I call my grandmother ah mah. Since young, ah mah and I live together and she has been cooking for me until her health started to deteriorate. Depending on her mood, I remember watching the way she cooks from different distances. When she was stressed or rushing for time, she would chase me all out of her kitchen and sometimes, I can only get a peep of her at the border outside her kitchen... Talking to my auntie makes me realised that ah mah did the same to my auntie and all ah mah's children too. Now, recalling this scenario makes me laugh because I'm guilty of doing the same with my boy too. Ops! With or without my existence, I always remember plates or trays of delicious savoury dishes, cakes, pastries or desserts eventually served from ah mah's kitchen... We were very pampered because foods that are not good enough would ended in our waste bins rather than being served.
Lor? I mean not the Singlish "Lor". Although I'm emphasising something Singaporean here, the "Lor" that I was referring is the braised soy sauce kind of dish and can be in form of chicken, meat (lor bak) or eggs (lor neng) or bean curd (lor tau pok). It is Chinese/Nyonya kind of dish that my ah mah used to cook.
I didn't have a written recipe containing a precise ingredient list and instructions on how my grandmother cooked her Lor dishes. Hiding from the border of ah mah's kitchen, my auntie saw how ah mah cooked and told me...
"Ah mah caramelises the sugar first in a wok and fry the spices until fragrant... Then add the rest of the ingredients."
We remember. This is how ah mah cooks her Lor...
Learning from ah mah and Nyonya culinary professional, Florence Tan, this is how I cook my Lor chicken...
|Not the Singlish "Lor"... This is Nyonya / Chinese Lor Chicken.|
|Lor chicken is different from Sek chicken because it caramelises sugar first.|
|Lor chicken is again different from Sek chicken because it doesn't contain galangal and shallot.|
|Next, add these...|
|... plus water and cook until sauce is syrupy|
Dad: I love lor but I like this dish more with hard boiled eggs, potatoes and carrots...
Boy: Mum, you should cook this with apple juice...
Mum: Guys, guys, please! This is Nyonya lor chicken. Not chicken stew or roast chicken!!!
I guess that my husband and son can never appreciate lor chicken as much as I do because they don't grow up eating this traditional dish.
The reason why I cooked and wrote this because I remember...
To my dearest Ah Mah (June 1930- April 2013): I have lost and found you in my cooking. You are always in my heart with the way you cooks.
Here's the recipe from the book, Florence's Tan Best Nyonya Recipes by Florence Tan
(with my modification and notes in blue)
4 tbsp cooking oil
4 1/2 tbsp sugar
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cinnamon stick, 5cm length
1 star anise
2 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp five-spice powder
400ml water (reduced to 250ml for a thicker gravy)
1 kg chicken, cut into pieces
(I used skinless boneless chicken thigh fillets)
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 stalk spring onion
(I garnished my dish with cut fresh chillies and a handful of salad leaves)
Heat oil in a wok (or a deep cooking pan) over low heat. Without stirring, allow sugar to caramelise until slightly golden brown.
Stir in garlic, cinnamon stick, star anise and cloves. Fry for half a min (or until fragrant). Add light soy sauce, dark soy sauce and five-spice powder. Cook for half a min. Pour in water slowly and bring to a boil. Add chicken. Cook over medium heat until chicken is tender and sauce becomes a thick syrup.
Garnish with chilli and spring onion (or salad). Serve with chilli sauce if desired.
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