Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mo Mo Ja Ja (Bubur Cha Cha)

Mum tried her best to assimilate into the local Foochow urban and well heeled community. She came from downriver, a village lady who could sing, teach and carry two tins of water with a pian dan from the Rejang River. She wasn't from a poor family. It just happened that her family was part of the rubber tapping community and were indeed landed but dad was from money land. Dad was a debonair handsome university graduate from Beijing with a community leader for a father. Dad fell in love with her because she was tall and pretty, simple and wise. She fell in love with him because he was handsome and of a strong character. What a romantic beginning to a beautiful marriage which turned into a tragedy when he died suddenly leaving behind seven little kids and a grieving widow, barely forty years of age.

This little story here is a tribute to my mother who tried her best to be a good housewife and like any woman she also tried to put her best effort on the table for relatives and children, and especially husband, to enjoy.

Doesn't every wife want to do that?

No one at that time would teach any housewife how to cook well. The Methodist Church had not establish the Women's Home Institute yet. So my mum had a taste of the beautiful bubur cha cha and said that if one knew how to eat one would know how to cook. She was very talented in cooking and would cook a dish exactly the way it was presented to her. She did not even have to ask for the ingredients and would remember every word a cook or an aunt said. Bubur cha cha, you see,is not a Foochow dish.

Ingredients were "something like the following" :

some sweet potato (cubed)

some yam (cubed)

some white grated coconut

some water

pandan leaves (tied into knots)

a bit of sugar or as much as you want

some salt

some sago pearls

Method :

Cut and cook sweet potato and yam for till cooked.

Syrup: Put grated coconut in a man's handkerchief and squeeze out about a cup of thick coconut milk . then add some more water to the grated coconut then squeeze out another cup of thinner coconut milk.

Boil pandan leaves and sugar in some water for 10 minutes. Allow pandan juice to cool then strain into bowl. Set aside.

Boil pandan juice with thinner coconut milk , stirring constantly. Pour in the thicker coconut milk and stir in salt. Remove from heat and stir occasionally to prevent curding.

Boil some water and add a few spoons of sago pearls into the hot water. Drain. You get some sticky sago and pour cold water over the sago pearls until they clear.

Put all the sweet potatoes, yam and sago into a pot and stir. Pour in syrup. Serve hot or cold.

Any way and any how, she managed to make the nicest mo mo ja ja for us even though it was slightly too thick at times. My dad liked it very much and quietly appreciated her effort to go out of her way to learn a "foreign" cuisine and she was as happy as a lark. She knew the quiet joy of what only a wife can understand.

But she never crowed about her cooking. And to us, she was like an angel, who could sing and comfort us. She could cook good food. And she try her very very best.

Although I did know that whenever my aunts came around, they would be most happy to to please my dad who loved steaks, scotch eggs, mashed potatoes and some western food. All these foods would probably eclipse her cooking for a while but the sisters in law would have a happy time together. She had always been very loving towards her sisters-in-law and they loved her in return. That is a lasting and great reward for her.

A visit by sisters in law would not matter to my mum because she had her own choiciest dishes which my dad enjoyed. It takes a smart woman to be cordial to all female relatives and appreciate their visits.

My father loved her very much. We knew that. My dad was an early "waker" . He made her a cup of freshly brewed coffee without fail every morning to wake her up from her bed without fail for 16 years of their too short a marriage.

She made the bubur cha cha fairly often which we all enjoyed and she would never fail to cut the sweet potatoes and yam finely and patiently. Any one who prepares bubur cha cha would know that the preparation is tedious. A very refined dish fit for a king.

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