I’ve been slacking on the ol’ blog posts recently and have been covering my tracks by publishing posts which I’ve been saving (for moments like these, I guess). Truth be told, I’ve had a bit of a crap time recently and whilst I have still been cooking and eating out – a girl needs to eat, after all – My enthusiasm for all-things food-related had diminished. I just couldn’t muster any joy and I was conscious of not letting that convey into any posts I was attempting. That’s not to say I had anything bad to eat, more that I couldn’t summon up enough energy to dig out my camera and document it all for a blog post. I couldn’t even think of anything interesting that I could possibly write about – And if I personally wasn’t interested in what I had to say, why on earth would you stick around for it too?
Well, things are still a bit shit, but they will improve over time. What I really wanted to share with you all is how my enthusiasm was jump-started again;
The Mothership decided to cook dinner, which is increasingly rare these days given her advancing years, but it’s also a good thing as there’s only so many times I can steam fish and (over)cook veg before I lose the will to cook completely. She dug out some slices of taro I had in the freezer along with some belly pork (which was already roasted and again, from the freezer), diced them up so they could be braised them together. She flavoured some oil with ginger and garlic, softened some sliced onions and chucked in the pork belly slices until they were slightly browned.
What came next was the key ingredient to my rejuvenation: Preserved red beancurd. My sister W once told me that when they first started talking about umami, this preserved red beancurd was what they meant. It’s a savoury taste and completely transforms the dish – Without it, you would only get a slightly salty flavour, but adding it gives the dish a deep savoury richness to it all. She added a cube of it to the pork and mixed it all in, before adding the taro and covering with water, letting the mixture come to the boil before braising until the taro is soft and the water has evaporated.
The aromas from the dish as it was cooking.. The smell of the preserved red beancurd wafting through the house from the kitchen was so delicious that I couldn’t stop salivating. The smell also evoked a lot of childhood memories for me as both my parents were (seemingly) always braising some sort of dish which used the preserved red beancurd and since my Dad passed away, we don’t use it as often. I even commented to the Mothership before she was cooking how we haven’t used anything with the preserved red beancurd for a while and I wanted to cook a dish using it at some point (but again, couldn’t find the energy to do so). I would hazard a guess that any of my sisters reading this post will know exactly what I’m referring to.
The smell not only evoked (happy) memories, but it also got me enthusiastic about food again; I was genuinely excited by the dish it made me realise again that food isn’t just something you need to do (to eat, to function), but it’s genuinely something which can lift you either from tasting great or (as in my case) bring back happy memories and get you going again. The dish took 30mins to cook and as soon as it was ready, I had to nick a piece of taro to eat; I’m pretty sure that I would have enjoyed it even if it didn’t taste too great because in my mind, it was already a winner before I put it in my mouth. However, it was absolutely delicious with the creamy, softness of the taro almost comforting you like cooked potato can, but also the all-important umami punch from the preserved red beancurd which elevated the dish completely. That, with some plain rice was a perfect counterpoint and was one of the most enjoyable home-cooked dinners I’d had in a long time.
This dish was borne out of what we had in the freezer, but what I love the most about it is how this one very simple dish has done so much from getting me all excited about food again, to evoking such happy culinary memories. It may not have been the prettiest dish to look at but OHMIGOSH! it tasted fantastic and reminded me of how food can be a good thing. Here’s to sharing a few more food memories with you all