This Teochew guy does not speak a word of the dialect. My father neither taught me the dialect nor the culture. From a young age, I spoke Hokkien, that being the predominant Chinese dialect in Penang where I grew up. I also learnt some Hakka from my mother and Cantonese from the landlady where we rented a room in Ayer Itam in my early years.
While I am as Teochew as a banana is yellow, I have an inherent love for the simplicity of Teochew cuisine, especially the porridge with its multitude of tasty dishes and appetizing condiments. Teochew moi, as it is popularly known, is light on the stomach yet filling enough to be considered a main meal.
Dishes for Teochew porridge uses a lot of preserved and pickled ingredients. The common accompaniments for the porridge I used to eat are salted duck eggs (kiam ark nui), braised salted vegetables, salted fish (kiam hu), canned fried dace with preserved black beans, canned pickled lettuce, preserved bean curd (tau joo), sweetened pickled mustard (kong chai), salted peanuts, stir fried beansprouts with anchovies and preserved radish omelette (chai por nui).
My favourite is a simple condiment of dried prawns, shallots, garlic, ginger and chilli marinated in taucheo and calamansi juice. I could finish entire bowl of porridge with just that dish. The taste is a mix of sweet, salty, tangy and spicy, its texture accentuated by the firmness of the dried prawns, crunchiness of the shallots and garlic and softness of the preserved beans.
It has been a long time since I last had a taste of this. I got Wuan to make the condiment for me today but could not remember all the ingredients needed. After I had my fill for lunch this afternoon, I suddenly remembered that we left out ginger. Nevertheless, it was appetizing but not something that I can eat often due to the high salt content in the taucheo. For now, my appetite for Teochew porridge is satiated.
Appetizing Teochew porridge condiment – taucheo with dried shrimps and shallots.
Taucheo with Dried Prawns and Shallots Condiment Recipe
6 shallots, slice thinly
3 cloves garlic, slice thinly
(3 slices young ginger, shred finely)
1 red chilli, remove seeds and slice thinly
1 tablespoon dried shrimps, remove shells, wash and drain
1 tablespoon whole bean paste (taucheo)
Juice from 1 calamansi (keat la, kat chai, limau kasturi)
Put all ingredients in a bowl, adding the calamsi juice last. Mix well. Serve with porridge.
*By the way, if anybody knows what this dish is called in Teochew, please let me know.