The Parents. They showed me the world, put food on my plate and facilitated my education. They also never made The Sister feel bad that I was the obvious favourite. For all these things and more, I am grateful.
People often liken me to Papa-Bear. After all, it was from him that I gleaned my social nature, a keen interest in history, the urge to travel and a borderline unhealthy relationship with wine. I am also told I look more like him.
However, many will be surprised to hear that the apple fell closer to the maternal tree. Whilst my top line interests are a direct result of Papa-Bear, my core nature is unquestionably derived from Mumford.
It is from her that I received Asian eyes, a hot temper and the desire to always be right. It was also from her that I was gifted my most important quality – a deep passion for food.
She loves to eat. Lightly fried brain of lamb, roasted grouse, durian fruit, grilled ox tongue, simmered chicken feet…she will try it all and nine times out of ten she will have seconds.
Seafood is her greatest love. Sit her in front of a table laden with the freshest of water-sourced bounty and watch her light up. Some of my fondest food memories involve Mumford and seafood: freshly shucked oysters on the beach in Cancale, raw clams straight from the shell at Borough Market, late night XO pippies at Golden Century, cha ca la vong in Hanoi, every ceviche available in Panama City…the list goes on.
Mumford can also cook. Weekly meals were comprised of thoughtful and varied plates of food, which generally involved lots of fresh vegetables and a choice protein. Her greatest food stress was that we ate fish twice a week – something I still practice today.
Of all the food she introduced to me over the course of my life, it was the most unassuming that afforded the greatest impact. This came in the form of takeaway (surprising, I know – but bear with me). Growing up in Hong Kong, Mumford would often come home with bags heavy with plastic containers filled with supple beef tendon, crispy suckling pig, juicy roast goose or soy sauce chicken. This would all be laid out on the table and left for wanting fingers.
Through the years, it was these seemingly simple dishes that brought the most comfort and a flood of nostalgia. Even now, when I am feeling sad or a little too far from my roots in the big city of London, it is always soy sauce chicken that I turn to. A taste of comfort and a small reminder of Mumford. Isn’t it funny how food can do that? For this reason, I wanted to share the recipe with you. Not only because it means a lot to me, but also because it is a perfectly delicious foil for this cool change of weather. I put it on the table at least once a month – and this will probably increase as winter sets in.
Soy Sauce Chicken
For the Soy Broth
8 free range chicken drumsticks
4 free range eggs, boiled and peeled
2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and thickly sliced
4 garlic cloves, lightly pounded
4 spring onions / scallions, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 star anise
1 cinnamon quill
1 cup light soy
1/2 cup dark soy
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
2 pinches white pepper
4 cups water
For the Ginger Sauce
2 inches fresh ginger, finely grated
2 spring onions / scallions, cut into thin rounds
1/2 chicken stock cube, broken into fine pieces
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp peanut oil
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
Medium egg noodles
For the soy broth, add all the ingredients (except the chicken and eggs) into a large heavy-based saucepan. Bring to the boil over high heat and let it bubble for 15 minutes. Add the chicken to the broth and continue to boil over high heat for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and leave to simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
Switch the heat off and add the boiled eggs. Leave the chicken and eggs to steep in the soy broth, covered, for 2 to 3 hours*.
Meanwhile, for the ginger dipping sauce, combine the sugar, spring onions, chicken stock cube and salt in a bowl. Heat the oil in a small saucepan. As it starts to smoke, pour it over the ginger mix (be careful! It spits). Mix well to combine, ensuring the stock cube and salt has dissolved.
Cook the egg noodles based on the packet instructions and divide between four bowls. Pour a teaspoon of the ginger sauce over each and mix well. Top the noodles with the chicken, pea shoots, crispy shallots and halved soy eggs, drizzling a little extra ginger sauce over the lot. Serve immediately.
*If I am serving this up on a school night, I reduce steeping time to 45 minutes to 1 hour and it still tastes great. If The Swede and I don’t eat it all (fatties), I leave it to steep over night – it makes for a delicious lunch the following day.
NB: Soy sauce chicken is traditionally served at room temperature and this is generally how I dish mine up (except on school nights, when I let the chicken steep for a shorter amount of time and the broth remains hot). However, feel free to serve it any way you want to! In addition, I usually strain and freeze the remaining soy broth to make soy sauce eggs! Simply defrost and bring to the boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and add boiled and peeled free range eggs, allowing them to steep overnight. Best-snack-ever.