Whose tradition is it anyway? The Kitchen God

Interesting that Dr Charlie Teoh, has inflamed a racist debate just as I was writing this post.  Not only is it the week before Australia day, but also only a few days before….

Firecrackers, lucky red packets, dancing lions and dragons, loud drums and clanging gongs…have you got it yet?

Hong De Lion at Melbourne International Airport giving travellers a taste of Australia!

Chinese New Year marks the beginning of the new lunar year by well, pretty much everyone in Melbourne!  Anyone who is Asian or who has friends of Asians descent are familiar with the noise, spectacle and general good cheer of Chinese New Year, in the same way all we non-Christians recognizes Christmas as a time of family, good will and gift giving.  Although celebrations have certainly been going on for about 150 years in Australia, since the influx of Chinese migrants during the gold rush, Australians do not all celebrate it…yet, ‘though it will be interesting to see if it become a national holiday over time?!

Australia has moved over the last 40 years, towards a whole new, embracing, national identity that leaves the “White Australia”* policy as an embarrassing foot note on a developing nations history.  From a very personal view,  even though one arm of our family is now 6th generation Australian, I grew up during a period in time where it was a struggle understanding my identity as an Australian of Chinese descent, dealing with blatant racism, even as a small child by fully grown (non-drunk, take note Politicians) adults, having my face, clothes and food laughed at, and of course not being blonde and blue-eyed, I would just feel outright, alien.  In fact, my identity is something I still struggle with and subconsciously, always try to hide.  I am sure that this feeling of being an outsider no matter what colour your skin, no matter what your age, is more common than any of us care to admit.  And yet, at the same time, I have never felt so accepted and ‘normal’ within the community.  Life is always changing, I look around me and feel that it is an amazing time for me to be living in and celebrating Chinese New Year in Melbourne!  There will always be small-minded, ignorant, and just plain rude people in any society, however, as I said in my New Year’s Eve post…with a bit of effort, we can always improve.

Well, with such an ancient celebration it is not surprising that there would be many, many  traditions tied to its very mention, but given my slant on the world from the suburban kitchen of Bliss, I want to have a stab at Bliss-ing my favourite tradition…FOOD!!!

For foodies of all cultures, one of the best new year stories would have to be that of the Kitchen God.  Every new year, the Kitchen God leaves his post on the altar in the family kitchen ( yes, that is

Now, who wants to get a bad report when the Kitchen God heads off on his yearly mission?

probably where you would expect to find a kitchen god!) to travel up to heaven and give his report to the Jade Emperor on the goings on in the family as they talked, argued, laughed and cried over their family meals.  Now, who doesn’t want to look good on their report, I ask you?  So, being as ingenious as the Chinese race is,  a wonderful and crazy, sticky, sweet, concoction known as ‘Nian Goa’  is offered to the Kitchen God on new year’s eve to stick his mouth together so that he can’t say anything bad in his report!  Aaaaaaah, love the creative use of dessert!

The recipe for Nian Goa floored me! Basically, it is brown sugar caramel with rice flour steamed to within an inch of its life….truly…hours and hours and well, hours!  So long in fact, you wonder if the original wasn’t just forgotten on the stove, while the cook went out to tend the fields, chat with the neighbours, buy groceries, get her hair done…..No wonder we never made it at home!!

With a texture like mozzarella and a brown sugar caramel flavour…it’s really not that weird when pan fried with egg!

Nian Goa has a crazy rubbery texture, when you get it home from the shop.  (No, seriously, it is round. bouncy and brown, it could make a really good tyre substitute for a small go-cart!)  Then, being of Southern Chinese origin, we cut it into slices and then into squares, dip it in egg and pan fry it slowly until it has the consistency of mozarella cheese with a slightly crisp, egg-y outer.  Insane!!! But, I love it 🙂

Hubby, is from Malaysia where they sandwich the slices between sweet potato, or taro and then dip it into batter and deep fry it.  Crispy on the outside, biting into aromatic, flour-y, potato-y, texture and then a gooey caramell-y centre. Crazy!!!  But he loves it 🙂

So, Lynnette and Hubby met, fell in love and live in Melbourne  where I have decided I am going to put a Bliss spin on it.  Hmmmm, will it work?  Well, let’s see then… Love the egg-y combination with the brown sugar caramel flavour of mine, love the crisp outer shell of his and I especially love how Aussies  make everything their own by adding Beer!  My most striking memory of TV as a newly migrated 4-year-old was the Vic Bitter ad.  “A hard-earned thirst, calls for a big cold beer.  The biggest beer is Vic, Victor-ia Bitter”, how do I remember it?  It is burned into my memory as being the most incredibly Australian thing I had ever, ever seen in my very short life!  No, not even Skippy the talking kangaroo could do it.

So, there we have it, ‘Egg yolk dipped, beer batter, nian goa strips, tempura style’ ha ha, what a mouthful!  Dust liberally with icing sugar and serve with vanilla bean ice cream on the side, in fact, give it a real Aussie feel and make the ice cream yourself with amazing fresh Australian dairy products, like Gippsland cream.

Uh huh, mmmmmm what a mouthful.  I think Kitchen Gods all around Australia will be toasting to the Jade Emporer’s health with a dash of cognac after a dessert like that and offering all mere mortals a resounding A+ 😀

Crispy and light, just a hint of fragrance from the egg and soft and sticky on the inside. A+ from me 🙂

Health, Wealth and Heaps of Happiness for a magnificent Year of the Dragon everyone.  Goong Hei Fatt Choy xxx

*embarrassing footnote:  White Australia policy favoured Anglo-Saxon migration over all other cultures and nationalities to , I guess, produce a White Australia!

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