I’ve booked my flight. Last minute to travel the twenty over hours to the other side of the world. Toronto. The visit had been 12 years overdue. I promised my cousins then, I’ll visit soon when we last bid farewells at Pearson Airport.
The memories of the last visit lies faint. I want to see the magnificent Niagara Falls again. My cousin told me he lived there now. As I flipped upon an old photo album of the trip (It’s still old school then. pre-iphone, pre-digital era). The younger me, fresh out of university, posed with wonderstruck-face against the picturesque waterfall backdrop. Looking back, I’ve had looked so young, baby fats still hangs innocently on my cheek. I’m glad it’s gone. I thought I looked like a cartoon version of a chipmunk with all the heavy duck down jacket and big wooly scarf. I laughed about my revival dressing, okay, maybe that was fashion then.
My cousin told me the story of the Inuksuk of Canada. The Inuksuk celebrate our working together. They continue to remind us of our inter-dependent responsibilities to invest our efforts today, to direct a better way for all of us tomorrows. I bought this at the falls the last time and it’s still standing proudly on my shelve. I need another one for my office.
I wondered how my cousins looked like now; and the many nieces and nephews so far away, all little then, all grown up now. I wondered they had remembered that cold winter, a far away aunt once visited and played with them on that few evenings. Toronto, as I remembered was very cold, Vastly huge and covered in white fluffy snow all over. My cousin took me to a few places – The antique market I longed to return to was gone, he told me. The quaint little town when I first sipped ice wine, we bought a case home – savouring the sweetness in his study later that evening while we went through albums after albums of the toddler me and my sister in his household back in Singapore. His mom, my aunt took care of us while mom was at work.
There were the long drives to places. I remember the after-meal smoke breaks. Shivering in the cold outside of the restaurant, I couldn’t drag a puff more. He reached in into his pockets to hand me his gloves. He realise I didn’t have one. My fingers never felt warmer.
The memories were compacted into an album-ful snapshots from a 36 exposure film roll of the trip. But I believe we can take pictures in our minds too, and I’ll always hold that warm welcome image of his family no matter how cold or how long or how far away it was.
I longed to return, to experience the family warmth on the other side of the world again. See you guys tomorrow!
Spicy beef noodles
~As warming as it can be~
1 kg beef brisket, cut into chunks (or shin but I like the melty tenderness of the brisket)
2 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoon chili bean paste
2 tablespoon chili fermented tofu
4 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
2 tablespoon chilli flakes
3 tablespoon Chinese wine
1 knob, 3 inch ginger (flatten with side of cleaver)
2 stalk leeks, cut into 2 inches length
1 whole garlic, whole and skin on
In The Herb Bag
1 tablespoon whole black pepper corns
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 tablespoon Szechuan peppers
1 teaspoon cloves
5 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
3 pieces orange peel
3 large bay leaves
Chinese pickled cabbage
Handful of Chinese parsley or cilantro
1 pound Chinese egg noodles or wheat noodles
First of all, you need to brown the brisket for flavour. Brown the brisket in a large stock pot. Remove and set aside. Add the ginger and leeks to sautéed, then add all the sauces (chilli bean paste, fermented tofu, tomato paste, chilli flakes, soy sauces and sugar. You can mix them up in a bowl first). After the sauce mixture is bubbling and fragrant, drizzle the Chinese wine down the side of the pot. Return the beef to the pot and stir. Cover the pot with ready boiling water from the kettle. Throw in the whole garlic.
On a dry sauce pan, toast the aromatics except the orange peel and bay leaves. Place them in a herb bag and add to the beef pot.
Bring soup to a boil before reducing to low heat. Cover pot with lid and simmer for 2-3 hours. Season with salt if necessary.
As with all braise and stews, the soup will taste better the next day. If you can, make the soup a day earlier. This also allows you to skim of the fat on the surface.
Once soup is done, discard the herb bag, ginger and garlic. Keep the soup hot using low heat.
It’s now time to boil noodles. Cook the noodles until al dente. Rinse under cold water to remove starch and place on bowl. Place noodles in bowl and pour the piping hot beef soup over. Add bok choy. (I boil them in advance before cooking the noodles). Top with pickled mustard green and half of a egg. Garnish with chopped Chinese parsley and serve hot.
PS. You can try the soy marinated 6 and half minutes eggs to top off the noodles.