Monday, February 21, 2011

Linda's Home Kitchen

I've heard of Area 51 but not the Tianluokeng tulou cluster. It's a shame, really. The former being absolutely geographically unrelated to my origin while the latter represents a cultural heritage of a Chinese clan that I belong to. Partially, to be exact, as I'm also half Cantonese. I'd survived from being a completely lost half Hakka by my fundamental knowledge of Hakka food, thanks to a maternal family that requires, among other delicacies, char zhu yuk (fried pork braised with fermented red beancurd and earwood fungus) and radish/dried oyster soup on those significant Chinese celebrations.

At the table, as we gazed at the beautiful photograph of the tulou cluster hung near the entrance, Sook told Ivan and I about her previous visit there. To be honest, that was the first time I'd ever heard of this extraordinary settlement. The photogragh showed houses with terracotta roofs joined to form a circular enclosure. They were behemoth. That's when UFOs, Area 51 and unexplained crop circles came to mind. It was definitely a good conversation piece.

The food at Linda's reminded me of the Hakka dishes that my mother would make daily - simple, delicious stir-fries using preserved ingredients like dace and vegetables. Of course, here, these dishes are given a more refined and visually-appetizing interpretation, without compromising, by my own standard, the taste and authenticity.

To replace the usual fu yu or fermented beancurd with dace to pair the romaine lettuce was nostalgic. And tasty. This, to go with just a bowl of plain congee would have been great as well. The preserved vegetables we get these days are salty, just. I miss the slightly sweet type, which really adds a flavourful dimension to the dish. Sourced from China, that's the type that Linda's using for the stewed pork trotter. Good stuff! I shouldn't forget the flaky pork trotter with the collagen dissolving into a gelatinous sauce, which goes to show how well-cooked the trotter was. Interestingly, I've never been familiar with the yam gnoochi (or abacus), despite it being a Hakka signature. Perhaps I was more of a turnip/shitake mushroom dumpling kind of Hakka. Linda's version, I have to say, was special. Instead of bandwagoning the typical springy texture, it came soft, almost melting. A classy act that didn't come too oily but equally aromatic and flavourful. There was also a sambal bee hoon presented with a layer of burnt crispy contrast to the smooth, soft strands of the right choice of rice vermicelli. Seriously, you'll be surprised to know that there are many out there misusing the different types of bee hoon. Oh, I should also mention the velvety serving of almond pudding to end the meal.

This was supposedly a planned Korean dinner but I'm sure glad we headed here instead. I'd learned quite a bit that evening, including the names of some infamous Australian restaurants from the company of wonderful food enthusiasts, that there is a cosy restaurant in town that's passionate about Hakka food and the Tianluokeng tulous.

Hakka cuisine is not as celebrated as its Cantonse and Hokkien counterparts. The truth is, there is much more than thunder tea, yong tau fu and salt. And you'll see it in Linda's menu.

Linda's Home Kitchen
206, Telok Ayer Street
Singapore 068641
Tel: (+65) 6284 7272

12 comments:

Sean said...

i'm a half-hakka too, but i only discovered hakka food in recent years. heck, i only found out i was half-hakka in recent years (long story!). looks like i've been missing out on years of great eating =)

gfad said...

I think it's great the way home kitchens are popping up, even here in AD. Food cooked in someone's home always seem to hit the right spot each time. :)

minchow said...

This is very much like the stuff my dad's side of the family dishes up on festive occasions. The abacus or suan pan zhi is a signature All Souls Day dish. The only other significant thing I associate with grave-clearing!

HairyBerry said...

sean, haha, i'd sure like to hear your long story when we meet up the next time! i do hope to see more hakka restaurants in town because, personally, i think it's a shame that we find so many provincial Chinese cuisines, from Wuhan to Szechuan, and yet, something so related to us seemed more obsure.

gfad, although Linda's Home Kitchen is a restaurant, i do agree with you that home-cooked food is comfort food, the best kind. :) and to have it in front of the tv...ah, nice! hehe.

minchow, we've got another hakka here. yay! you have abacus for All Souls Day and Ching Ming? that sounds delicious! usually, we'll just go for steamed chicken and a slab of roast pork. i wonder if that's more canto than hakka. haha.

UnkaLeong said...

I'm half khek and mom serves up a mean stir fried abacus. Speaking of which, she hasn't made some in a while..Hmmm...

choi yen said...

I'm half Hakka too & I'm better than u, at least I heard of those Tu Lou :P

CUMI & CIKI said...

You had me at gelatinous sauce:p

So your only connection to being Hakka is Hakka food? might as well say, my only connection to being chinese are my slitty eyes.. MWUAHAHA!

Miss Tam Chiak said...

wow wow wow!! the sambal bee hoon looks good!

my aunty always prepare these traditional hakka dishes but i only visit her house once a year :(

looks like this is a must try hakka restaurant in spore!

HairyBerry said...

unkaleong, cool! another 0.5 hakka! i'll bring you here the next time you come to sg, ya! :)

choi yen, hehehe, yeah, i must get in touch with my Chinese roots already. i wanna visit the tulou! :)

cumi & ciki, yeah, the sauce was sticking-ly good! on my slitting eyes, ermmm, can't leh. cos they might think i'm Japanese or Korean. Or Mongolian. Hehehehe.

Miss Tam Chiak, woah, envious. I also wanna visit your aunt when she makes these traditional dishes! hehehehe. yeah, do give this restaurant a try. i think it's a gem. :)

sooks said...

Nic,

It was a pleasure meeting you for the first time and having your company for dinner that night. Food does bring people together! Hope you see you again some time.

Life for Beginners said...

I like how you are embracing your Hakka half with these recent posts. I'm 0.5 Canto/0.5 Hokkien, but I wouldn't mind Hakk-ing up my appreciation for this cuisine, hur hur. :)

HairyBerry said...

sooks, thanks for dropping by! it was definitely a great meeting. it's always nice to meet the others from the clan. hehe. see ya some time!

kenny, i thought the ying ker lou restaurants are not bad. but a bit expensive lah. they have lei cha with noodles! that's new to me. check it out, yo! :)