Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Home is a bowl of Tai Ping Egg Soup - Harmony Soup

When I was a child, my maternal grandmother would say to me that an egg was a wholesome food and one egg a day would keep me well nourished.

She taught me about freshly laid eggs and how some men would crack the eggs and swallow them whole upon catching hold the eggs right from the backside of the hens!! Yes. Even before they touched the floor of the chicken hut.

Foochow folk lore has it that such freshly laid eggs would provide all the Yang a man would need and he would be blessed with sexual prowess until the end of his days.
So sometimes when hens made a lot of noise in the backyard, we knew some men were trying to find their powers. Grandma would shake her head and we older grandchildren would giggle and say, "How silly." Somehow for as long as I remember, we girls liked to call these men "Silly".

Fresh eggs were just for any body and my grandmother was not particular about who ate the most. However she was sure that she could have hers every day with a cup of milo. Or when we had chicken soup, she would put her egg in her mee sua and chicken soup.

My favourite egg delicacy was the Tai Ping Egg Soup made by my third uncle and we could only have it on feast days or wedding days. So it was a rare treat for me and I would always look forward to having it.

Here is some background note on this delicacy.

In the 50's and 60's Sibu had a booming economy both from the high rubber prices and the new industry of timber extracting. Money was made in piles and many families grew rich almost overnight, some grew so rich that they bought homes in the United States, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. There was so much jubilation ! And probably that was the birth of migration of the Foochows to Australia, New Zealand and even England.

However those who remained in the villages and the outskirts of Sibu continued to live simply. In the midst of all the expansionist ideals, the undercurrent of communism was brewing. This political change was the impetus which caused the rural-urban migration of the 60's in Sarawak. And this also caused the Foochows who were rubber holdings owners and padi planters to move to other parts of Sarawak as well, like Bintulu, Marudi, Miri and Limbang, and later even Kota Kinabalu. And every where they went, the Foochows made money, sometimes to the annoyance of the local populace.

Any way, here is the second dish of a Foochow banquet that one could enjoy at home.


10 hard boiled eggs
2 small bowls of oil
2 stalks of spring onions - finely chopped
4 small Chinese bowls chicken stock(about 500 mls)
2 good slices of ginger
1 Tbsp of sesame oil
salt to taste
1 tsp of finely pounded black or white pepper
a dash of Foochow home made red wine

1. Heat up the oil in a wok and deep fry the hard boil eggs, probably two by two, if you are not skilled. The careful deep frying will help the egg have a nice golden rough and bubbly skin. Remove all the oil from the wok.
2. Leave the fried hard boiled eggs to one side.
3. Now for the soup base - heat up the sesame oil in the wok. Fry ginger until fragrant and add the chicken stock . Bring to a boil.
4. Add the eggs to the soup and bring the soup to boil again to allow the fragrance of fried boiled eggs appear. Add the chopped spring onions, dash of red wine and salt and pepper.
5. Serve the soup piping hot.

This dish appears simple at a feast but it has a great deal of meaning to the elders. Eggs represent wealth but this particular soup is called Harmony Soup or Peace Soup. Every one in the family having taken one egg each would be blessed with peace and harmony. The family thus lives in peace and harmony, which is the most important ingredient in family life according to not only the Foochows but all the other races.

Perhaps many people today would not eat egg soups in this way but to me the metaphorical significance of this soup is enough to make me once in a while think of having this soup at home.

Any way, deep frying a hard boil egg until is it golden and beautiful is quite a skill. Give it a try. If you can't fry 10 hard boiled eggs, try frying two to start with.

Peace! Shalom!

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