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Mother In Law's Dumplings

MALAYSIA | Thursday, 4 July 2013 | Views [468]

Mother-in-Law’s kitchen was infused with the sort of light which could only be accurately captured by that miracle of Chinese film making - Zhang Yimou. Inside - the ambience was Chinese rustic meets culinary museum as a poignant and pregnant romanticism filled the cooking scent-filled air. I was poised – at the very tip of my metaphorical seat, to engage, for the very first time, in my new family’s ‘Dumpling Festival’, otherwise known as Duan Wu Jie.

I tittered a Frankie Howard titter when my new mother-in-law offered me her dumplings. It was a cultural misunderstanding – not the first and will certainly not be the last. At the very last minute I realized that I was the only one in the room getting the joke – the smile on my lips died an ignominious death, the way of all such, and I let the bawdy Englishman in me take a backseat for the remainder of our visit.

A plate of small dumplings was set before us. It was being converted into a ‘still life’ which my wife was so painstakingly drawing, but as she did so the ‘subject’ was rapidly disappearing as I snatched sweet dumpling after sweet dumpling, unwrapped and then dipped them into a gula Melaka (palm sugar) sauce. Dripping with sauce, I proceeded to throw each summery coloured delicacy into my mouth with barely room enough for breath. That pile of yellow dumplings (Ki Chang) – so called because of their colour was reducing at an alarming rate – alarming to my artist wife that is, not to me – I was quite happy with the way things were going. I was not deterred by the stickiness of those goodies, nor of the fiddliness of unwrapping the bamboo-leaf packaging. In fact, as time slipped by I was becoming quite adept at unwrapping all things Chinese.

Ma-in-Law’s antique fan-cooled kitchen spoke of sundry other worlds. It was enhanced with flavoured teas from Japan, crispily dry crackers from the Americas and, of course, a super-abundance of delicious foodstuffs from the mother country – China. Woks bearing the patina of ages sat beside antique rice-cookers, those rice-cookers sat next to aging hot water boilers bearing antediluvian brands, while gleaming tins of straw mushrooms leaned on other tins stuffed with black bean sauce doused fried Dace.

We sat, correction – I sat, and consumed delicious sweet yellow dumplings while dragon-boats bobbed up and down on equatorial waters a few kilometres away and memories of dead Chinese poets haunted the warm air. It was my very first ‘Dumpling Festival’ and aside from a heaviness brought about by over consumption, the day was looking like a great success.

That visit, unlike previous visits where car tyres were counted and I was grilled as to my intentions towards the family’s only daughter, was also looking like a great success as Dim Sum followed dumplings and yet more dumplings followed Dim Sum. My waistline – a little dormant over a six month period, began to assert itself onto my (British bought) Bangladeshi leather belt. It was a gluttonous day, a day concerned with Mother-in-Law’s dumplings, of long forgotten delights of Chinese delicacies and, ultimately, the warmth, love and care of families. Schoolboy titters had long since been left in the playground of my memory, and cultural misunderstanding pushed to the side of the plate as the last yellow dumpling slipped with ease from the fork, seemingly dipped itself into the sweet sauce and hastened its way to my waistline. Then, SUV loaded and permanently visiting stray dog stuffed back onto the rear seat - we once more shot down the North/South Highway, back towards the city haze, to suburbia and home.


Tags: asia, food, malaysia


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