When I think of Chap Chai Te’ng (mixed vegetable soup) I think of Chinese (lunar) New Year.
As a child right through to my twenties as a young mother to three children, Chinese New Year meant new clothes and new shoes. My favourite day of the festival was the evening before new year. That’s when all the family came round for a banquet, the reunion dinner. The dish that symbolizes the occasion is my aunt’s specialty Chap Chai Te’ng cooked with chicken, prawn balls, fish balls, cabbage, vermicelli (glass noodles), bean curd sticks, black fungus (bok jee) in chicken soup. It is a dish of many mixtures although I have no idea why it is called Chap Chai when the only vegetable in the dish is cabbage.
This special dish, amongst other Nyonya authentic dishes that my aunt lovingly cooked for us showed her love for her family. The salt, the spices, the vegetables, the meat the condiments were all mixed and cooked over low flame for hours to bring out the flavor. Everything was made from scratch. The hours she spent, the joy she gets watching the family savour her cooking. I have not tried making this dish but as I am relaying this story the slow cooker image popped into my head. I wonder if the results will be the same if I put all the ingredients into my slow cooker, turn the power on then leave for work and call my family round for dinner one night.
That’s the love of a modern-day mother for her family. So much less sweat to shower love in the modern world. It is almost like cheating, taking the easy way out. Nothing is impossible with technologies but I wonder if my son or my daughters are free to make the call. It’s not easy trying to get everyone round, (sigh) ……… perhaps I should wait for a special occasion like Chinese New Year or my birthday.