kitchen would be truly aromatic and appetising.

Thirdly, in those days, we had a choice of the kind of soh mien we could have. Grandma would take out her tins of noodles and ask for preferences to be made before she cooked the noodles to prevent any wastage. Both my grandmother and I liked like the Big ends of the soh mien ( mien tou) while others would prefer the mien mui (ends).

The big ends of the soh mien cost less but both of us prefer the heavier noodles. (Today most vendors sell soh mien without subdividing the ends.)

Fourthly, the duck would be cut into fairly big pieces in the Foochow tradition. Grandma would always say that bigger cuts of duck tasted better. She would personally choose the duck and check for its maturity. The wings of the duck must cross at the back and this would mean that there would no more fine feathers which would make defeathering very difficult. Once the duck was chosen, it was time for getting the duck ready for the soup making. The girls would have a good time, bonding at the table, tweezing the dark ends of the feathers off the bird. Grandma would always give us tweezers and a small bowl of water each.

Fifthly, herbal duck noodles can also be made from the yellow noodles or the oily yellow noodles. Some people even use the kampua noodles. Being Foochows, we just like our soh mien. We would always have just the duck noodles as a one dish meal. In our Foochow traditions, we would not serve greens or any other dish to "dilute" the goodness of the herbs.

Bon ape-tit!


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