IN a typical Asian family, boys are pampered and treasured. Boys can be seen almost anywhere in the house except the kitchen. Kitchen is for girls. My family is not a typical Asian going by earlier definition.
My mum who believes that boys must know how to cook as well so that we can be fully independent (of our wives) had gotten me to “play” in the kitchen. So often, I plugged the leaves off the vegetables like Kang Kung, I grinded the rice grains into it milky “liquid” state. The young me thought it was liquid though it was just a mixture really, or a suspension to be accurate.
The thought of why wasting the leaves of kang kung (there are a lot of leaves in a bunch of kang kung) by plugging them away before cooking was soon suppressed by the joy derived from snapping the leaves off the stems with just my bare hands. The silly boy in me felt powerful at such a mediocre achievement.
Skip forwards to about 20 years, I found myself putting three bundles of kang kung into my shopping cart. They were on great discount and the Asian in me couldn’t let it go. So I convinced myself of the health benefit I could enjoy from cooking the vegetable on my own. There’s a mantra that all people who cook will chant – you know what goes into your food. That was the beginning of my journey to perfecting my cooking skills of different vegetables, especially kang kung.
The fact that I only spend about 25% of what I would have paid at the coffeeshop or hawker centre for the same amount of fried vegetables, I found myself cooking kang kung quite frequently. At the beginning, I simply chopped everything up and concocted a dish with different ingredients that I have, selecting them with varying amount to try to create the taste of home. It was more like an experimentation than cooking. Anyway, I started to notice the slimy texture due to the leaves of the kang kung. Cooking the stems first then putting in the leaves last helped to reduce the slimy texture. So I thought of throwing away all the leaves in which leave about 50% left of the starting portion. I guess that attitude of mine stemmed from the fact that I got it cheap (great discount). HOWEVER, the Asian in me kicked in again. CANNOT waste! Save! save! save! So what did I end up doing? Plugging the kang kung leaves off the stems by hands just like I did as a boy. That was my EUREKA moment. I now understood why my mum made me do that. It wasn’t wasting the vegetable; it was saving the vegetable as much as possible. A sweet feeling of victory from another mediocre rediscovery.