|From Cat by B. Kliban, Eyre Methuen 1979|
Here, for instance, are the surprising list of ingredients for Shanghainese Sesame Seed Dumplings in Kitty Choi's Foundation Dim Sum Making (Food Paradise Publishing Company, sixth print 2008). These black and white balls are my token nod to our national team:
1/2 catty glutinous rice flour
4 Tbsp rice flour
12 oz. water
1 1/2 taels sesame icing sugar
1 1/2 taels white sugar
2 taels pork fat
Quite apart from the fact that I had always assumed desserts would be vegetarian, I had never come across "catties" and "taels" before. Wikipedia to the rescue: they are Chinese units of measurement. In Hong Kong, 1 catty = 604.78982g and 1 tael = 37.79936375 g.
This knowledge doesn't solve all the problems with the recipe though. Throughout the book, a catty is also given as 640g, which contradicts the Weights and Measures Ordinance of Hong Kong. The author also assumes the reader is familiar with the cuisine: I can easily imagine someone being confused at seeing the black centres of these dumplings in the colour photographs, when the filling is made only from the last three ingredients. (I still remember the time we made muesli bars at intermediate school. I was tasked with bringing sesame to sprinkle on top, and we only had black sesame at home. Everyone thought I'd burnt the tops of the otherwise perfect bars!) Then there are the odd translations, that even the mighty Google could not help me with (what, for instance, is Lein wine, which appears in another recipe)?
I guess that's why I love buying books like this. They have an authentic feel, they entertain you, they make you think, and in the worst case, well, you can get someone to translate it for you afresh from the Chinese. Not to mention they generally cost a fraction of the price of the books written purely in English for the Western market. And they help me learn Chinese.
By the way, if you like cats, you can get a fully Asian dose of them at the Anzac Street branch of Hulucat. This bubble milk tea vendor is often full of students, who hang out playing games with their friends while giving their stomachs time to digest the giant cups of flavoured drinks.
|You will find cats on every wall at Hulucat|
And that's the end of this tale, if you'll excuse the terrible puns.