You know I could be a Hakka in a past life for the simple reason that I kinda drawn to Hakka‘s cuisine. Although my paternal grandmother was of Hakka origin, I have never tasted her cooking. Infact, I have never seen her in the kitchen at all. Erm… could it be that lost yearning that’s dwelling in me screaming to get out?
Hakka and not Haka
It has nothing to do with the traditional ancestral war cry, dance, or challenge from the Māori people or All Blacks rugby union team of New Zealand. Hakka, by the way, is one of the major groups of varieties of Chinese people who migrated from North to Central to Southern China. There’s no wonder Hakka is literally translated to mean “guest families” or “guest people”, due to their “normadic” origin. Interestingly enough, the Hakkas can be found in almost every nook and cranny of the globe. Try searching for Hakka dishes on YouTube and you will end up watching several channels of Hakka Noodles prepared by chefs from India, Suriname and several parts of Latin America, Africa and North America!
Hakka people are said to be very thrifty and hard-working. One of my Mum’s sisters is married to a Hakka. I remembered seeing my Aunt giving my Mum bags full of bamboo shoots at several intervals until she became suspicious of her sister’s “gift”. My Aunt said, “blame it on my MIL!”. My Aunt’s MIL was the ‘culprit’ who singlehandedly harvested the bamboo shoots from her garden and she was in her 70’s then! A very humble, hardworking and generous Hakka woman, as I remembered her. I noticed my Aunt has embraced the Hakka-ish lifestyle from years of marrying into a Hakka family. She speaks Hakka fluently. She cooks Hakka dishes and we’re always looking forward to my Aunt’s festive invitation. The dishes she prepares are pragmatic, simple and above all, superbly generous and yummy. We’re often stuffed to the brim from her cooking. Thanks, Aunty 🙂
These are the few of my favourite…
Among the few of my favourite Hakka dishes are chai kueh (vegetable dumpling), the unique Lui Cha Fon (Hakka Pounded Tea Rice), the succulent rice wine chicken, the noteworthy suan pan ji (yam abacus beads) dish, the simple and tasty Hakka salted steamed or baked chicken and the most resourceful-and-waste-nothing dish called Ngiong Tew Foo or popularly called today in the Cantonese equivalent, Yong Tau Foo.
The story was told that Hakkas who migrated from Central China, tried to improvise making meat dumplings. Instead of using wheat flour pastry which was scarce in Southern China, the Hakkas invented meat dumplings using tofu! Today, Yong Tau Foo (stuffed tofu) can be ordered easily in most Chinese restaurants throughout the world.
Yong Tau Foo is eaten in numerous ways, either dry drizzled with black bean or fermented bean sauce or served as a soup dish, deep fried, shallow fried, steamed or braised. The tofu is stuffed with either ground meat mixture or fish paste. Variations include using various vegetables and proteins with the more common ones being aubergines, shiitake, okra, chillies and bitter gourd stuffed with the same meat or fish paste.
My version of YTF is based on simplicity and reliving the flavours of a simple Hakka kitchen. No expensive fish or prawn pastes, but minced meat ( I used the readily available ground veal) with some salted fish to enhance that umami flavour. For the broth, I used soy beans, anchovies, white peppercorns, ginger and garlic.
For the vegetables, I went for the colours. PURPLE aubergines, GREEN courgettes, BLACK shiitakes, RED sweet pointed peppers and WHITE tofu. Seriously, the choice is endless!
I was inspired to make this dish after watching Shiokoholics’ video on YouTube. The recipe she posted was adapted from Mr Rontree Chan, winner of SG50 Hong Kah North Masterchef Cooking Competition.
Note: I wanted a soupy YTF and I wanted the broth to taste as authentically Hakka as possible. I’m glad Rontree Chan’s recipe summed up perfectly.
And by the way, I used Thermomix (TM5) to brew (slow-cook) the broth. If you don’t own a Thermomix, by all means use the slow cooker or a pressure cooker or a soup (crock) pot or a multi cooker. You will definitely get the same result; only the timing or duration of cooking may differ.
- 10 g garlic
- 30 g shallots
- 10 g cooking oil
- 75 g soy beans, rinsed
- 20 g whole white peppercorns
- 30 g fresh ginger slices
- 40 g garlic cloves, skin on, bruised
- 30 g anchovies
- Inner flesh of 1 courgette
- 1,500 g water
- 250 g water
- 750 g minced veal
- 1 small fried salted fish, deboned
- 1 Tbsp cornflour
- 1 spring onion, finely chopped
- Dash of white pepper, to taste
- Sesame oil, to taste
- Light soy sauce, to taste
- Mushroom oyster sauce, to taste
- Scooped tofu from G
- 250 g block organic tofu, cut in 3 equal rectangular pieces. Scoop part of the tofu to create a cavity. Transfer scooped tofu to F
- 2 red sweet pointed peppers, cut in rings, seeds removed
- 1 aubergine, cut on the bias
- 4 shiitakes, soaked in hot water until plump. Remove stems
- 1 courgette, cut in equal parts/ rings. Scoop the flesh in the centre and transfer to C
- 1 Tbsp mushroom oyster sauce
- 1 Tbsp light soy sauce
- 3/4 Tbsp sesame oil
- Coarse sea salt, to taste
How to prepare
- Place A in TM bowl. Blend 5 sec/ sp 5. Scrape the sides of the inner bowl.
- Add B. Sauté for 5 mins/ 120 C/ sp 2
- Place C in the simmering basket and attach it in the TM bowl. Add D. Slow cook for 45 mins/ 120 C/ sp 2
- Pour E in TM bowl. Stir C. Cook further for 10 mins/ 120 C/ sp 2
- Meanwhile, combine F in a clean bowl
- Discard C and rinse the simmering basket
- Stuff F in the cavities of G
- Pan-fry stuffed veg and tofu until golden brown
- Prior to serving, place stuffed G in the simmering basket. Add H and cook for 10 mins/ 120 C/ sp 2
I’m linking this post to #CookBlogShare : May 3-9 hosted by Snap Happy Bakes
With the colourful array of vegetables in this dish, I’m also linking this post to Tea Time Treats Linky Party for May 2016, hosted by The Hedgecombers and Lavender and Lovage
Another beautiful woman once said, “When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child“. ~ Sophia Loren ~
Thank you for thinking twice a zillion times for me. Happy Mother’s Day, Mum and to all mothers everywhere.