When he woke up this morning, I asked the birthday boy what does he want for lunch. Without hesitating, he said “icy chicken and dirty rice”. It took me awhile to understand what he meant, then I realized he meant Hainanese chicken rice.
Icy chicken, why you ask? Because he saw me dunk the cooked chicken pieces into bowl of iced water. This step is crucial to us, because we like how the skin turn gelatinous after. It gives a cartilage-y crunch to it. Dirty rice, well, the rice is cooked with the water used to boil the chicken. I still find it super cute, the way he named this dish.
When I was a kid, my siblings and I ate huge breakfast at 5am because we wouldn’t be able to eat again until 3pm. We did have recess at school, but it’s about 15 minutes and we HATE eating in a rush. Sometimes the food goes down the wrong pipe. My grandma would cook us either fried rice or steamed buns or fried noodles (typical Chinese leftover-turn-into-breakfast). When she was feeling adventurous, we might find pizza (for breakfast? Why not?) or French toast (I say adventurous, because in my Chinese family, we almost never eat French toast at home) or donuts. But breakfast item I love the best is jook.
Served with preserved eggs and fried wonton skin
My grandma would spread out small plates with strips of fried wonton skins, salted duck eggs, preserved eggs, chopped green onions, fried peanuts, fresh sliced ginger, salted fish and chicken blood. We can put whatever we want into our bowl of jook. I like to add a little of each at a time instead of mixing it all together at once, so I can savor each different taste.
Whenever I make it nowadays, as I’m prepping the toppings, it always brings me back to childhood. It never fails to trigger fond memories, and sometimes they’re not even jook-related. In my head, they pop out like those bubbles in comic books.
Ironically, I also associate my favorite breakfast item with sickness. Whenever we were sick, my mom would cook us jook, but without the luxury of various toppings. Just plain, not even with a hint of salt. Talking about moms…. Mine is going back to Indonesia tonight. She’s been staying here with us since September, to welcome her granddaughter in October 2010. And now she gotta leave, and I’m going to miss her.
Back to topic, what’s your favorite breakfast item?